scurvyknavery: made by <lj site="livejournal.com" user="pirateygoodness"> (http://l-userpic.livejournal.com/1078141)
[personal profile] scurvyknavery
Title: Some Vast Heart
Challenge: Written for [livejournal.com profile] fivetimesbb
Fandom: Lost Girl
Pairing: Bo/Lauren
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 9,615
Summary: Five times Captain Lewis crossed paths with the Dread Pirate Bo, and the the things that happened once she did. Pirate AU.

Notes: Beta-reading help came from [livejournal.com profile] fivewhatfive, [livejournal.com profile] hibernate and [livejournal.com profile] osito_panda, and is deeply appreciated. Story title is from Walt Whitman's 'With Husky Haughty Lips, O Sea!', section titles are from Amanda Theodosia Jones' "Shipwrecked."



I: O'er us, dark as Fate, was night


The Blood King is not a place for ladies.

There are women there, sure enough, but mostly they're the sort willing to laugh and sit with a certain type of sailor in trade for a handful of gold and a drink. Lauren is an exception, and the privilege of sitting in her corner booth for a quiet drink ashore has been a hard-earned one. So she notices, the night that a new woman walks in, companion at her side, and asks the bartender for a drink like she's entitled to it.

It has nothing to do with the fact that the woman is one of the most beautiful Lauren has ever laid eyes on.

Rather, Lauren notices the fact that this new woman wears a man's trousers and boots, a man's vest and shirt. She also notes the way that the latter is pulled tight across a woman's chest, and that the shirt hangs low and open in front to expose the swell of her breasts. Her hair flows down her back, heavy dark curls spilling from underneath her hat. Lauren can just imagine that hair fluttering against the woman's face, tossed about by ocean winds, and the thought makes her palms itch.

The woman also has a cutlass, blade clean and well-tended, the leather around the hilt worn dark from a lifetime of use. A pistol bumps gently against her thigh, a common enough sight at an alehouse like the Blood King, but rare for a woman. In short, she looks like a proper pirate, and her forearms, dark from the sun and ink, confirm it.

Lauren slouches down in her seat, letting her legs splay wide beneath the table. The man beside her leans close. "Now there's a pretty one," he mumbles, quietly enough that it's for her ears alone against the din of the tavern.

"Aye," she murmurs, heartfelt. "Too bad she's a pirate."

"Of course. Too bad," Dyson says, making a face at her over the edge of his tankard.

Lauren scowls into the bottom of her own, refusing to be goaded. She's a privateer, with a legitimate letter of marque tucked into her coat pocket above her heart. That means something.

The woman - the pirate - has a companion with her, a girl. She barely looks of age, a child's face against a short, light body, but she speaks with the taller woman like an equal, and the rings bright on every finger, the blood-red scarf around her head, make Lauren wonder if that body is stronger than it seems. "I've heard talk about her," Dyson says to his drink, voice rumbling low. "The dread pirate Bo and her mate Kenzi. The way the stories go, they've been pillaging their way from Campeche to Curaçao, the new terror of the New World."

Lauren huffs. "There's not a sailor here who can't be said to have done the same."

"They say her beauty is so great that men will fall to their knees at the sight of her. That towns will sack themselves before she ever has to draw steel."

The woman smiles at her companion, and for a moment, Lauren understands the stories. "Good thing I'm not a man, then."

Dyson's chuckle is knowing as he says, "Good thing."

"Have you seen to the new supplies?" Lauren says, gruffly. It's a change of subject, and a pointed one at that. Dyson rolls his eyes, but he lets the matter rest.

They discuss the affairs that need to be in order before they can set sail the morning after tomorrow - orders from the governor, supplies for the men and repairs to the aft gun ports. All the while, Lauren can't help but notice that woman - Bo - across the room. Her beauty is distracting, and as Lauren makes plans for the morning, she can't help but be struck by the way Bo's eyes light up when she laughs with her first mate, the way the men and women clustered around them - her crew, like as not - listen to her intently and with respect.

Once or twice, Bo even looks over at Lauren, and Lauren gets the uncomfortable sense that she's being caught staring.

"It's late," Dyson says, following Lauren's line of sight with his own. "I'm going to head back to the Caduceus for some rest. You coming?"

Bo turns away from the bar, leaning back against the polished wood, and catches Lauren's eye. Their gazes meet, and Bo raises her tankard in a silent toast. Something in Lauren's chest flutters. "No," she says. "I'll be along in a while."

Dyson claps her on the shoulder, a silent agreement, and leaves. Bo pushes off from the bar, and her hips sway as she walks closer. Lauren can't help but be mesmerized. She takes a long swallow of ale, trying to focus on the taste of the alcohol rather than the woman - the pirate - approaching.

Bo comes to a stop at the edge of Lauren's table. "You're new," she says, sliding into Dyson's vacant seat.

"You're mistaken."

Bo shakes her head, and edges her chair nearer to Lauren's. She sits like a man, knees spread apart, and one of them bumps against Lauren's as she leans in close enough to be herself heard. Every time their knees touch, Lauren has to hold back a shiver.

"I'm sure I haven't seen you here before," Bo says. It's a statement asking for an introduction. She smiles, like she actually expects Lauren to give one that easily.

"That you haven't," Lauren says, grip steady on her tankard.

"Is this your first time, then?" Bo means at this tavern, Lauren's sure, but her eyes imply so many other things that Lauren feels her cheeks grow warm.

"Shouldn't I be asking you the same question?"

Bo feigns confusion. "What do you mean?"

"I thought pirates preferred the company of each other, at the Morrigan."

Bo's smile widens. "I happen to enjoy the company of privateers. There's no rule that says I must choose, is there?"

"I suppose not," Lauren says.

"So this certainly isn't your first time here, then," Bo says, repeating herself.

"Not by a long shot."

Bo rests her drink on the table, and leans to give Lauren a long, searching look, from top to bottom. It looks rehearsed, as though Lauren isn't the first woman Bo's done this with, but it makes her feel as vulnerable as if it weren't. "I've been looking at you, and trying to figure out what a woman like yourself would be doing in a place like this."

"And?" Lauren asks. "What do you think?"

"Not whoring."

Lauren grins. "No, not that."

"Which is a shame. There isn't a man in here who wouldn't kill his own crewmate just to have you on his lap."

"Too bad I'm not that sort of woman."

"No, I didn't think you were."

"What about you?"

Bo's smile shows all her teeth. Lauren finds herself leaning towards it, despite herself. "What about me?"

"You don't seem like that sort of woman, either."

She shrugs. "I'm Bo."

"Just Bo?" Lauren says, taking care to seem as wide-eyed as possible.

Bo bows her head, tipping her hat the barest amount. "Captain Bo," she says, emphasizing the title. Lauren never has met a pirate who could resist stroking their own ego. "Perhaps you've heard of me."

"Aye, that I have."

"And?" Bo leans in. This near, her shoulder is pressed up against Lauren's, and Lauren can feel the heat of her. She's dizzy, and it's hard to tell if it's from Trick's swill or having Bo so close. "Fair's fair, love. I told you my name, time to tell me yours."

"Lewis," she says, struggling to keep her voice even. "Perhaps you've heard of me?"

"I haven't," Bo says. There's an excellent chance she's lying. "But if you're looking to turn pirate, I'd be happy to hear a lot more."

Lauren shakes her head. "Flattered as I am for the offer, I'm not."

She moves to take another drink. Halfway there, Bo's hand flies up to catch her mug, and pushes it back towards the table. She's strong, even stronger than Lauren expected, and Lauren lets her arm go slack in response. Her tankard hits the tabletop with a hollow sound, and Bo chuckles, like she really thinks Lauren's been overpowered. Her free arm finds its way across Lauren's shoulders, hugging her close, and Lauren's suddenly overwhelmed by how lovely she is, pretty as a picture and twice as alluring. This near, Lauren can't help but notice the kohl around her eyes, smudged fetchingly, and hear the jingle of her earrings. Despite herself, she starts to feel breathless.

Of course, Lauren isn't quite smitten enough to keep from noticing the fact that in this position, Bo's got her hand on Lauren's sword arm, palm resting on the muscles that Lauren would tense if she were planning anything untoward. It's a smart move.

"Don't tell me you're not tempted," Bo whispers, breath tickling Lauren's ear.

Lauren manages not to shiver, and forces a smile. "Tempted doesn't mean I plan to run away with you, Captain."

Bo chuckles, and breathes in as though she's about to say more.

Just then, Dyson clatters into the bar, sword drawn, cheeks red with exertion. "Captain!" he shouts, not caring that half the room turns his way. "Pirates! They're trying to take the ship!"

Lauren swears, looking around. That girl, Kenzi, is nowhere to be seen, and the other faces she recalls seeing near the pair of them are gone. She swears again. Bo chuckles, holding Lauren so tightly that she can feel her laugh against her side.

Lauren jerks forward, trying to break free. Bo's arm tenses, holding her down. "I meant what I said, Captain Lewis. If you're ever in the market for something a little more interesting."

She's not, and she won't be, but her ship is being overrun by Bo's crew of lawless cutthroats and she doesn't have the time to dignify that with a reply. She draws her tankard arm forward and shoves it back, hard, until she feels her elbow make satisfying contact with Bo's middle. Bo's grip on her sword arm weakens, giving Lauren just enough room to squirm out of her grasp and stand, the table turning over with a clatter.

She runs headlong for the door, for Dyson, for the ship, and doesn't look back.



II: Cloudy shapes like hooded ghouls


The next time the dread pirate Bo crosses Lauren's path, it's under different circumstances entirely.

The Governor will swear to within an inch of his life that fantastical creatures are nothing but myth and the worried imaginings of tired sailors, far from home. He will insist that they don't exist, and Lauren has seen him have a man whipped for disagreeing, on more than one occasion.

But for all the Governor's insistence, the beast rising out of the harbour before Lauren's eyes is as fantastical as any story she's heard, and certainly real. She emerges from the Blood King in a daze, her crew behind her, suddenly struck with a vision of something she's heard of only in the bloodiest of tavern songs. At least twenty writhing tentacles are rising from the water before her, dark skin gleaming as the beast feeds ships and men hungrily into its black, gaping maw. All around her, sailors - pirate and civilian and navy alike - are shouting, sounding alarms. One of the fishing vessels on the south end of the harbour has caught fire, and men are streaming towards it, rushing to stem the blaze. Between the light and the smoke and the horrible noise of wood and bone crushed between the beast's jagged teeth, the whole port town feels like something infernal.

Dimly, Lauren's aware of Dyson and the rest of the crew leaving the Blood King behind her, rushing to help the men working to fight the fire. From across the road, in the open doorway of the Morrigan, a familiar face catches Lauren's eye. Bo - Captain Bo - standing stock still, seemingly transfixed by the sight of the harbour up in flames and the hideous monster before them. Even now, Lauren can't help but notice how lovely she looks, with the light from the streetlamps and the blaze before them casting flickering shadows across her face, drawing attention to her eyes, rimmed dark with kohl. Somehow, she seems taller than Lauren remembered.

With some effort, Lauren tears her attention back to the battle before her, taking stock of the situation. People are standing on masts, stretched out on prows, trying desperately to slash at the beast's many arms, with little success. The beast moves quickly, and the few blows that do land seem to glance off, as though its hide were made of stone. The men who thought to take to lifeboats are faring even more poorly, an easy meal for the beast, which seems to delight in wrapping tentacles around the little boats and crushing them, sailors and all, within the embrace of a single powerful limb. This is not a battle that will be won at sea. Lauren's heard stories of beasts like this - the kind whose name sailors hesitate to utter, lest they call it forth - and imaginings or not, they all warn of the same end to those who try to challenge it on open water.

Across the water, the fishing boat has set ships next to it alight, and men are shouting to each other, waving their arms in distress. Lauren's heart sinks as she notices the gun ports in the hull of the most recent ship to catch fire. The reason for the men's panic is clear, and made clearer when she hears the bang of the first powder keg lighting and exploding. The first sound is followed by more, and Lauren can do nothing but watch as the ship seems to leap from the water, a sudden rush of flame nearly blinding her as the remains of ship and sailor alike fly across the harbour.

Lauren flinches, her heart heavy for the captain and crew and the beautiful craftsmanship now lost. But as she does, she notices the beast in the water do the same - its many arms recoil from the heat, and flail as if in pain. Lauren turns to Bo, a plan beginning to coalesce in her mind, and catches her eye. She races for the nearest dock, and Bo follows.

Lauren's looking for something in particular - a ship large enough to have cannons, docked at broadsides to the beast, ready for battle. She finds it soon enough, a dark, rugged-looking vessel called the Pearl that seems to have been abandoned in the commotion of the fight. As she steps aboard she hears Bo clatter to a stop behind her, boots heavy on the deck. "I assume you have a plan," Bo says. To Lauren's utter shock, there's not a hint of mockery or menace in her voice. Apparently, mortal peril at the hands - so to speak - of a kraken is enough to take the pirate out of her.

"We need to get below," Lauren says. Understanding dawns on Bo's face, and she nods.

"Aye."

They work together, Bo breaking the lock on the hatch that leads to the lower decks and Lauren leading the way. It's dark once they make their way below, the only light from the moonlight that filters through the gun ports, but it's easy enough for Lauren to find powder, while Bo stumbles her way over to the ammunition. They load the cannons together, and fire once, twice, before they make a shot that lands squarely against the beast's underbelly.

It flails, great limbs catching at masts and moorings and pulling until they snap like kindling.

Gradually, its movements slow, and its limbs grow weaker. Lauren watches, transfixed, as the beast goes limp and disappears beneath the surface, leaving a trail of inky blood in its wake.

Lauren slumps against the cannon - she doesn't know who it belongs to, but nobody seems to mind that she's aboard just yet. From the corner of her eye, she sees Bo do the same against the bulkhead, shoulders visibly dropping as she laughs out her relief.

"And the Governor says the kraken is a myth," Lauren huffs.

Bo's laugh grows louder. "Clearly, he's never been to Tortuga."

Lauren chuckles, feels herself redden. "Clearly."

Bo takes a step nearer, moving into the light. Lauren can better see her expression, and she's surprised to find hooded eyes watching her closely, roaming curiously across her face, and then lower. "You're quite a hand with a cannon," Bo says.

She rests her hand on Lauren's shoulder, moving Lauren's hair away from her eyes. When Lauren doesn't flinch, she moves even closer, turning the gesture into a decidedly intimate caress along Lauren's cheek, then her jaw. It sets Lauren's heart thudding, the excitement from the battle still flowing hot through her, until she remembers exactly who she's with.

She shakes her head, stepping away.

Bo quirks her eyebrow. "What's the matter? Still upset that I tried to steal your ship?"

Lauren draws her sword. "I beat you then, I'll do it again if I must."

Bo bites the inside of her cheek, as though trying to hold back a laugh, and pauses for a long while before she replies, "Are you sure you beat me? Perhaps I just let you win." She moves even nearer, until Lauren can breathe in the smell of sweat on her skin. "Join me," Bo says with a crooked smile.

Lauren is dimly aware of the nearness of Bo's body, and the rustle of cloth as she reaches out and cups her hand behind Lauren's head. "I'll make it worth your while," Bo whispers.

Lauren stares, distracted by the feel of battle-callused fingertips against her scalp and the points of Bo's eyelashes, dark against her cheeks. Then they're kissing. Lauren's sword falls to the ground with a clatter and she catches herself whimpering, like some innocent country maiden. Before she can gather herself enough to respond in kind, Bo pushes her back by the shoulders, breaking the kiss. Lauren stands there, gasping and staring like a simpleton, before she realizes that Bo's just distracted Lauren from taking her to task and Lauren's just let her. She's suddenly furious, but it's too late to pick up her sword, too late to do anything.

Bo's all but beaming, victorious, as she leans further away. "Ta very much for the evening," she says, laughing as she steps backward.

In the eerie half-light, Lauren can just make out Bo's face as she leaves, and she's sure that Bo winks at her. Lauren turns away. She's angry, but she can't tell if it's because she didn't kill Bo when she had the chance, or because she wishes Bo had kissed her sooner.



III: Tossed and drifted, overcome


The crew of the Caduceus may not technically be pirates, but when the governor asks that a Spanish naval supply ship be intercepted, they can certainly plunder as well as any pirate crew. Lauren stands on the deck of the Santiago, and watches with pride as Dyson and the rest of her men round up the crew, now prisoners.

She catches Dyson's eye and nods below decks. "I'm going to check on the cargo," she says.

"Aye," Dyson shouts. It turns into a laugh as the man he's holding struggles, clearly trying to take advantage of his distraction. Lauren chuckles.

The Santiago is loaded to the gunwales with rifles and powder, enough to resupply the Caduceus twice over. Lauren runs her hand along the barrels, feeling for dampness, but the kegs are bone-dry and undamaged by the battle. She grins. This is a windfall, and she does not plan to waste it. She draws breath, ready to call for the rest of the crew, when she hears a clatter from deeper inside the ship.

Her hand finds her sword. "Show yourself."

The clatter repeats itself.

"Over here," a voice says. It sounds familiar, but Lauren can't quite place it. At least until she walks toward the noise, and sees dark hair and defiant eyes, behind bars in the brig.

Lauren sighs.

*

When she brings Bo above decks, wrists bound with a length of rope, the rest of the Santiago's crew is already tied against the mast. "Look what I found," she says, shoving Bo forward towards the rest of their prisoners.

Her best crewman, Hale, takes her over to the others, not gently. Lauren would be lying if she said it wasn't a satisfying sight.

Dyson crosses the deck to meet her. "Isn't that-?"

"Captain Bo, terror of the New World?"

"Aye."

"It would appear it is."

"What do you plan to do with her?" Dyson asks. His mouth is set sternly, as any good first mate's should be, but his eyes are glinting with a little more good humor than Lauren would like.

Lauren sighs. "Last time I saw her, she tried to steal my ship."

Dyson's mouth twitches, threatening to break into a smile. "Last time you saw her, it took you a week to stop smirking at the mention of her name."

He's right, and smiling like he's sure of it. She feels her cheeks redden. "I can have you thrown overboard," she says, defeated.

"I'm merely remarking."

"So am I," she mutters half-heartedly.

Dyson chuckles. Idly, Lauren considers taking him to task for his insubordinate behaviour. They've been shipmates and friends for far too long for her to ever act accordingly, but the thought is enough of a comfort that she's able to stand straight, sword drawn, and behave like a ship's captain rather than a silly, lust-stricken maiden.

*

They take Bo aboard, as a prisoner who is to earn her passage to Tortuga with honest work as part of the crew.

They sail for four good nights. Bo fits in with the men, takes to hard work well, and doesn't complain. She's still herself, impertinent to the very end, eyes lingering too long whenever she glances at Lauren, but she's a strong sailor in spite of it. Lauren half-begins to enjoy having her around; her bawdy jokes and quick smiles are a welcome addition, and she ties knots more nimbly than any other aboard. Quietly, Lauren finds herself beginning to think of Bo as a crew member, rather than a captive.

Until the fifth night, when Hale, takes her aside.

"I just thought you should know," he says. "That new prisoner, Bo. She's telling stories."

"About what?"

"Ones about - her old ship. Piracy. Not that the crew are starting to talk, but - well, they're some compelling stories."

Lauren grips the bulwark, knuckles blanching. "Thank you, Hale."

"Anytime, sir," he says, tapping his brow in salute.

She sighs. She's never been one for locking prisoners in the brig, or keeping people tied up. But talk about the glory days of pirating is talk that leads to mutiny, and Lauren can't allow it to stand on her ship, she knows it.

*

She waits until the cabin door shuts behind Bo, and she can no longer hear Dyson's footfalls on deck, before she starts to speak. "What do you think you're doing."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You do, and you'll stop it. You can pirate all you like, but this is a respectable ship, and I won't have that sort of talk on my ship or around my crew."

Bo laughs. "Respectable?"

"Aye, respectable. And you'll learn to be the same."

"Really?" Bo says, smiling with all her teeth. "Because the way I've been hearing it, folks tell stories about the dread pirate Lewis, feared by men, women, and children alike for miles about. The stories say she's a demon, with a woman's body but a man's - appetites. They say that when she took the Santa Ana, the only person she left alive was the priest, and that was only so he could warn the devil she was coming."

Lauren grips the edge of the table until her knuckles go pale. Her free hand finds the pommel of her sword. She doesn't want occasion to use it, but this woman seems intent on forcing the matter.

"I'm a privateer, an honest one, under the command of the governor of Port Royal."

"Isn't that just another way of saying 'pirate'? At least I can say I'm free."

Lauren keeps still, trying to hold her temper in check, but her hand is fitting against her sword hilt with purpose. "You're talking about things you don't understand."

"I'd be happy to be taught," Bo says, coquettishly. Lauren is reminded, quite suddenly, of that night at the Blood King and the way she felt with Bo's body close against hers.

"The only thing you're going to be taught is manners, Captain." She spits the title, feeling her cheeks redden as she grows angrier, prouder. She knows if Dyson were watching, he'd have his hand on her shoulder, reminding her that there are cannier things to do than act out of emotion.

Bo quirks one eyebrow, says, "How, exactly, do you plan to teach me those?"

Dyson's not here, and Bo is infuriating, so Lauren allows her anger to get the better of her. She stands, sword half-drawn. "By force, if I must."

Bo's hand drifts to her belt, groping instinctively for the sword that's been locked away in Lauren's cabin since she arrived on the Caduceus. Lauren feels as though she's vibrating with fury, and she knows that, were Bo anyone else, she wouldn't allow herself to feel this way. She wouldn't care half this much, but something about the woman standing across the table from her makes Lauren react in a way she hasn't in years, not since - not since another woman, a lifetime ago.

She sheathes her sword and crosses the cabin to stand directly in front of Bo. "What shall I learn first?" Bo asks, voice teasing.

Lauren feels something rise in her, and suddenly she's not sure if she wants to throw Bo overboard or clutch her tight. "What do you want?"

Bo's mouth curls, wickedly. "Join my crew. When we catch up to the Succubus."

Now it's Lauren's turn to laugh. "You're joking."

"I'm not," Bo replies, and for once her voice is earnest.

"Why on earth would I join your crew, when I have one of my own?

Bo shrugs. "I just wish you would. A sailor of your -" She makes a point of staring at Lauren, eyes sweeping from her mouth to her feet and lingering a little too long in between them. "-attributes would be welcome aboard the Succubus."

"I'm sure."

"That's not an answer."

"I'm captain of my own ship, with a crew that would follow me to the ends of the earth. Do you really think I can be persuaded so easily?"

Bo steps forward, head cocked to one side. Her smile is dangerous as she says, "I think I can be very persuasive."

She leans nearer, but Lauren holds her ground, refusing to be intimidated. Still, she can't help but notice Bo's mouth, the curve of it, and the slice of pink tongue that darts across her lower lip, suggestively. Lauren's still furious, but she's also been at sea for going on a month, now, and with Bo this near, that's hard to ignore. She cants her head towards Bo's, instinctively.

For all of Bo's aggravating tendencies, she is a woman, and a fine one at that.

Suddenly, Bo surges up and their mouths meet, rough and clumsy. It sets Lauren ablaze, her anger quickly turning to desire that hums through every inch of her.

Lauren takes a fistful of Bo's shirt and pulls at it roughly until Bo tumbles into the space between them, standing between Lauren's feet. Bo's mouth is soft, but her kisses are quite the opposite; she nips fiercely at Lauren's lips and her hands reach up to fist in Lauren's hair, pulling her close. It's been far too long since Lauren was kissed by any woman, but especially one who kisses like this, as though being with another woman were the most natural thing in the world. Bo wasn't wrong about her appetites, and Lauren is suddenly ravenous, eager to devour all of her.

They pull apart after long, long minutes, gasping for the same air. Lauren still clutches at Bo's shirt, holding her near, while Bo's nails drag down Lauren's nape and raise gooseflesh. "I knew you could be persuaded," Bo purrs.

"You're a bloody pirate," Lauren murmurs back, voice rough and thick with lust. Her thumb caresses the folds of cloth fisted in Lauren's hand, then the bare slice of Bo's chest, softening the insult further.

Bo's eyelids flutter, but she manages to jut her chin out rebelliously, whisper, "So are you."

Lauren's not, and it's long been a point of pride, but apparently she's the sort of woman whose pride can be overtaken, with the right sort of incentive. She groans, half at her own weakness and half at the way Bo is watching her, every part of her an invitation.

She claims Bo's mouth with her own, as though that will settle the matter. She flicks her tongue against the seam of Bo's lips, and Bo rewards her with a sigh, yielding enough to let Lauren lick into her, tasting and teasing as though Bo is truly hers. It's not long before Bo is whimpering, strong hands clutching at Lauren's shoulders, and even though Lauren's just as lustful and desperate herself, she feels a petty surge of triumph at undoing Bo just a little.

Mouths still connected, Lauren fumbles for Bo's shirt, unfastening some and letting the stubborn ones clatter to the deck until Bo is exposed from throat to navel. Her breasts fit neatly into Lauren's hands, and Lauren palms them, dragging callused fingertips along pebble-tight nipples and watching as Bo tears away from their kiss to tip her head back, sighing.

Lauren touches and touches her breasts, her hips, her waist, then she unbuckles Bo's belt and watches as her breeches fall, leaving her naked. She licks her lips, staring openly, before she tears herself away to look Bo in the eyes. "Is this what you wanted?" she murmurs, thumb tracing lines across her hipbone. "To make me into a pirate, have me touch you?"

Bo's eyes roll heavenward with frustration. "No," she groans. She takes Lauren's hand and places it gently between her thighs. Lauren's fingertips find impossibly warm flesh, slick with wanting. "This is what I wanted."

Lauren licks her lips again. She touches Bo a while, watching as she shudders, enjoying the way her cheeks pink and her jaw goes slack. Like this, she looks so soft, so inviting. Lauren can hardly picture her as the dread terror of anything. Her fingertips curl forward just so, and Bo leans heavily against her, breathless.

Lauren suddenly finds herself overcome with desire, eager to take Bo, swiftly and as roughly as she'd like. She takes her hand back, fingers sticky and gleaming, and slides Bo's shirt and vest off her shoulders. "Turn," she commands.

Bo's eyes are dark with lust, her chest flushed, and apparently this is what it takes to win her obedience; she turns without a word of protest. She notes the table before her and nods, understanding without Lauren's guidance. She places her hands palm-down on the table top and bends at the hips before glancing at over her shoulder at Lauren. Her look is a question, and Lauren nods in reply. This is good.

She reaches out and traces a line down Bo's back, beginning at the hard bone of her shoulders and ending just above her ass, where she's rewarded with a shiver. Her palm weighs heavily against Bo's lower back, urging her down, and after a moment Bo bends obligingly, settling with her chest flat against the tabletop. Suddenly her quim is in full view, spread open for Lauren, and Lauren feels her own clench with desire at the sight of her. Lauren runs one experimental touch from bottom to top, taking extra time with the most sensitive part, at her apex. Bo sighs happily.

"Ready, love?" Lauren murmurs.

Bo's hips rock back in reply. Lauren slides two fingers inside, taking her easily, and marvelling at the way Bo gasps and flutters around her hand. She starts to thrust, watching appreciatively as the muscles in Bo's back tense and she pushes her hips into Lauren's, matching her rhythm.

Bo's quim is slick and flushed pink, and Lauren's fingers move almost too easily. She eases in a third, and Bo grunts with pleasure, rocking back. Lauren quickens her pace, moving in short, steady thrusts until she can feel Bo's body shaking beneath her. She leans forward, pressing herself close to Bo's back and running her free hand down Bo's arm. She has the arms of a sailor, strong from years of hard work, and Lauren traces a path along the shape of each one, feeling their tautness beneath her fingers. Bo's hand is gripping the edge of the table tightly, knuckles white, and Lauren covers them with her own palm, settling her weight forward.

She thrusts forward once more, the weight of her hips behind the hand filling Bo, and Bo suddenly cries out, her whole body tensing as she shudders around Lauren's fingers, spending herself. Lauren kisses her neck, her spine, murmuring sweetness and pet into the skin of Bo's shoulder until Bo's breathing slows, and her eyes start to regain focus.

Bo turns, sitting back on the table, gloriously naked and unashamed. She wraps her arms and legs around Lauren's body, and uses them to draw Lauren near enough to rest her forehead on Lauren's shoulder. Lauren smooths sweaty, tousled hair from Bo's brow, awed at the sight of her. She knows, already, that she won't be able to sit at this table again without dreaming of this moment; this woman, gentle and sated, wrapped around her.

"Captain Lewis," Bo murmurs, toying with Lauren's shirt fronts.

She tries to chuckle at the ridiculousness of the endearment, but her desire betrays her. The sound that she makes is a sort of amused hum, low and rough enough that there can't be any doubt about what she's after. Bo laughs back.

"You know, I've always wondered something," Lauren says.

"Anything, pet," Bo murmurs. She's caressing Lauren's jaw with the backs of her hands, knuckles rough against her skin, watching Lauren like she's got plans that involve Lauren on her back.

"Why did you try to steal my ship?"

Bo's hands stop short. When she replies, her voice is small, and she doesn't sound like the dread pirate captain of anything; she sounds like a girl. "How else was I supposed to get your attention?"

Then she slips her fingers under the waist of Lauren's trousers, and Lauren's mind blanks.

*

It takes a week for them to reach Port Royal, where the Succubus, Bo assures them, is set to resupply. If the crew notices that Bo spends more nights in Lauren's quarters than in her own, they have the good sense and good manners not to mention it. But Lauren can't avoid the look in Dyson's eyes each morning, that smile that says he's a little too pleased with himself for being right.

They leave Bo on the dock, with her sword and a hat and enough coin to keep her fed and sheltered for the night. As they part, Lauren's heart grows heavy, and her voice is sighing as she says, "Farewell."

Bo grins, cheeky as ever, and doffs her hat. "Captain," she says. "Thank you for the hospitality."

The gleam in her eyes leaves Lauren blushing, both from the memory of several evenings spent being extraordinarily hospitable, and from irritation - the crew is, after all, on hand to mark the occasion. Before she can reply, that gleam in Bo's eye is nearer than she'd noticed, and suddenly Bo's arm is about her waist and she's kissing Lauren, boldly and shamelessly. Her weight presses forward, and Lauren is forced to lean back, to melt into the kiss.

As quickly as it began, the kiss is over, and Lauren is left gasping and flustered. Bo, for her part, is already taking her leave, hips swaying as she hops from the gangplank to the dock below.

If attention is what Bo was after, she certainly did succeed.



IV: So we breathed, awoke, arose


It's months before they next cross paths.

Lauren and her crew have been fighting bitterly against the Spaniards, taking ships and getting caught in skirmish after skirmish. Captain Vex of the Spanish Armada wins a victory against them off the coast of Maracaibo, and the Caduceus meets its end. The Asclepius is what rises from the ashes, lighter and faster and imbuing them all with more determination than ever.

Things go well, until the night they're almost bested once again by Vex and his men. The crew of the Asclepius escapes, but Lauren is taken.

Four nights later, she finds herself unceremoniously marooned on a hot, godforsaken beach in the middle of the Caribbean sea, with no ship, no pistol, and no crew.

She has rum, though. It's not enough to keep her alive, but it's something. For two nights, she sits, quietly rationing her supply of liquor (likely the last thing she'll ever taste, but she tries to keep herself from dwelling on that particular fact) and watching the horizon. On the third morning, hope comes - the sight of black sails billowing in the wind, suddenly the most welcome thing in the world.

She signals for help, half-drunk, exhausted from thirst.

When the movement of the ship on the horizon slows, and Lauren sees the longboat headed for her, she's half-convinced it's an illusion. It's not until she hears the crunch of the longboat and feels strong hands gripping her upper arms that she realizes it wasn't an illusion after all.

She turns her head to the side, with some effort. The exertion of signalling the ship may have been greater than she thought. She feels suddenly warm, and the edges of her vision grow blurry, but she's able to make out a familiar tangle of dark hair, the front of a vest she knows she's seen before.

"It's you," she slurs, dumbly. Of course it would be. There aren't many ships with black sails in these waters, and if the talk of the taverns can be trusted, the crew of the Succubus have made these waters part of their regular buccaneering grounds.

"Aye," Bo replies. "It is."

The pair of hands around her other arm tug, not gently, and Lauren turns to see Kenzi at her other side. "It's me, too. For what that's worth."

Lauren tries to reach out, but her arms are suddenly far too heavy to lift, and everything grows dark.

*

When Lauren wakes, she's dressed in clean clothes that aren't her own, tucked into a bunk that must be aboard the Succubus. Her mouth tastes like rum and sand, and all she understands, for the moment, is that she's thirsty.

She tries to sit, and groans at the sudden dizziness that follows. The edges of her vision start to blur, and suddenly she can't hear anything but the roar of her own pulse thudding in her ears. Then there's a strong hand supporting her back, and someone presses a cup of water into her hands. She drinks greedily, accepts more when it's offered, until her belly is full and her thirst is somewhat slaked.

"Thank you," she murmurs, gravelly-voiced.

She realizes that the person holding her is Bo, that this must be her cabin. Humbled at the privilege of being here, she looks up to meet Bo's eyes. They're just like she remembered, deep brown and gazing at her with warmth that Lauren can't seem to get enough of. Bo's mouth curls into a smile, and she leans nearer. Lauren's breath catches and she struggles to find strength to meet Bo halfway. She's suddenly filled with longing, thirst forgotten.

As quickly as the moment began, Bo ends it, shaking her head and frowning. "Are you alright?"

"Aye," Lauren says, bewildered.

"That's good, then." She eases Lauren back down onto the bed, then leaves her be.

Lauren drifts off to sleep, unsure what to make of this new Bo, and her distance.

*

When she wakes again, the cabin is empty. There's a pitcher of water and a ration of hardtack on the table beside her, more than enough to make a meal. She tries to sit, and finds herself able, but barely. She reaches for the water and drinks greedily, nibbling tentatively at the biscuit. She's not sure precisely how much time has passed since she last ate, but it's been days at least. She's seen what happens to starving men who eat too much, too fast.

Once she's had her fill, she tries to stand, planning to venture outside. But keeping herself upright is more effort than she'd expected, and after a few short steps, she's forced to return to bed.

*

The next time she wakes, the pitcher and plate have been refilled, and Bo is still nowhere to be seen. She eats again, drinks again, and finds that this time, she's strong enough to stand and to walk on her own. She makes it above decks without incident, and is almost surprised to find that it's evening. The Succubus is eerily silent. She can't hear anything but the gentle creak of the rigging and the lap of waves against the hull. She breathes deeply, enjoying the smell of night air.

There's a familiar figure on the quarterdeck, leaning against the rail.

Walking is more effort above deck, but she manages, leaning heavily against the bulwark for support.

Bo's brow rises. "You're up."

"I am," Lauren says, trying to make her voice stronger than she feels. She moves closer, brushing fingertips against Bo's shirtsleeve. "Thank you. For everything."

Bo glances down at Lauren's hand, and takes a very deliberate step to the side. "You're welcome," she says, gruffly.

It's an obvious end to the conversation, and Lauren is surprised at how much it hurts. "You're - different. Since the last time we saw each other."

"I suppose I am," Bo says. She trains her gaze on the horizon, giving Lauren no help to sort out what might be the matter.

Lauren sighs. "Perhaps that's to be expected. It's been - what, six months, now?"

"Eight," Bo says, sharply.

Lauren feels herself grow shy. She recognizes Bo's terseness as a signal to stop, but the part of her heart that's longed for Bo, even in her absence, makes her press on. She needs to understand why Bo's intentions have changed so greatly. "How have you been?"

Bo casts a hard look at her. Lauren waits, patiently, until Bo sighs. "Fine," she huffs. "Things have been fine."

"That's good to hear."

Bo doesn't say anything in reply, and so they stare out at the water and the stars together, silently. Bo is distant, even this near, and Lauren can't help but think back to the sweetness of things between them the last time they met. The way Bo touched her, and the way she sighed under Lauren's hands. The way that, afterwards, Bo curled herself around Lauren's back and they slept, pressed too close in a bunk meant for one. She remembers leaving Bo with her crew in Port Royal, eyes stinging, heart heavy.

Most of all, she remembers Bo embracing her one last time, whispering thank you in her ear like a lover. She doesn't understand what happened, what's changed over the months they've been apart. The puzzle of it makes her nervous, and when she can't stand things a moment longer, she turns back to Bo and says, "Are you ever going to tell me what's wrong?"

Bo shrugs, "You're the one who was half-starved on a desert island four mornings ago. Shouldn't I be asking that of you?"

Lauren huffs. "At least I have a reason for being distant."

Bo whirls on Lauren, expression suddenly furious. She clenches her fists against the rail, tight enough that Lauren can see her knuckles go white. She takes a deep breath, as if to shout, and then sighs it out defeatedly. "You didn't send word," she finally says.

Lauren's never heard something so ridiculous in all her life. "Send word? What would you have had me do? Mail letters to you at sea? Wait longingly by the kitchen door at the Blood King?"

"I don't know." Now Bo is shouting, stepping into Lauren's personal space. "Last I'd heard, the Caduceus sank three months ago off the coast of Maracaibo."

Lauren is cowed, silent. "Oh."

Bo paces away. She turns back, furious, but deflates once her eyes meet Lauren's. "It doesn't matter."

"I didn't think -" Lauren pauses, you cared dying on her lips. She tries again. "We got a new ship. I didn't think you'd notice."

Bo just looks at her, then cups Lauren's face and kisses her against the rail, this deep, sweet, hungry kiss that makes Lauren's heart remember her. She caresses Lauren, from cheek to jaw, and Lauren closes her eyes at the feel of Bo's touch after so many nights without it. "I noticed," Bo says, roughly.

Bo bumps her forehead against Lauren's and they stand, breathing each other's air. All Lauren can focus on is Bo, everything about her, filling up her senses when she's this close. She kind of shudders in a breath, because being around Bo makes her feel like she can't breathe, and reaches up to run her thumb across Bo's lower lip. "I'm glad," she whispers.

Bo's tongue darts out to lap at Lauren's thumb, and they both smile.

It's not long before they're tumbling into Bo's cabin, kissing and tugging at clothes and touching, everywhere. Lauren's fingertips are memorizing Bo's body, tracing the shape of her jaw, remembering the curve of her waist and the weight of her breasts. She's also gasping, half-mad with arousal, as Bo's hands do the same.

Bo presses her to the bed, back-first, knees splaying wide, and settles down on top of her. One hand is trapped between them, and Bo works her fingers beneath Lauren's breeches, making her shiver. It's not long before she has Lauren whimpering against her neck, half-undone and pleading, dragging her nails down the bare skin over Bo's spine. Moments later, Lauren's finishing, with a rush of wetness that leaves Bo's fingers sticky and Lauren dazed.

Bo bites her lip, watching Lauren with a look that Lauren remembers, tender and warm. "So lovely," she whispers.

Lauren presses her forehead against Bo's breast, happier than she can say.


It's hours before they've sated each other enough to lie still, Lauren draped around Bo's back. She's caressing Bo's hip, marvelling at the softness of it, the bruises that match the shape of Lauren's grasp. She'd forgotten just how lovely this was; the feel of Bo's body against her own, the warmth that spreads through her chest whenever Bo meets her eyes and smiles.

Slowly, Bo turns, and Lauren's struck all over again by the sight of her, hair disheveled, face flushed. It's one of the loveliest things Lauren's ever seen, she's sure of it. Bo's fingertips trace a path across Lauren's forehead, ending in a caress that traces the shape of her jaw. "Tell me about the day you turned pirate," she whispers.

Lauren sighs. There's no point in hiding this, not from Bo, who's probably heard all the stories - exaggerated as they are - a dozen times over by now.

"I wanted to be a doctor," she begins.

"That's a far cry from piracy."

"I didn't say it was a short story." Bo laughs, but doesn't say more. Lauren continues. "They told me there was no place for a woman at a medical college. So I found someone, a ship's surgeon looking for an apprentice. I told him I had a brother."

"Lewis."

"Aye. I sailed with them for two years, until I was sixteen. Then, one night, the ship was raided, by a crew flying pirate colours. They gave us a choice: join their crew, or execution."

Bo's expression is compassionate, and her free hand is tracing soothing circles across Lauren's arm. So she tells the rest: the story of turning pirate, and all the years that she sailed as Captain Lewis, a man. She falters a little, after that. "There was - there was a woman," Lauren starts.

To her surprise, Bo nods.

"Nadia. She was - "

"- Incredible," Bo interrupts, eyes knowing. "Everything about her, made you feel - ?"

"Yes," Lauren says.

Bo nods. "You're not the only one with a long story."

Lauren smiles, drawing her fingertips across the contours of Bo's face, before she looks away. The next part is harder to talk about. She looks up, over Bo's shoulder, memorizing the lines of the cabin door as she speaks. "The governor offered to take her for his wife," she says, putting every effort into keeping her voice even. "She didn't refuse."

She hears Bo's sigh, feels the flutter of Bo's mouth against her collarbone. "So you turned privateer," she murmurs.

Lauren nods. "How else could I see her again? The governor's wife can hardly be seen in the company of pirates, but her husband will grant audience to his most useful privateers, and sometimes - if I'm lucky -"

"You get to see her." Bo pets her hair and kisses her again, softly, easing the dull ache that always hits Lauren's chest when she thinks about Nadia and replacing it with a new one, the sweet feeling Lauren's grown to associate with Bo. "I understand."

"Thank you," Lauren whispers.

Bo holds her close for a long while, then, stroking her hair and the bare skin of her back, tracing comforting shapes across the length of her. But it's not long before the feel of Bo's touch starts to make Lauren's blood run hot again, as she remembers that Bo is naked and warm against her. She lifts her head and takes Bo's mouth in a kiss that speaks of intentions, teeth digging into the softness of Bo's lower lip.

"Enough talk," she whispers hungrily, voice humid against Bo's skin.

The delighted sound Bo makes in reply is one of the loveliest things Lauren's ever heard.



V: Where Love's golden ocean flows


It's several fortnights before Lauren finds her ship and her crew, and several more before the Asclepius next makes berth. Tortuga is beginning to feel like home, and the Blood King most of all.

The Asclepius is supplied well enough to sail for another month without coming to port, but there's a particular reason to be at the Blood King on this night. The memory of the last evening she spent aboard the Succubus, Bo's strong body close against her own, as they whispered promises to meet again, is as vivid as if it were just the day before. She intends to keep those promises.

Once the ship has been seen to, and orders given to the crew, she all but bounces onto the dock, her eagerness making her restless. She feels lovesick, like she hasn't since she was a girl. Dyson is at her side, footfalls heavy and reassuring, and he nudges her with his elbow. "Eager to be somewhere?" he asks, eyes laughing.

"Just interested in a quiet drink, that's all."

Dyson's cough against his sleeve sounds suspiciously like suppressed laughter. "And choosing to have a quiet drink in your favourite tavern at this particular port, on the very night that our favourite pirate mentioned she'd return, is utterly coincidental."

Lauren feels her ears start to burn, and quickens her pace. "I suppose it must be."

"Some coincidence," he mumbles.

She shoots him a look, and he falls silent. But he can't quite suppress his smile, full of knowing in a way that makes Lauren fidget.


They arrive at the Blood King early, soon after sundown. Bo is nowhere to be seen, and Lauren falters for a moment on the threshold, a little dismayed. She regains herself quickly enough, and settles in her usual corner, Dyson at her side. They motion to the old bartender, and he brings them one quiet drink together. When that drink is done with, they share another, and just enough time passes for Lauren to begin to consider the possibility that Bo might not arrive, after all.

Just as she starts to have real doubts, there's a hand on her elbow, and one of the tavern maids is offering Lauren a fresh drink, blushing fiercely. "This is from the lady, ma'am," she stammers, turning away.

Lauren turns, and there's Bo, sitting alone at a table in the farthest corner of the tavern. Lauren meets her eye and Bo grins, suddenly looking like the woman Lauren remembers from all the nights they spent together, even dressed in her captain's finery. One of her teeth is painted gold, and Lauren finds herself wondering how on earth she did that, but also what it feels like against her tongue.

She raises her glass, in thanks, and takes a sip. She's trying to suppress the grinning, blushing part of herself that's delighted to see Bo alive and here, and failing utterly.

Dyson laughs out loud at her. He's on his second pint, but Lauren's seen the flask at his hip come out more than once today, and his face is already reddening with drink. "I take it you see something you like, then," he says, bumping her shoulder with his own.

She shoots him a glare, one she usually reserves for disgraced prisoners and advancing armies. He laughs a little louder, but takes the suggestion, and leaves.

Lauren doesn't dare look back at Bo, and the wait is agony. But it's not long before she feels a slim arm draped around her shoulders, and then Bo is there beside her, trinkets in her hair jingling as she stands next to Lauren's seat. "I wasn't sure if I'd see you here again."

Lauren feels herself blush. "I could say the same thing."

"How's the drink?" Bo asks, eyes flicking down to Lauren's mouth, then the tankard in her hand. Her eyes are hooded, expectant, and Lauren is all but squirming with anticipation, hands itching to touch her.

She manages a smile, and replies, "Much appreciated."

Bo tuts. "Accepting gifts from a pirate. Perhaps you've changed your mind and plan to turn pirate yourself?"

"Of course not."

"That's unfortunate, but not unexpected." Bo takes Dyson's seat, pulling the chair close enough to sling an arm around Lauren's shoulders. "My ship could use a surgeon, though. I hear you're qualified."

Lauren bites the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. "Well, I hear you're pretty handy with a sword. My ship could always use more seasoned fighters."

Bo laughs. "I can imagine. They must die off at an incredible rate."

"Actually, no. They keep getting rich and retiring."

Bo's smile is bright and full. She rests a familiar hand on Lauren's knee, and says, "What's the use of retiring? It doesn't sound like any fun at all."

"Join my crew," Lauren replies, covering Bo's hand, now high up on her thigh, with her own.

"Not until you join mine, first," Bo says.

Lauren frowns. They're at an impasse, as they've always been, but she wants Bo so much that she can feel every inch of herself aching for it. Bo brings two knuckles just to the hollow beneath Lauren's chin. "Maybe for tonight, all of that doesn't matter?" she says, almost too softly to be heard above the din around them.

Her voice and her eyes are a question, and Lauren feels her heart flutter in reply before she knows how to answer in words. "Perhaps you're right," she murmurs, roughly.

"Assuming, of course, that you don't mind being seen in the company of a lawless pirate."

Lauren's mouth quirks upward in a smile. "You know, I'm not sure that being a privateer is so different."

She leans nearer, eyes drifting down to Bo's mouth, when a voice cuts through the din around them, one that sounds an awful lot like Dyson's. "Bed her already, so we can get on having a drink without you!"

Lauren turns away, cheeks burning, and looks over her shoulder. Sure enough, Dyson is sitting at a corner table with Hale and the rest of her crew, face even redder than before as he claps Hale on the back, clumsily. She laughs, head ducking forward as she smiles. Bo's knuckles find her chin again, lifting her head until they're eye to eye, noses nearly touching. She smells like the sea, and Lauren breathes deep. She missed this, more than she'd realized.

She closes the distance between them, pressing a slow, gentle kiss to Bo's mouth.

She means for it just to be once, soft and discreet to tide her over until they're both upstairs. But once she feels Bo's lips against her own, longing takes over, and they kiss again and again and again, until the ache in Lauren's chest has finally eased, and kissing Bo doesn't feel quite so urgent. "I missed you," she whispers.

"You too," Bo says. She's breathing hard, and the rise and fall of her chest, breasts threatening to spill from her shirt, is more than distracting. Bo catches the line of Lauren's gaze, and murmurs, "I have a room upstairs. If you wanted to settle this somewhere quieter."

"I think I would," Lauren says. Somehow, spending the night in an oft-used tavern bed with a pirate sounds like a wonderful idea, after all.

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