|Brought to Heel
by JiM and Piper
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine, they are borrowed with deep respect and absolutely no intention of copyright infringement.
Warning: NC-17, Some flogging, non-consensual m/m sex, a little gore.
Note: An A/U story For Maygra's "Swords at Sunset" contest. Many bouquets to Juanita, the Awesome Beta-Reader Chick, who put in awesome hours on this puppy.
Feedback: Please! to JiMPage363@aol.com
1612, The Caribbean, the Dutch ship, Golden Eagle
As boarding parties went, it was one of the more boring fights Pierson had participated in. His men were well-trained and enthusiastic, their targets slower and unready. The end was a forgone conclusion as soon as they had sighted the fat, slow-moving Spanish merchant. Loaded down with the spoils of the New World, there was no way it could outrun the fleet little caravel that spelled its doom.
At least it had been dull until he caught the sensation of another Immortal somewhere aboard the Spanish ship whose decks were now running with the blood of its crew. Parrying and thrusting almost distractedly, Pierson scanned the melee for the source of the irritating humming sensation behind his eyes. Shouts and screams in Spanish, French, English and Dutch rose above the deck, tangled in the smoke of cannon and musket-shot.
No one met his gaze -- perhaps the other Immortal hadnt sensed him yet? There -- his glance lit on a young man who stood beside the railing of the quarterdeck, sword forgotten as he held his head in his hands. Pierson fought his way carelessly toward the young Immortal, half-smiling as he realized that the man had no idea of what he was feeling. He himself had been Immortal for so long that he couldnt even recall meeting his first Immortal nor taking his first Quickening. Well, this young one was in for more than he had bargained on.
Pierson stood before the hunched-over figure, who seemed to be unaware of the pitched battle that raged around him, unaware of anything except the nearly-painful sensation in his head. He reached out and tapped the young man on the shoulder with the flat of his cutlass. The young Immortal leapt as if hed been burned and his head snapped up. Wild, dark eyes met Piersons and were immediately taken captive by the feral light in the boarders hazel gaze.
Well, youngster, whats it to be? You can offer me your head or your sword -- your choice, he offered magnanimously, sketching a mocking bow before his victim.
The young mans full lips tightened and his sword came up. Pierson nearly smiled into the young Immortals angry eyes- he always preferred a fight to craven capitulation.
Their swords clashed. The youngster thrust and parried well enough, but Pierson knew that his own skill was more than enough to dispense with this challenger.
Mr. Pierson! The bosuns shout distracted Pierson momentarily. The young Immortals sword slashed across Piersons upper sword-arm, a shallow, but annoying cut. As the blood stained his attackers white sleeve, the youngster grinned, imagining that he had seriously wounded his opponent. The grin faded as Pierson merely shifted his blade to his left hand and continued to rain blows down upon the younger man, pressing him back toward the railing. Sweat was running down the defenders face, slipping down his long golden throat and soaking into his silk shirt as he came to realize that he now fought for his life.
As his situation grew more desperate, the dark-eyed mans blows and blocks became clumsier and less effective. Pierson absently noted that he was obviously not accustomed to the light Spanish rapier; he wielded it heavily, as if used to a far weightier blade.
The young man raised his blade in an over-wide slash aimed at Piersons neck. Suddenly, his movement was arrested; a red stain blossomed on his chest and his sword fell from suddenly nerveless fingers. He staggered once, then fell to his knees, toppling forward into Piersons arms. Rolling him over, Pierson saw that a stray musket-ball had hit the young man in the chest.
He cradled the frightened man in his arms, murmuring soothing, nonsense words as the young man slowly drowned in his own blood. The fallen mans lips moved once, soundlessly, the brown eyes filled with tears. Then those luminous eyes closed and he died, the large body going slack in his opponents arms.
Well, that ought to keep you out of trouble for a bit, Pierson said, absently patting the hard-muscled chest before letting the body slide to the deck. Noting the blood on his hand with distaste, he wiped it on the corpses shirt.
Picking up his sword, Pierson stood and surveyed what was left of the battle. He was pleased; it was all going exactly according to plan -- his plan. Many of the Spanish defenders were dead, only a few were left to resist. His men were efficiently mopping up the last of them.
The body at his feet gave a shudder, claiming his attention. The young man coughed, the air rasping into newly-restored lungs. Eyes flicking over the beautiful body laid at his feet like a sacrifice, Pierson made a decision. Reaching down, he took a handful of the bloody, ruined shirt and ripped it away from the young man, leaving him naked to the waist.
He threw the rags overboard. It wouldnt do for his men to wonder why the boy was wearing a shirt soaked in blood from a mortal wound and yet standing before them in golden health. And chains.
He smiled coldly, then strode towards the newly-captured quarterdeck, shouting for the bosun.
It was nearly over now, the business of mopping up and dividing the spoils and disposing of the prisoners. In charge of overseeing and logging the transfer of the galleons golden cargo to the hold of his own ship, Pierson had been too busy to keep track of the young Immortal he had killed. Coming onto the deck of the 'Golden Eagle for the last time, he stopped and savored the cool evening breeze that blew across his sweaty brow. It teased around his sweat-soaked, half-open shirt, deliciously chilling him.
Ah, the voice of duty. Pierson sighed and jogged toward the quarterdeck and toward the man who had summoned him, his so-called master.
Captain Barclay was not a large man, although taller than Pierson himself. Nor was he a clever man, although he knew his business well enough to hire good men and to let them do their jobs properly. But Barclay was a man with the gift of command, a fair leader who made his men want to follow him -- and even Pierson did his bidding without resentment. Most of the time.
But now there was nothing to resent -- Barclay was smiling and gesturing toward several chests laid open at his feet on the rough decking. There was a Queens Ransom in gems there -- beautiful jewels, finely-set and gleaming in the last rays of the dying sun. There were also spices and medicines, obviously plundered from the Captains cabin. And next to the chests were the remaining captives from the Spanish ship.
Come, Pierson. Choose your share -- your plan was faultless and our haul was large enough to make even His Majesty smile upon such as we!
Trying to muster some interest in the gleaming pretties at his captains feet, Piersons attention was caught by a more subtle gleam -- the golden skin of his former opponents chest, heaving as the younger man stared at his subduer with fury. The first mate noted idly that his orders had not been attended to -- the youngsters hands were bound tightly with rope, rather than the chains he had ordered. Someone would answer for that.
The young Immortal stood proudly amongst the disconsolate captives, defiant despite his bonds. Pierson almost smiled at the youngsters haughty naivete, while his erstwhile companions muttered despairingly in Spanish amongst themselves. Captives had few options and all but one of them seemed to know it. If they were of high enough rank, they might be kept and ransomed. The outlook was often more grim for the common man -- sold into slavery, thrown overboard -- the rare few offered the opportunity to join the victors crew.
Pierson eyed the young man; he had few doubts as to which way this one would choose if it were offered. The arrogant arch of his throat and the stern expression on his face told the older Immortal all he needed to know. This foolish puppy was already planning on death before the dishonor of slavery. Mentally the first mate shook his head -- the boy hadnt lived long enough to realize that nearly anything was preferable to death. Perhaps it was time for his education to begin, Pierson mused, as he moved to stand before the prisoner.
Cool hazel eyes met furious brown eyes and, as before, held them captive, slaves to his will, released only when he chose. The young mans chest heaved once and his head tossed, like a restive stallion beneath its masters restraining hand, but he could not break that gaze.
Well, Pierson? See something you like? The edge in Captain Barclays jovial tone was not lost on his First Mate. His choice of spoils had not pleased his captain, who had probably ear-marked this pretty for his own. But Barclay was no niggard -- he had offered Pierson his reward and would abide by it, although his cabin-boy might have a difficult night of it tonight.
The first mate nodded once and smiled fiercely at the young man. This one interests me, Captain. With your leave?
The polite formula soothed the captains pride immediately. Of course, Mr. Pierson. But make certain you dont abuse your choice. Ill keep a weather-eye on you, shall I? Pierson nodded at Barclays clear message -- when he tired of this new toy, the Captain would be more than willing to take his turn. The first mate wondered idly if the younger Immortal even realized what was happening to him as he was led away by two heavily-armed sailors.
Dispensing of the rest of the prisoners in short order, Pierson passed out liberal amounts of both looted treasure and rum to his crew. The twilit deck became nearly festive as the sailors gambled, traded, argued and began drinking themselves into insensibility, all under their captains watchful eye.
Go below, Pierson, Captain Barclay suggested. Youve done a good bit of work today -- nows the time to enjoy it, he leered a little. If you need help with the young hothead, just call me. I wont be far.
The first mate shook his head as he dropped lightly below decks and sought his own cabin. Barclay was not pleased about missing out on the golden promise of the young Immortal and, though they had shared bed-partners before, Pierson found himself strangely reluctant to let anyone else touch his prize.
His cabin was forward, next to the captains. He had demanded, and gotten, a private cabin when hed signed on with the privateer. Not for him the rude and constant fellowship of the forecastle. There were times and moods when a man demanded solitude, and there were activities that required privacy. Pierson smiled as he thought that he engaged in rather more of those private activities than most men who thought they knew him. The smile widened as he felt the young Immortals presence humming through him suddenly.
The remains of that enigmatic smile were still on his face when he entered his cabin. It widened when he took in the sight of his prize sitting on his bunk. A single lantern had been lit to chase away the gloom of twilight belowdecks. The sailors had finally heeded his order about the chains and had shackled the young mans ankle to an iron ring set in the floor close by the bunk. Pierson had always wondered about that ring.
Hands still tied behind his back, the young Immortals body was coiled tightly, ready to explode into useless fury at the slightest startle. He was shaking his head from side to side, eyes screwed tightly shut against the obviously unfamiliar tickling sensation of Piersons Quickening.
Whats your name, boy?
The youngster merely glared, but said nothing. Pride and stubbornness. Pierson sighed fractionally and wondered if he werent too tired for this tonight. He turned away, ignoring his captive for a moment, pouring himself a measure of rum and water. He drank deeply, letting it refresh him. When he looked at the youngster again, he caught his prisoner running a dry tongue over pouting, parched lips.
Smiling gently, the privateer poured another measure of grog into the coconut shell cup and held it out. Are you thirsty?
The young man nodded once, dark eyes fixed on the cup in the pale hand.
Pierson stepped over to the bunk and held the cup up in front of the younger Immortals face. Whats your name, boy? he repeated. When the silence persisted, the first mate dipped one finger into the cup and held it up, considering the golden liquid that dripped from the end of his tapered finger. With the absorbed air of a demon testing the flame, Pierson drew his wet finger lightly across the young mans lower lip, watching as the boys tongue flickered out after the moisture left behind, unwilling, but unable to stop himself. The privateer had a brief flash of what it would be like to have that tongue flickering across his own lips but he stopped himself. Now was not the time for fantasy, now was the time of mastery.
Casually tangling his free hand in the young mans dark hair, Pierson yanked his head back and said again, Whats your name?
Duncan. The word whispered out before the young man could stop himself; the dark eyes flared at his own self-betrayal. Piersons hand loosened its grip on the sable hair; now it became a gentle, cradling touch.
Drink, Duncan. He rewarded his captive with a deep draught, watching the long golden throat work as the boy gulped the grog. Pierson pulled the cup away and smiled at the wordless whimper of protest the boy made as he was deprived again.
All in good time, Duncan. Now -- what were you doing on that galleon?
The young Immortals lips thinned to a stubborn line, determined not to betray himself again.
Come now, boy, be reasonable. Answer my questions. Please me and live. Displease me...and Ill watch you starve to death before my eyes. Again and again until you learn your place. Do you understand? Piersons hand was tangled in the captives hair again, dragging his head back, exposing that luscious throat. The privateer toyed with the idea of leaving a bite mark or two, merely to show his possession, but he cautioned himself to patience.
I was trying to get out of Hispaniola. The words were half-choked and the boys accent was thick, hard to understand. Irish, or Scottish, perhaps.
You didnt care for the weather?
I didnt care for the way the Spanish treat the natives. They keep them lower than dogs!
Its in the nature of the weak to be enslaved.
The dark eyes flashed defiance at him, but the youngster said nothing.
Pierson held the cup to the mans lips again and let him drink again, obscurely pleased at the small sigh his captive gave as he swallowed. Is there anyone to ransom you?
The man gave a shrug, then shook his head slowly.
Dont lie to me, boy. Who would pay good money to have you brought home in one piece?
The dark eyes suddenly turned darker still as some old, deep grief flooded into them. Theres none to care about me, nor to spend one shilling on me. Best throw me overboard and have done with it.
The flat, bitter words surprised the first mate. His tone was almost gentle as he said,
No, I dont think Ill dispose of you just yet. We might find a use for you still, Duncan.
Pierson almost laughed aloud as comprehension stole in and the youngster flushed, eyes dropping to the deck. No, he whispered.
Yes, the privateer assured him and bent and kissed him. He was not gentle -- this was a kiss of ownership, not seduction. Teeth grated on teeth and Pierson tasted blood. The younger man jerked away, but his head was held in a grip of iron. The chain clanked ominously as Duncan struggled; there was nowhere to retreat to, no way to escape the mouth that ravaged his.
Pierson released him and he half-fell back onto the bunk, eyes wide and dark, bruised lips trembling. The first mate considered his prize for a moment, then turned toward the tiny chart table in the middle of the room, on which his evening meal had been laid. Some ships biscuit, cheese, a sausage and a few pieces of papaya, picked up while in port last week.
Are you hungry, Duncan?
No. But his eyes lingered on the food.
Dying was hungry work and Pierson knew that the young mans stomach wouldnt be merely growling, but howling, for some kind of sustenance by now. He cut some sausage into small pieces, broke up some biscuit and cut some of the fruit. Refilling the cup with grog, he stacked it all on a pewter plate and brought his booty over to the bunk. Sitting down, Pierson placed the plate carefully between them.
Duncan watched these preparations warily, his gaze flickering between the food and his captors face. Pierson remembered that once, in a distant, frozen past, he had caught a half-grown wolf cub. The animal had looked at him in just this way, in those first days, refusing food and water at his hands, then, grudgingly accepting his presence and its own captivity. Only much later, after he had tamed it, had it become his constant companion, living, sleeping, fighting beside him until its dying day.
Pierson picked up a chunk of sausage, held it before the younger man, and considered it with a detached look. He smiled a little at the avidity in Duncans eyes. Youre hungry, e stated. His gaze became smoky and dangerous. Im hungry, too.
The suspicion in the dark eyes deepened to apprehension as Piersons fingers threaded through Duncans hair again. The young Immortal tried to jerk away and found himself held fast again.
This time, Piersons kiss was more gentle, exploration rather than assault. His tongue traced the edges of Duncans lips, stroking lightly, not attempting to force his way past the gritted teeth into that sweet mouth. When he drew away, Pierson placed the morsel of meat against Duncans lips.
Eat. After the briefest hesitation, the younger man took the food, glaring at Pierson all the while he chewed.
The older Immortal grinned at the boys easy capitulation and took a bite himself. Even his long-ago wolf-cub had snapped and bitten his fingers the first time he had tried to feed it. When Duncan had swallowed, Pierson picked up a piece of cheese, showed it to him, then leaned in for another kiss. The lush lips were unresisting and Pierson let the tip of his tongue slip inside, to barely caress the softer skin within.
And so it went; a piece of food, a kiss. Slowly, the food on the plate disappeared and slowly, Piersons kisses grew deeper, his grip on the young mans hair now more guide than snare. Duncan was still wholly passive, mouth slack and unresponsive, although Pierson had felt the lips against his twitch once or twice, as if he wanted to respond but had stopped himself.
Still hungry? Pierson asked softly.
Duncan nodded slowly. There was a bewildered look in his eyes and a fine sheen of sweat across his skin, although the evening was growing cooler. The privateer got up and took the two steps to the table to cut more food, turning his back on his quiescent prisoner. In that moment of inattention, Duncan sprang.
The rattle of the chain warned Pierson and he spun, knife in hand. One hard hand caught and gripped the struggling captives shoulder, the knife-point delicately tracing a cautionary pattern across the golden skin.
Pierson shook his head sadly. Duncan, Duncan, he chided. You are bound hand and foot -- did you think to kill me?
The dark eyes smiled at him wolfishly for a moment. No, the young man said, myself. And he lurched forward, all of his weight falling onto the dagger in Piersons hand. The two fell to the deck in a heap, and when Pierson rolled the young man over, the knife was buried to the hilt in his golden breast.
Pierson resisted the urge to swear violently as he looked at his dead captive. The man had surprised him -- there had been cunning and a ruthless determination in that last act. Death had smoothed away the anger and mistrust from the young mans features, leaving them surprisingly boyish and open. This was a boy who had known how to laugh once, but there were lines beside the mouth now, cut in by grief and rage.
Pierson sighed and dragged the body into his arms, cradling the head and shoulders on his lap. After a thoughtful moment, he cut the bonds around the dead mans wrists and slipped the pin from the ankle shackle. He smoothed the tangled hair away from the slack features. What have I gotten myself into? he asked the empty cabin.
After a time, during which Pierson had finished eating his meal, one-handed, and watched the blue Caribbean night settle over the sea outside his port-hole, a tremor ran through the body in his lap. Duncan sucked a great lungful of air in and began to stir weakly.
Hush, lie still, Pierson said softly and was surprised when Duncan did, his face hidden against the first mates chest.
Why did you do that? the older Immortal asked after a time.
I was hoping that it would work this time, the young man whispered brokenly, voice muffled by Piersons shirt. But it never does -- I always come back! Why wont God give me some rest?
Foolish boy. Dont you know what you are?
Im damned. Something spawned in hell and cursed to never-ending life.
Pierson gave a short, sharp laugh. Who told you that?
My father. My clan. The priest. Everyone who ever meant anything to me.
Pierson gave a weary sigh; it was a familiar tale. No, Duncan. Youre not a demon. Nor are you cursed. Youre an Immortal.
The man in his arms didnt stir, but Pierson thought that he could sense some interest in Duncan. So he began to explain to the young man who and what he truly was, absently stroking his hair. At some point in his narrative, Duncan had lifted his face and was watching Pierson as he spoke.
How do you know all this?
Im one, too, Duncan. Thats how I knew you were aboard that galleon. Remember that feeling in your head when I came into the cabin? Thats how you know one of us is around.
And I cant ever die?
Not unless someone takes your head. Thats why you must become far better with a sword than you are now. That Spanish rapier doesnt suit you -- Ill have to find you something better to use.
The younger mans brows knit in consternation. I thought I was your slave. Why would you arm a slave?
Pierson smiled down at him and didnt answer. He couldnt.
Instead, he said, Are you hungry again? and he reached backwards to bring the pewter plate, with its remaining food, from the bunk. The sad brown eyes watched warily as Pierson held a piece of biscuit up to his lips. He chewed and swallowed, then seemed surprised when Pierson continued to feed him morsels of food, waiting only for the young man to swallow before feeding him again. When the plate was empty, Duncan asked,
Why are you being kind to me?
I dont know. And Pierson didnt. But somehow, now, he knew that it wouldnt be enough for him to merely master the man in his arms. No, he wanted to tame this young one, bind him to him. It pleased him to treat Duncan gently now.
Before, you were ... the young Immortals voice trailed off.
I was kissing you. Did you like it? Pierson teased.
The brown eyes regarded him seriously and the young man struggled to speak. Finally, all he managed was one word.
Bemused, Pierson leaned over slowly and gently touched his lips to Duncans. After the merest brush, he asked,
The young man nodded. Pierson smiled and kissed him again, this time sliding his tongue along the closed lips until they opened shyly. Delicately, he teased his way inside, darting little caressing licks at the other mans tongue.
Suddenly, Duncan became an eager participant in the kiss, tongue reaching out to meet the intruder, one hand sliding haltingly up Piersons arm. Piersons clever hand began stroking the young mans broad chest, fingers teasing around one dark nipple.
Then, just as suddenly, the younger man stopped and pulled away.
Its wrong. The young Immortal had closed his eyes and turned his head away.
Who told you that? Your father? The priest? The same ones who told you that you were a demon. Duncan nodded miserably.
Pierson turned the boys head with two fingers under his chin. He waited until the deep brown eyes opened, then said reasonably,
They were wrong, you know. Youre nothing unclean. He bent to kiss the young man, lips and tongue moving seductively over the slack mouth. He felt the exact moment when Duncan gave himself up to the pleasure, heard the moan breathed into his own mouth.
Now, me, I am a very devil from Hell and I will make you burn, he whispered against the silken skin of the young mans throat, then bit at it.
Duncan gave himself up to it with an unpracticed desperation that touched Pierson and gentled him. Where he had wanted conquest and surrender, he now desired seduction and shared pleasures. Without quite knowing when or how, Pierson found himself making love to the young Scot, rather than merely taking his own pleasure.
Every gasp, moan and shudder that rolled through his young lover was music and a strange joy to him. The older Immortal was delighting in showing the young man what his own body was capable of -- the pleasure so sharp it was nearly pain, the ecstasy that clung like mist before the eyes, the blindness of release. And when there was nothing more to be wrung from the youth, Pierson held him until he slept.
Pierson was up at first light, just as four bells were struck. He dressed and shaved quickly in the dawn gloom. A rustle from the bed made him turn and look at his still-sleeping ... acquisition? Student? Lover? Even he didnt know. He grinned wryly to himself and fingered a nearly-healed bite mark on his throat. His wolf-cub, half-grown and viciously changeable in mood and temper -- that described Duncan well enough.
The young man was beautiful in the growing light. Dark curling hair tumbled around his face, his expression serious, even in deep sleep. One strong hand lay open on the pillow where Piersons head had rested.
Once he had given himself over to Piersons lovemaking, sacrificed himself to sin, so to speak, he had been an eager and energetic pupil. Pierson had nearly laughed aloud at Duncans unrestrained astonishment -- the boy had had absolutely no idea of what his body could do or feel. His reactions to Piersons touch had been ... gratifying.
Pierson pulled on his boots and stood; a lump under his foot turned out to be Duncans cast off pants- the only clothes he had been wearing when brought aboard. Making a decision, Pierson rummaged in his chest, pulling out breeches, a shirt and belt that he rarely wore. Threading the chain through one leg of the breeches, the pirate shackled the sleeping man again, securing the lock and pocketing the key. He left the rest of the clothing on the chart table where Duncan would see it, then turned to go.
Duncan made a soft whimpering noise and his head tossed restlessly on the pillow. Without thought, Pierson was beside him, hand lightly stroking his face and hair until he quieted and slipped into deeper sleep. Catching himself, the first mate shook his head, muttered Puppy! and left the cabin quickly.
He was on deck in time to stand beside Barclay as his captain made the Spanish captain a courteous bow and sent his captive back to his own ship. Silently the two pirates watched the Spaniard return to his own deck, then watched as the galleons sails blossomed orange in the rising sun. When the galleon was well under way, Barclay gave orders for their own sails to be raised and the Golden Eagle spread her wings and took to the west wind as eagerly as her namesake. There was an unalloyed joy to standing on the deck of a fleet ship running before a fresh wind -- both men sighed, then caught one anothers gaze and laughed in rare camaraderie.
Wheres your pet this morning, Mr. Pierson? the captain inquired genially.
I trust he proved satisfactory? Barclay was burning for details and his first mate had no intention of feeding this pruriency.
Aye, he did. Very amenable to suggestion, when approached properly. A small smile played around Piersons mouth and he took a deep, satisfied breath of morning air.
I assumed that you didnt want him returned to the Spanish ship, therefore I did not have you wakened.
No -- I think Ill keep him a bit. He shows some promise.
As more than a bed-warmer?
Pierson nodded. Hes quick enough in a fight and has some intelligence. And more courage than is strictly good for him.
Well, hes young, Barclay said indulgently, then changed the subject. I kept the pilot, too. Hes the real prize of this haul - been sailing the routes for three years and his rutter is the most detailed Ive ever seen. In Spanish, of course, the captain added with the disgust that only the English-speaking could muster for another nations mother-tongue.
His names Montoya. Id heard hed be along this route this season, Pierson said with some satisfaction, reflecting placidly on the value of research.
You weave plots within plots, Mr. Pierson, sneaking admiration coloring the captains complaint.
But all for our greater enrichment, Captain, the first mate replied with a bow. The information wed gotten about the cargo was worth the price paid, Id say, even without the added prize of Senor Montoya and his rutter.
Ever since their previous pilot had fallen ill and died from a fever, they had limped about the Caribbean, hoping to hire or steal another pilot. And now Pierson had found them one; better still, the man had his own detailed account of routes, tradewinds and sailing hazards, all written in his pilots rutter. Now it was all in the possession of the captain of the Golden Eagle. The pretty Scot had been a small price to pay in exchange. Barclay put the matter out of his mind.
Go and talk to Montoya -- hes in my cabin. See if hell join us. Offer him a 1/12 share, backdated to yesterdays haul, and hell get to keep his rutter.
And if he doesnt wish to join us?
Then we keep his rutter and put him ashore at one of the Spanish settlements, Jamaica perhaps. You can read Spanish, cant you, Mr. Pierson? At the mates nod, Barclay smiled gently. Without that rutter, hes just another marooned sailor. I think hell see the benefits of our proposal.
The mate turned to go.
And Mr. Pierson? Id like Mr. Montoya in one piece at the end of your discussion, please.
A spurious look of outraged innocence crossed Piersons face. Captain Barclay -- you wound me. I am a civilized man.
And your definition of 'civilized is?
One who uses a knife and fork? The angelic look of baffled concentration on his seconds face almost convulsed the captain.
Pierson -- civilized does not mean that you use a knife and fork on your opponent. I dont want a repeat of the incident with the Frenchman, understood? The man was serious again.
Understood, captain. That was ... personal. This is merely business. The small smile the first mate gave before turning away was completely genuine and wholly chilling. Once again, Barclay was left with the impression that he had made a pact with the devil when he had signed Pierson on. But it had been a profitable one, God help them. He shivered again and called for some warm ale.
His conversations with Senor Montoya concluded on a satisfactory note, Pierson bethought himself of his young captive. It was now mid-day. He collected food from the galley and made his way to his cabin, wondering what he would find.
He found the young man, dressed in the clothes he had left for him, sitting quietly on the bunk. He was trying to give the impression of having been there a long time, but his face was flushed and his eyes wary. Pierson guessed that he had been prowling the cabin, to the length of his chain, searching for some means of escape. Only the sensation of the approaching Immortal had warned him and so he now sat passively, fingering the unforgiving iron ring around his ankle.
Youd like me to take that off, wouldnt you?
Duncan nodded silently, eyes wary.
But then youd try to escape, wouldnt you? Youd betray my trust, he added sadly.
Duncan thought for a moment, then said, I give you my word. I will no try to escape.
It was hard to lie -- he had been raised to truth and duty and his word was a sacred bond, even when given to a man such as this, a pirate and a rogue. But his honor would not allow him to remain here as this mans plaything, either.
Pierson laughed, and set the food down. The young Scot was a bad liar. Everything in his heart was written on his face. But the young cub was taking his first steps in the game, learning to tell his first lies, beginning to realize what an empty thing honor was, compared to freedom, or power.
He cut a lump of cheese and laid it on a piece of smoked meat, then added a chunk of ships biscuit and handed it to his captive.
And what is the word of a common Scottish tyke?
The dark eyes snapped with anger. I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod -- is the word of a Clan Chiefs son not good enough for a pirate?
Pierson casually cuffed him across the face. Watch your tone, boy.
He took a bite of meat, chewed thoughtfully, then swallowed and said, MacLeod, eh? Thats a proud name. Eat, he ordered, still thinking. Duncan took a few bites, ripping at his food and swallowing without appearing to taste it, his eyes unseeing and his expression dark.
After a time, Pierson said, All right. I accept your parole. While youre in this cabin, you neednt be chained. He unlocked the shackle and dropped it. The pirate grinned as the young man jumped at the solid clanking thud it made as it hit the deck, then he rubbed at the reddened skin of his captives ankle with briskly impersonal attention.
In any case, theres nowhere to go, is there? The Spaniard sailed at dawn.
He noted the quickly checked jerk of the young Scots head, then the slump of his shoulders. He judged that the young man had been plotting some way of getting back to his ship. Duncan had been willing to die the night before, desperate and hopeless -- but it was not so today. Now he ate and drank and planned to live. Interesting, the effect a little knowledge and some purely physical pleasure could have on the will to live, Pierson reflected. Rummaging in his sea-chest a short time later, he saw that a small dagger had gone missing and smiled cheerfully. The young one had not disappointed him; he enjoyed a challenge. Time for his next lesson, he decided.
Leaning back on the bunk comfortably, Pierson said, Come here.
Duncan didnt move.
Come here, Piersons voice was low and commanding and impossible to ignore. Sullenly, the younger man moved a fraction closer. Pierson took hold of his captives shirtfront and casually yanked him across the bunk. Closer, he suggested softly.
The negligent strength in that easy movement had brought the wary expression back to Duncans eyes. He shifted so that he was nearly touching his captor, then stopped, alert and distrustful.
The gentle touch of Piersons hand cupping his face defeated him immediately. Duncan leaned into that calloused palm even as he choked out some word of denial. That soft noise of capitulation became tangled with the scraping sensation of his unshaven jaw and the two together rippled through Pierson, ruffling across him like the breeze on the water.
I hate you, Duncan said desperately.
I know, the pirate said softly and kissed him.
And so it went, the slow taming of the young Immortal. For several days, Pierson kept him locked in his cabin, keeping him in line with a judicious mixture of strength and tenderness. Duncan would shy away from any physical contact with his captor until it was proved to be inevitable, and darkness made his agonized eagerness somehow easier to bear. Then he would abandon himself to his own seduction with a desperate intensity. The stolen knife had not yet made an appearance, and Pierson mentally gave the youngster marks for patience and planning.
Duncan was only chained once more, when they briefly put into a port for supplies. He was surly and withdrawn after they had put to sea again, and Pierson spent several pleasant hours petting and coaxing his pet into a better mood.
After a few days, noting the young Scots growing restlessness, the first mate took him up on deck with him during one of his night-watches. The stars burned diamond-bright in the tropical sky, the cool wind troubling them not at all. Pierson pointed out the winter constellations, his long fingers tracing the pictures in the sky. He stood for hours at the wheel, telling Duncan the stories behind them, sometimes making up tales in place of what he could no longer remember.
It became a habit, Pierson telling tales to the silent shadow sitting on the stern rail beside him. The other sailors virtually ignored the mates captive, although some few treated him with rough kindness, calling greetings and sharing precious tobacco. They were familiar enough with the situation; several of them had joined this crew in the same way. The crew enjoyed the mates stories -- fair epics, some of them were, full of blood and war and vengeance -- and were inclined kindly toward the youngster who called them forth. Captain Barclay tended toward long, moralistic recitations from the Bible when he was bored on watch.
Pierson himself enjoyed the chance to reminisce and tell the long tales of his life to such a rapt audience. He found himself looking for Duncans response, his reactions to the truths of Piersons past life. The Highlander showed a strong moral streak, preferring the tales in which evil was punished and good rewarded, valuing honor and glory above all else. The older Immortal shook his head and put it down to the pervasive influence of early training and resolved to correct the problem in the near future.
The captives continuing docility convinced Pierson that it was time to take the next step. He left the cabin early one morning, while Duncan still slept, and left the door unlocked.
It had been his intention to linger and observe what his young cub did with his greater range, but the voluble Senor Montoya chose that morning to begin a heated argument with Captain Barclay as to their intended route. The second mate, Vanderwett, was drawn into the fray and Barclay was roaring for Pierson within minutes. He spent several frustrating hours arguing in English, Spanish, and occasionally Dutch, about weather patterns, trade winds, merchant routes and the putative favor of certain saints of the Catholic Church.
He finally brought the discussion to a close by driving a dagger through Montoyas rutter and into the chart table. The Spaniard saw the force of his argument and subsided abruptly, leaving Pierson free to check on his pet.
Duncan was not in the cabin. The first mate began to search the ship, vague unease growing into unacknowledged worry as he found no sign of the young Scot. He would not allow himself to stoop to asking for Duncans whereabouts and so it took him nearly half an hour to find him.
Duncan was sitting beside an open porthole in the armory, sharpening swords and pike-blades. He was whistling a country-dance tune as he tested the edge of a blade on his thumb.
At the sound of Piersons voice, and the sudden disorienting sensation in his head, the young man started and cut his hand deeply on the blade in his lap. He swore savagely in Gaelic and gripped his hand tightly, trying to stop the welling blood.
Pierson walked over and coaxed the injured hand away from the youngsters chest. Looking at it, he noted absently that it was a bad wound, sliced nearly to the bone, tendons gleaming palely through the fast-flowing gore. Gaze locked on the young mans, the pirate raised the hand to his lips and began slowly kissing and licking at it, relishing the gasp from his captive. His mouth tingled with the tiny crackles of healing energy that played across the wound.
After a few minutes, he released Duncans hand, now whole and perfect again. The young man stared at his own hand as if it were alien, a thing apart from himself. He raised awestruck eyes to Pierson, who stood smiling down at him, a small smear of blood still visible at the side of his mouth. Mesmerized, Duncan reached to touch it, then checked himself.
Did you do that? he whispered.
For a moment, Pierson thought he was going to answer as he had all those other times. But he could not lie to those dark eyes, turned so trustingly to him. He didnt want to think about why he could not.
No, Duncan. You did it. Thats one of the gifts of Immortality. Did you never see your body heal itself before?
I never knew what it was before.
Pierson sat beside him, enjoying the fresh breeze from the porthole, his irritation forgotten in the pure wonder in the boys eyes. The Scot had never thought of his Immortality as anything but an evil fate. It was an odd pleasure to show him the other side of the coin.
How did you come to be down here? the first mate asked after a time.
I did not try to escape, Duncan said in a low voice. The door was open. I couldna just sit there another day. So I asked Mr. Vanderwett for something to do.
Pierson recalled that Vanderwett had been thrown out of the argument in the captains cabin early on. No doubt he had noticed Duncans impressment into the crew and merely assumed that Pierson had sent him to be assigned duties, like any other crewman.
I left the door open, Duncan. I trust you, Pierson assured him silkily. He watched the guilty flush rise up the young mans face and nearly laughed aloud. Ah, so his honor still pricked him about that stolen knife and false promise. The youngster was a never-ending delight -- strong, fiery but still manageable, with care and cleverness -- which Pierson had in plenty. Time for the next step.
We need to get you a sword. He got up and began pacing the room, pawing through arms lockers and chests until he found a reasonably balanced cutlass that he thought might suit Duncans height and strength well. He handed it to the young Immortal and did finally laugh aloud at his incredulous expression. He added another link to the chain binding the young Scot to him.
Take it, Duncan. I know you wouldnt try to hurt me.
Lessons start this afternoon, during arms practice with the rest of the crew. He heard two bells sound and realized that it was well past noon. Now, we eat. Come.
The days flowed by and Pierson remained well-pleased with his new pet. Duncan became cautiously resigned to his circumstances and the first mate found that the young Scot was a pleasant companion, in and out of bed. He grew used to his dark-eyed shadow and was vaguely surprised to find himself restive when they were apart.
It was stupid, the sort of incident that happens when a highly-trained crew are bored, with no one to pillage or loot. Arms practice was over, the men drifting off, some gathered around the water barrel. Duncan waited his turn for a dipperful of the oily-tasting water. One thing the Spanish had had over the English -- they had squeezed the juice of sour yellow fruits into their water, which seemed to cut the tarry flavor and make it nearly drinkable.
As Duncan reached for the dipper, he felt a clout on his shoulder and a raucous voice said,
Hurry up, pretty. Theres real men waiting for a drink here. The speaker was a man named Williams, who had never shown the slightest interest in the first mates captive before. Duncan turned and looked at him, as if sizing up the smaller man, then he turned back to his drink.
The blow was on the other shoulder this time. Did you not hear me, then, sweeting? I told you to move it!
One of the other sailors said, Williams, leave the boy alone.
And several others muttered darkly -- what was the man after? Fighting was not allowed on Barclays ship. Besides, the boy was a head taller than Williams and well-muscled. Those who had watched Piersons special tutoring of the lad in swordwork knew him to be strong and skillful. Pet, he might be, but no easy prey for a short bully. The others began to back away, leaving room for a fight, as Duncan turned.
Dinna touch me again.
In answer, Williams threw a clumsy blow at Duncans chest. The young Scots fist lashed out and Williams found himself on the deck, shaking his head. He climbed slowly to his feet, under the wary eyes of his opponent, then charged, catching him in a wrestlers grip around the middle. The crowd of watching sailors burst into cheers and began excitedly laying bets as to the outcome of the fight. Duncan was young and strong, not easily thrown off his feet, but Williams had years of dirty brawling experiences behind him, which he made ample use of.
The noisy cheering died as suddenly as it had begun. The two combatants stopped, confused by the sudden silence. Captain Barclay and both mates stood before them. Duncan and Williams were pulled apart by the bosun and the gunner. They glared hotly at one another, wiping away bloody trickles from their mouths.
The captains voice rang out loud in the dead silence. There is no brawling on this ship, Williams. You know that. The penalty is ten lashes. The sailor slumped a little in the bosuns grip.
Barclay turned his attention to Duncan. You didnt know the rule, so you pay no penalty, this time.
I broke the rule -- Ill take my punishment, the young Scot said firmly. Barclay looked at him for a moment, then nodded. Ten lashes, then. Take them and welcome. He ignored the angry muttering of the crew as the two men were led to the side of the deckhouse. Their hands were fastened above their heads, their shirts ripped open and yanked down, leaving their backs bare in the sunlight.
Youre a fool! Williams muttered to Duncan.
Perhaps -- but Im no a coward.
Barclay looked at Pierson, then his eyes flicked to Duncan, then back to his first mate. Vanderwett will handle this, Pierson, he said in a kindly undertone.
The first mate shook his head. Its my job, Captain, he said calmly and reached for the whip.
The crew whispered among themselves as he stepped up behind the two restrained men. Pierson was known for his strong and straight stripes, laid on with neither heat nor mercy. His elegant face was expressionless as always as he surveyed his lovers back waiting for the lash.
Pierson had never felt the need to make flogging a public spectacle -- it made its own statement well enough, he thought. He neither drew it out nor rushed through it. Shaking out the heavy rawhide lash, he swung it once 'round his head and began.
He flogged the two men with full-armed sweeps across his body, those from the right slashing across Williams, those returning from the left cracking across Duncan. The crew counted aloud. 1...2...3...4.
The lash was heavy -- it cut deeply into the flesh, the better to remember the transgression and the punishment, according to Barclay. Blood flowed from every cut. Williams was whimpering by the third stripe, crying out aloud by the sixth. Duncan made no sound, though he jerked each time he was struck. Pierson noticed how his blood glistened in the sun as it flowed down his golden skin to soak into the shirt still hanging from his belt.
7...8...9. The gathered sailors were whispering, but their voices seemed to sound in his ears like a shout.
10, they sighed out, glad to have it over.
Pierson coiled the lash back up; he had not broken a sweat.
Release them. Take them belowdecks. Mr. Vanderwett -- will you look after Williams? Ill physick Duncan in my cabin.
The crew gaped at his cool words. At his inquiring glance, they melted away, returning to forgotten tasks and activities. Several stopped and helped Williams and Duncan below, speaking encouragingly to both.
As he handed the lash back to the captain, the first mate was vaguely surprised to find his hand shaking. Barclay, ever the gentleman, pretended not to notice.
Thank you, Mr. Pierson. Go and see to them, will you?
Nodding assent, Pierson turned and left quickly. He needed to get to Duncan before anyone noticed that his wounds were healing before their eyes.
Duncan was alone, sitting at the foot of the bunk, legs drawn up, forehead resting on his knees. Duncan? There was no answer.
Pierson came closer. Are you all right?
The bent head nodded.
Pierson stood over him, able to see the fading marks of his own handiwork, their very straightness and the even depth of each stripe his hallmarks. Without thought, he reached out and pulled the young man tightly against him.
He stroked the dark hair with one shaking hand, feeling the deep tremors that racked Duncan. The young mans arms came around his lovers waist, and he buried his face in Piersons shirt.
First time youve ever been beaten?
The youth nodded, his face still hidden.
It gets easier, after the first time, the oldest Immortal said, voice thick with memory.
They clung together, Pierson rocking Duncan gently.
Foolish, proud wolf-cub, Pierson whispered into the dark hair tucked below his chin.
After a time, Pierson left him, and returned to finish his watch. He had left the boy tucked into his bunk, nearly asleep. The physical marks of the beating had been gone within an hour. Rum and soft words had driven away the trembling. But the crew would expect him to be unwell for the next two days at least -- there was no reason for Duncan to leave the cabin. And, for some reason, Pierson felt better knowing exactly where he was for a while.
Pierson checked on Williams, authorized an extra measure of rum for him, then returned to the deck. Barclay handed over command without hesitation, his seconds calm, mask-like expression reassuring.
The last thing Duncan had said before Pierson left the cabin had worried him and it gnawed away at him through the quiet afternoon.
//I dont hate you anymore.//
The soft, trusting voice twisted in his gut and, for the first time, Pierson knew that, as he had bound the young man to him, he had as surely chained himself. The sweet whispered words that had to be a lie, could be nothing else but. But how would it be, if they were true?
His sudden shout startled the sailors still on deck and he frowned furiously until their curious eyes were turned elsewhere.
The rest of the watch passed without incident, but Pierson could not have told another what orders he had given by its close.
Later, in the thick darkness of the Caribbean night, Pierson felt Duncan shift against him and knew that he was awake. He stroked at the head cradled on his shoulder and finally asked,
What is it?
Whats your name?
Surprised at the soft seriousness in the younger mans voice, he hesitated for a moment, then said, Pierson. You know that.
No -- your real name.
Me...Adam. My name is Adam.
Almost. It had been close there. Pierson wondered at the power the young man held over him, all unawares. The power to make him gentle, to tell the truth where there was no need, to nearly hand him his own greatest secret. How had this happened? When had he become a captive to his own prisoner?
Adam..., Duncan whispered and turned, beginning to kiss his way down the broad, smooth chest. He punctuated each kiss with a repetition of his lovers name. Pierson shivered, partly from the brush of soft lips along his skin and partly from the adoration in the tone as Duncan breathed his name against his flesh.
He quivered at the scrape of Duncans evening beard along the sensitive skin below his navel. A silken, warm tongue returned back along the same path, at once soothing and enflaming. Duncans mouth suddenly fastened on the flat disk of a nipple and Piersons breath hissed out of him. His hand slid into Duncans hair, urging him closer, harder, faster -- he knew not what, only that he needed more. And Duncan, who had been an apt pupil, gave it to him.
Until tonight, the youth had always been passive, compliant but inactive. Now, his hands and mouth ranged everywhere across his lover, his touch kindling fires that threatened to burn away Piersons reason. Calloused fingers slipped across the pirates open lips, bathed in his hot breath, then trailed downwards. They glided over the pulse-point in his throat, then further still, circling a hardened nipple and tracking still further down his body.
The first touch of Duncans hand on his organ made him moan. The sound thrummed through the cabin and a hungry light flickered into life in the young Scots eyes. Slowly, so slowly, dark burning eyes locked on Piersons hot, anguished face, Duncan bent to take the silken length into his mouth.
Piersons gasp tore through the night. The hot pleasure was sharper than pain and he could not have fought free of it. Now, he thought disjointedly, remembering the stolen knife, Now, cub. Use it now and you have me. Well-played, boy. He felt nothing but a tearing fear that the velvety warmth would be withdrawn, lost to him as his captive fought his own way free.
The feather-light drag of teeth along his most sensitive flesh stole the last of his breath -- his final lucid thought was the faintly satisfied memory that he had locked up both of their swords. There was nothing else now but the delicate thunder pounding through him, ponderous lightning flaring along every nerve at every touch of that tongue, those lips, these fingers.
Then suddenly -- nothing. The storm retreated, leaving him bereft and fractionally sensible again. He was marginally aware of Duncan moving away from him, reaching for something shadowed in the darkness.
Now! his body screamed at him. Move now -- before he strikes.
Pierson remained still. Duncans face moved back into his view, intent on the object in his hand.
Duncan. The Scots eyes flicked up to meet his. Look at me when you do it. A tiny smile crossed the youths lips and he nodded once. Pierson felt an obscure pride in the young mans coolness. When he revived, they would obviously have to renegotiate their relationship.
Sable eyes locked with hazel and the older Immortal readied himself for the blow. When it came, he still wasnt prepared. Piersons gasp became knotted up with disbelieving laughter and emerged as a strangled groan.
Duncans hand, covered in spicy green unguent, stroked gently up and down his lovers cock, preparing him as Pierson had readied himself so many times in the past weeks. The warm scent of cinnamon rose and teased at the older mans senses -- he had used this mixture to ease his way into countless lovers, some willing, some not. Now he knew that it would be forever bound up in his memories with this man, this night, this rough whisper kissing his ear, saying for the first time,
Take me, Adam. I want you to.
Then the smooth, silken glide into the summer-warm haven of his lovers body. This, too, was now knotted up with the scent, the feel, the sound of this moment. Sharper than a dagger cut, this building joy, this explosive freedom found in the dark confines of anothers flesh.
And after, the sensation of his lovers seed cooling on his skin, the harsh gasps evening into contented purring, languid, slow kisses pressed to overheated skin, salted lips touching, muffling meaningless words. All this now braided into the scents of the sea and of cinnamon and comfrey and the sandalwood of the box now lying on its side on the deck beside his bunk.
The sweet slide into sleep, his lovers head heavy and comforting on his chest, was marred only by one small snort of laughter, as he wondered where Duncan had hidden that knife.
By day, nothing had changed. Duncan continued to work as a member of the crew, to call him Mr. Pierson as respectfully as any other crewman, and to work hard at his swordwork. But by night -- there the magic had been wrought. By night, the youth had found his joy and named it. Adam.
They made love, the two Immortals, no longer locked in a dance of dominance and submission. Pleasures measures were trod, to the tune of gasping breath and joyous cries. The young man laughed now sometimes, eyes shining as they followed Pierson around the cabin, watched him at work at his journals by lantern-light.
Duncans curiosity, as he watched Pierson write, led them to reading lessons. Duncan made shift to learn his letters from the heavy Bible Pierson borrowed from the captain. In a short while, owing to Piersons skillful, though tiring reward system, Duncan was reading simple words in English. As quick to learn in this realm as the others Pierson had shown him, the young man forgot his captivity and grew happy in his new life. Pierson, too, was happy, enjoying his young lovers pleasure.
It all came to a vicious end a mere three weeks later.
NO! Duncans anguished shout spun Pierson around.
He was just in time to see the younger Immortal throw himself in front of his lover; he watched the Spaniards shot take him directly in the chest, before the attacker was cut down by Vanderwett. The young Scot crumpled into the first mates arms.
Not again! Pierson groaned. Duncan tried to smile, his lips flecked with bloody froth. Sorry, he whispered. I forgot. He actually looked more abashed than frightened this time.
Pierson eased the dying man down, cradling his head in his lap, taking one cold hand in his. When are you going to think before you act, Duncan? he asked fondly.
Mr. Pierson! We heard that Duncan had been..., Vanderwett slid to a halt before his superior.
Pierson looked up and went cold when he realized that he and his dying lover were the center of a circle of sorrowful eyes. The battle had been all but over when Duncan had stopped the Spaniard from shooting him -- most of the Golden Eagles boarding party had seen him fall.
Damn! The young Immortal was going to die right in front of them. No way Duncan could continue with them. Fond as they were of him, the men would probably insist on a proper burial at sea --- oh no. Pierson had once spent a number of months at sea, in the sea, drowning and reviving. His memories of being half-eaten were particularly nasty. He couldnt allow that to happen to Duncan -- the boy deserved so much better than that from him.
The Scots breathing was a harsh rattle now, it wouldnt be long. Pierson thought fast. Fingers groping at Duncans back, he found the little knife Duncan had stolen from him that first day. Bending low over Duncan, shielding them both from the sympathetic eyes of his men, Pierson asked,
Duncan -- do you trust me?
No, Duncan whispered, eyes belying his words.
Good -- youre learning. Pierson smiled, kissed him lightly, then slid the knife between Duncans ribs, under his left arm. The young man shuddered and died as the thin blade pierced his heart. That should keep you out of trouble for a while.
When Pierson straightened, his face was a calm and expressionless mask. He let Duncans body slide slowly to the deck. Six sets of kindly hands reached to help him lift his young lovers body. He slung it across his shoulders, grunting a little at the weight, then began the long, slow journey back to the deck of the Golden Eagle.
He was a little surprised at his men; many reached out to gently touch his burden, murmuring broken words of comfort to him. Captain Barclay greeted him somberly on his return to the Eagle; he laid Duncans body on the deck and straightened slowly, stiff from the boys bulk.
Pierson -- were sorry. I know he meant a lot to you. He was a good man.
Now was the time to play it carefully, Pierson thought.
He nodded without speaking, eyes fixed somewhere past Captain Barclays head.
Well have the funeral this evening -- hes earned the right to be buried like a proper member of this crew.
No! Pierson snapped, then seemed to recollect himself. No, thank you, Captain. But -- he once said something about being buried at sea. Had a horror of it. The first mate allowed his voice to break artfully, then he firmed it again. I promised him, that if I could, if I ever needed to... I would see that he was buried properly in the ground.
Piersons eyes, brimming with tears, met Barclays, full of pleading. Barclay, a thoroughly decent man despite his profession, said gently, Of course. Were not so far from the north shore of Hispaniola. We could put in to shore by morning and you could bury him there. He patted Pierson gently on the shoulder as the first mate nodded slowly, a look of grief-stricken relief crossing his face.
And so, at dawn, Pierson and his grim burden were deposited on a beach on the north shore of the island.
Youre sure you wont let us help you, Mr. Pierson? Vanderwett asked.
Pierson shook his head sadly. No -- thanks, Jan. Ill do it. He took the shovel and food and water that the second mate handed him.
Well be back in four days for you. Just heading round the island to restock on smoked meat. Rodrigues ought to have a load ready for us.
Thanks, Jan. Good luck to you. And Pierson was surprised to realize that he meant it. Vanderwett had been a good officer, would make Barclay a decent first mate.
He wished them all luck as he watched the dinghy row back to the caravel. He remained standing there, whistling absently as the little ships sails bellied out in the morning breeze and she moved out into deep water again.
As soon as the 'Golden Eagle had gone round the headland, Pierson knelt and slit the threads of the canvas shroud the ships carpenter had sewn Duncans body into, drawing back the fabric to expose the body. Pulling the little knife out took some work, the dried blood having stiffened the shirt into a carapace around the wound. Duncan looked terrible, he had to admit. Like he was two days dead, Pierson thought, then snorted with laughter. Gods, he was tired -- he hadnt slept at all last night -- he felt giddy and soft in the head. Stifling his chuckles, the Immortal walked down to the waterline and splashed his face with cool water. Then he wet his neckerchief and came back to Duncans body. He washed away the dried blood from the young mans face and neck, then he smoothed the dark hair back from the still, pale face. That done, Pierson sat down in the sand to wait.
For the first time since that instant when he realized that Duncan had gotten himself killed in front of a shipful of witnesses, Pierson had a moment to truly think about what he had just done. He had just sacrificed an identity and an extremely profitable career a full ten years before he needed to - and for what?
For a half-tame Scottish puppy who could barely read and hated nearly everything Pierson had once been and probably still was. For a young Immortal with more courage than brains and the potential to be a great swordsman -- with the right teacher. For a lover who breathed his name like a sacrament and touched his body as if Pierson were the only thing of value in his life.
Pierson swore and ground the heels of his hands into his eyes, trying to make sense of his own actions. There was none to be found. Ridiculous. Youre getting old and mushy, Old Man, he thought. There are a thousand pretty faces to be had out there, he argued silently.
But how many belong to lovers who willingly sacrifice themselves for you, so that you might live?
For that was what had happened; he could no longer lie to himself. Duncan might know that he was immortal, but deep down, the boy still thought of himself as he always had -- mortal. And he had, without thinking or hesitating, thrown himself in front of the Spaniards pistol, trying to save Pierson.
Long ago, his wolf-cub had done the same thing, taking a thrust meant for his master. The wolf had died there, in the snow.
And now the Immortal sat on a beach, letting snow-white sand run through his fingers, waiting for Duncan to revive.
It was time to let the wolf-cub grow up, he decided. Into what? he wondered idly. A student? A partner? Perhaps even let him grow into a stranger. It would be difficult to stop pulling those strings, to stop twisting need and desire into that chain he had shackled his pet with, but the youth was owed something for his loyalty. And freedom was just about all Pierson had to offer him. Anything else he might have to offer, he hesitated to name, barely recognizing it in such a pure form as this.
Who tamed who, cub? he asked the still form beside him.
Finally, about mid-morning, Duncans chest suddenly heaved once, twice, then settled into a regular rhythm. He stirred, then his eyes opened and he groaned.
Good morning. Pierson bent over him and smiled. Duncan blinked stupidly for a moment, then smiled slightly in return.
Are you thirsty? Without waiting for an answer, Pierson slid an arm under Duncans shoulders and helped him to sit up, then held a cup of clean water to his lips. The young man drained the cup, visibly gaining strength as the moments passed.
Havent we done this before? Duncan asked finally, voice rusty, a glint of humor in his eye.
Not quite like this, Pierson gestured at the empty beach and equally empty horizon.
Yes... and no. Pierson refilled the cup and took a draught before handing it back to Duncan. The Eagle left me here so that I could give you a decent burial. However, there is a port about 10 miles that way, he hooked a thumb back over his shoulder, toward the jungle. We could be there by tomorrow mid-day and take passage on a ship bound for Europe.
The younger Immortal was running his hands through his tangled hair. Take passage with what? Ive no money. My last attempt at selling my sword in exchange for passage was no wholly successful, he reminded Pierson.
The grinning ex-pirate drew his hand from his pocket; a thick golden rope dangled from his forefinger. I have no intention of working for my passage; I thought wed prefer to to experiment with luxury this time. Before leaving Captain Barclays employ, I made certain wed have enough to allow us to travel ... comfortably on.
Duncan looked wary. Aye -- that should get us back to Europe. Then what?
What about Paris? Ever seen it? At Duncans head-shake, Pierson said, Then well go to Paris first. And then, perhaps, Italy. There is much to be seen there -- and I havent been there for, oh, it must be two hundred years at least.
Youre two hundred years old? the younger Immortals eyes widened.
Much older than that, cub. Much, Pierson laughed, then continued eagerly, Maybe well keep going east after that. What do you think, Duncan? Want to see the lands where the sun rises? Pierson hadnt felt this free in years; the light in his eyes was nearly blinding as he waited for his lovers reply.
We? Duncan asked simply.
Adam nodded. If you want.
Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out a small leather pouch. Loosening its string, he poured a handful of gems into the young Immortals hand and closed Duncans fingers upon them. Then he sat back to wait, patient and hopeful.
He watched as his one-time captive ran unsteady fingers through the glistening pebbles in his hand. After a time, Duncan looked up, then nodded once. And smiled.
Adam Pierson looked around, breathing deeply, at peace with the whole world on this bright morning, and asked, Are you hungry?