It takes a few days at best before Max has officially been named Madame at the brothel and a few weeks for things to settle down nicely. She is not expected to lay with any man, just keep the girls in check as well as guard them if needed. It is a strange kind of power that Max now holds, her word has weight and none of it is in any way tied to what her body can give. She cannot remember that being the case in her life, not even when she was but a girl. Jack leaves the girls to her and takes care of the day to day running of the place, Anne a passive presence by his side. It is a comfort to Max that Anne is there, because she trusts Jack about as far as she could throw the weasel of a pirate and knows she cannot really count on him keeping her safe upon Vane's return. She merely hopes that his own greed and need for power will inadvertently do so.

The girls themselves adjust quickly to her presence in their lives, mostly because they are used to having very little say in matters anyway. Max knows this from experience. Still some are wary of her and Max goes out of her way to prove herself, but she still keeps her ear to the ground for any and all information they let slip. She will protect them as best she can, but she will not allow any of them to take advantage of her kindness and put her back in danger. So she takes to quietly observing them and listens closely when opportunity arises. She feels no guilt in doing so; most girls would do exactly the same or even worse if they were to find themselves in her position. It is mostly quiet though, the girls are happy for the extra protection they now have and don't feel the need to scheme as they did before.

At least most of them don't, but then Max is doing her usual rounds one afternoon when a name drifting out of a half closed door catches her attention.

"…and Guthrie's none the wiser?"

Max finds her step slowing and she pauses, rests a shoulder against a wall as she listens.

"Can't say why she would be, she believed every word out of Max's mouth for years and still probably thinks they had some great love affair. Woman's ripe for the picking and asking for it as far as I can tell. Can't blame a girl for takin' advantage of it if you ask me. It's not like I won't be treatin' her well, I can eat a cunt as good as any whore out there and if the benefit of it for me is never having to suck another dirty cock I can't see why I shouldn't."

There's snorted laughter and the sound of glasses clinking together.

"I'll say this for you, Marie, you're a thinker you are. Wish I'd thought of buttering her cunt up a bit and living life as a kept woman."

There's a murmur of agreement from Marie and more laughter. "Hmm, well, I'll admit to it bein' a bit harder than I thought it would be. She hasn't let me fuck her yet, but I don't think it'll be much longer now. She's just a little puppy begging to be fed, that one. I just need to play it sweet with her a little bit longer and she'll come to me. That or she'll finally drink herself into enough of a stupor to fuck me guilt free."

They laugh again and Max finds it hard to swallow past the sudden lump in her throat. She doesn't know if she's angry or sad, just knows that there's something burning hot in the pit of her stomach. She doesn't stay to hear more, just turns on her heal and heads downstairs for a drink. Anne finds her there a little while later, hat slamming down on the table to announce her presence.

"Yer drinkin' early."

It's not a question, just a quiet statement. Max doesn't feel the need to say anything in return for the longest time, just keeps steadily sipping at her drink and refilling as needed. Eventually the even stare across from her forces an irritable reply.

"Marie's looking to be a kept woman."

There's a surprisingly delicate snort and a raised eyebrow that greets her words. "Who the fuck's Marie and why're we carin' 'bout the fact she wants to be kept?"

Max herself isn't so sure about that, so she takes the time to think about it before she answers. She doesn't really know if she's angry because someone believes that she had only ever used Eleanor or because someone is trying to take advantage of Eleanor now. It might be both, but Max'll rather fuck a snake than admit to still caring about the woman enough to worry about her. So.

"One of the girls 'ave gone and gotten it into 'er head to seduce Eleanor and become her kept woman, like I was. She thinks that's what I did with Eleanor, that I told her pretty lies so she'd look after me. She thinks Max is a liar."

The words taste bitter and wrong in Max's mouth and the fire pit in her gut roars back to life. Anne just snorts a laugh her way.

"Well, isn' that exactly what ye did? I mean if I'm to understand things as they were, instead of stayin' with the woman ye rather went with Vane to be fucked senseless by the pigs he called a crew. Can't really blame people for believin' you didn't have much love for the woman if ye'd picked that over her."

Max feels her temper flare at the words and the careless way that Anne speaks them. She'd thought of all people that Anne understood how much Max had cared for Eleanor, how hurt she was by her actions.

"I never told Eleanor a thing that wasn't true. I spent my nights with 'er not for what she could give to me, but for what I could give to 'er. If Max didn't love 'er as much, Max woulnd't 'ave left!" Anne raises another amused eyebrow at the words and it gives Max pause to think over what she'd just said. "Not that I love 'er anymore, that's over now."

Anne snorts and steals her drink, finishing it with a rude smack of her lips.

"Course that's over, not like yer sittin' here spitting mad over another woman tryin' to take what's yours, is it? No, it's about people thinkin' yer a liar. Uh huh."

Max doesn't have much of a temper normally, but today her fuse is shorter than the ones on Flints cannons and she finds anger washing over her in waves in that moment. Again. "Fuck you, Anne Bonny!" She gets up and thinks about taking her bottle with her, but that seems so much like something Eleanor would do that she leaves it be.

Anne's laugh follows her out the door.

"I reckon I don't need to fuck me, Max, it's what I got Jack for!"

She takes to following the girls to the tavern at night. She tells herself it's to keep watch over them, to make sure none are striking cheap deals on the side but bringing the clients back to their rooms as it should be. She tells herself this, but every night she finds herself watching one table in particular.

Eleanor doesn't show up every night, but when she does she always sits at the same table in the corner, sometimes alone and sometimes joined by a captain or two. She has never approached Max, has kept her distance each time and Max doesn't know if she's grateful for that or if it angers her even more. When the drink has been flowing for long enough Marie inevitably makes her way towards Eleanor and whoever has joined her that particular night.

For two weeks Max watches as Marie smiles and talks and innocently brushes fingers against Eleanor's pale hands. She watches tentative, drunken smiles bloom on Eleanor's face a time or two and ignores the furious, painful twist of her stomach every time it happens. After nights that that happens she finds herself giving Marie extra jobs to make up for the fact that she isn't bringing in as much money as some of the other girls when she spends time with Eleanor.

When a pirate is so drunk he ends up pissing himself in his sleep Max thinks it perfectly fair to make Marie clean up the mess. Why should someone who had already earned her keep the night before be made to do it when Marie was treated to drink and good conversation instead of working?

Anne takes to following her to the tavern as well, gleefully commenting on what seems to be Marie's progress regarding Eleanor's affections.

"I see our young Marie's been granted some favour's. The way Jack was tellin' it Eleanor's had a word with him 'bout the way our girls are worked. Or at least one girl. Heard that the poor Marie was forced to endure a drunk pirate pissin' on her for his own entertainment and then made to clean the mess after. Your Eleanor was quite affronted for her sake. Ever the hero, isn't she?"

Max bites her tongue and stares at the pair sat together at Eleanor's usual table, bodies angled towards each other as they talk intently. Max hates that what Anne says is true, that the false story told to Eleanor would speak to the part of her that hated how the whores are treated and would, very likely, make her very sympathetic towards Marie. When Eleanor extends a hand and lays it gently against Marie's cheek something very old and instinctive fights its way to the surface inside of Max. It must show on her face, because Anne laughs abruptly and mutters something about 'finally' under her breath before she drags Jack out by the scruff of his neck.

Max can still hear the echoes of the man's objections to being manhandled when she notices Eleanor vacate her seat and head for her office. Marie doesn't leave the table and Max finds herself following after Eleanor, not sure why or what she actually wants to say to the woman when she confronts her.

When she closes the door behind her Eleanor is stood watching the waters of Nassau she so dearly loves. Her shoulders seem to slump a bit at the intrusion, but she doesn't turn around.

"I said I'd think about your offer, Marie, but I need time to myself to do that."

The words are not angry, her tone rather that of one that is very tired. Max has not heard that voice in some time, not since the night Eleanor stopped Vane's men from hurting her further and she is surprised by how it affects her. She has missed that voice, just as she has missed the blue of her eyes and the feel of her skin, the warmth of her embrace.

"And what offer 'as Marie made you?"

Eleanor jerks in surprise, shoulders tense as she turns in surprise to lay those eyes Max had missed so much upon her.

"Max?" Her voice is soft, wavering, as if she is afraid to speak loudly and scare Max away, or as if she cannot believe that Max is even really standing there.

"Tell Max, what offer 'as Marie so graciously made Eleanor?"

The way Eleanor swallows heavily and looks down, guilt bleeding onto her cheeks with a blush is enough of an answer for Max. The feeling returns then, of something she does not like admitting is within her, and finally she gives it a name. Max is jealous. She burns with it, with the need to make the world see that Eleanor is still hers, still Max's. To prove to herself that no one can do to Eleanor what Max can, can make her feel love so dearly as she had.

Even if that love had gone unspoken for so long.

It propels her forward, the need to take what has always been hers. Eleanor watches uneasily as Max strides forward, clenches her fingers tightly into fists as if preparing for a fight.

"Max, I'm sorry…I…if I thought you…I don't…" Eleanor trails off, seemingly still unsure what is happening, what Max's intentions are.

When Max finally reaches her she makes sure Eleanor understands exactly what she wants, what she means to do. She drags Eleanor's mouth down to her own with a firm hand at the back of her neck, her golden hair soft and familiar against Max's skin as she grips her tightly. Eleanor breathes a broken sigh against her mouth, the sound both pained and relieved at once, spurring Max on even further. She kisses her hard, slants her mouth hungrily against Eleanor's as she feels fingers dig almost painfully into her cheeks as Eleanor cups her face.

She pulls back suddenly, keeps Eleanor close as she pants warmly against her mouth.

"Whatever she 'as promised, whatever she 'as said, it is not true. It would not be what we 'ave, it is only empty promises for her own benefit."

Eleanor wants to answer, Max can see it in the way her eyes soften, but she does not give her the time to talk. Now is not the time for words. She swallows Eleanor's gasp of surprise when she pulls her in to kiss again, hand firm against her right breast. Eleanor's reaction is immediate and achingly familiar; her nipple is a hard, tender pressure point against Max's palm and her skin is flushed all the way down to her chest. Max wants to taste that blush, wants to absorb its heat and colour and drag her tongue across the expanse of skin affected. When she does bury her face against Eleanor's neck, mouth hungrily marking what is hers and tongue painting heat over the bruises she leaves, she hears words fall softly from above.

Words of love, of want, of missing. Pleas for forgiveness, for more, for everything.

Eleanor begs so beautifully and Max finds herself wanting to give. So she does. She is almost clumsy in her attempts to get Eleanor out of her clothes, but hers are not the only fingers shakily fumbling with buttons. It is almost painful the degree of need she feels when Eleanor is bared before her finally, her skin as soft and pliant as Max remembered it to be. She cannot help the words that spill against that beloved skin, cannot help but mean them dearly.

"Tu es belle, mon amour." She breathes in the familiar smell, something flowery and sweet one would almost not associate with Eleanor. "Je suis toi et tu es à moi."

She takes her fill then of what has always belonged to her and always will. Eleanor is wet and warm against her fingers and it feels so very much like a homecoming of sorts, of finally belonging again. She has been so thoroughly broken since the last time they had done this and she never expected to feel like this again. It is a gift, one that she knows only Eleanor can give her as unknowingly as it may be.

"I have missed you so much, I love you so much. Please. Please." She is not sure Eleanor knows what she's saying, but the words bury themselves within Max's chest anyway. Before there were not words such as these, only sighs and moans escaped from firmly pursed lips.

Eleanor's openness is beautiful and arousing and it drives Max's fingers deep inside the woman she loves so dearly. She touches her firmly, almost painfully so, but Eleanor bucks into it and never once loosens her own grip on Max's body. She sucks at her breasts, revels in the sharp intake of breath it causes, follows the arch of her throat until her mouth lingers above Eleanor's own panting one.

"Say it again, tell Max…" She does not even have to finish her request before Eleanor is complying. "Love you…love…beautiful…you…" She fucks her through the floor then.

She expects there will be bruises in the morning, but she likes the idea that her love will leave Eleanor with such a physical token. Every moment of pain later will be a reminder of the previous pleasure given.

When Eleanor comes it's with tears on her face and body taut with desperation. She does not say anything for long moments afterwards, just breathes deeply with eyes closed as she runs fingers gently across Max's face.

"Don't leave me. I know I deserved it, but please don't do it again."

The soft words startle Max out of her quiet reverie. Eleanor's face is strained and tears are once again falling from the corners of her tightly shut eyes, but this time Max knows it's not from pleasure. Max was not the only one hurt; her scars would just always be more visible.

"I will not. I meant what I said, I love you and I will not leave you. Not again, not for anything. Max is yours and you are Max's." She can't help but tease then, wants to see the smile she loves so much. "So remember that next time Marie comes with offers, non?"

Eleanor gives a bark of laughter then, embarrassment alight on her fair skin. "Oh God, I can't believe I almost…and because I was fucking sad…if it's any consolation, even if her promises were anything more than empty it would never have been what you and I had. I know that. You…" Eleanor pauses here, lets her eyes drift across Max's face, lets a sad smile pull at her lips. "You're where I want to go when the seas get rough."

Max kisses her again, because she can't not kiss her, because she can't not love this arrogant, foolish woman as much as she does. Yet when Eleanor's hands start to slide across her body, their loving intent quite obvious, she still feels herself tense when those fingers finds her cunt. Feels sweat bead upon her skin and cold fear settle in her stomach.

She knows whose hands are touching her, can feel the gentle care in them so clearly, but it can't fully erase the memory of other hands that touched more harshly. Of bodies that took and took until there was nothing but tears and blood left. She can feel her lungs compress, can feel as air seems to thin and she worries that she'll pass out, that somehow the air in the room has left completely and she will flounder as a fish would on land.

"Shh, don't cry, don't worry, shh. I've got you, it's alright, Max. It's alright." The hands are feather soft now, stroking her hair and face, easing the tight lines of her brow and thumbs a gentle pressure against her clamped jaw. "I won't touch you again, Max, I promise you. I'm sorry."

Eleanor's voice is tremulous, words whispered desperately against the shell of Max's ear. It calms her somewhat, brings air back into her lungs and clears her thoughts.

"It's fine, Max is fine. I'm…I'm sorry." She swallows to wet her dry throat, takes another breath and opens her eyes to face Eleanor. "I want to, I do, it's just…"

Eleanor shakes her head and drags Max back into her embrace, cradles her much like she imagines a mother would a sick child.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, I should not have tried to…I shouldn't have, not after what happened. I understand, Max, I really do."

Max hates that she feels like this, can't help but think after years of doing what she had she should be used to it. Should be able to let the woman she loves touch her without it turning her into a small, scared child, simply because someone else hurt her. It's not fair, not to her or to Eleanor.

"It's not that I do not want to, because I do, and I do not want you to think I'm punishing you for what happened." It's true, Max has forgiven Eleanor and she cannot lie to herself and blame what happened to her on Eleanor anymore.

Yes, Eleanor made a choice that Max did not agree with, but Max left of her own accord. She chose to leave even when Eleanor made it clear she wanted her to stay, that she would protect her. Even after she had left, Eleanor had kept that promise as best she could by punishing Vane and killing the men who had hurt her. It had taken another woman doubting Max's love for Eleanor, and wanting what was Max's, for her to realise it, but she finally did and she felt no ill will towards Eleanor any more.

"Max, do you know what I love most about you?" Max does not get to answer before Eleanor continues, fingers buried in Max's dark hair and gently massaging. "There are many things about you that I love: your body is one of those things, it's true, the things it can do to me and the things I can do to it another, but that's just some of the things. I love your spirit and how you're not afraid to speak your mind. I love that when you drink too much you sing me your favourite songs, even though they're in another language and I can't even understand them. I even love your singing voice, though it pains me to inform you that you're tone deaf and it's actually rather atrocious.''

Max laughs softly and buries her face in Eleanor's neck, remembers wine filled nights that ended with Eleanor's naked back against her skin and her lips against her lovers ear, her voice a soft whisper as she sang foreign love songs to her because she wasn't brave enough to say the words to her outright yet.

"So there's many things about you that I love Max, fucking being one of those, but why I love you has nothing to do with that. What I love most about you, why I love you, is that you make me happier than all the sand in Nassau could. That you came back when you were probably better off without me. That after every terrible thing that happened to you, you could still find it in your heart to not just forgive me, but love me."

She kisses her then, soft and gentle and so earnestly Max can do nothing but believe every word. This Eleanor, this tender and loving part of her that no one else will ever see, belongs to no one but Max. It is more than she has ever dreamed she would have.

"And if it means I never get to touch you in any other way than this I can bear it, Max. I'll bear it for you gladly, because the things you've given me that's truly made me happy has never been tied to your body alone."

Max loves so much in that moment, wants so much in that moment, but she cannot bear the thought of anything or anyone inside of her again. Not now, not so soon after, not even her beloved Eleanor. Yet she still wants. She yearns. Her body is heavy with need and wetness still lingers between her thighs, the sight of Eleanor's passion and pleasure always enough to stoke a blazing fire within Max herself. Add to that the words of love and devotion spoken so honestly and easily, Max is torn between fear and desire so strong it makes her feel feverish.

"Use your mouth."

The sudden, desperate words seem to jar Eleanor, confusion written all over her face when she looks down at Max.

"Excuse me?"

Max wants to laugh at the instilled politeness. For all that Eleanor plays at being a foul mouthed, thick skinned shark of a merchant she is still a well-bred English Woman at her core.

"You were the last person to use 'er mouth on me. The men never…that morning, before everything happened, that was the last time."

Eleanor takes a minute to think about it, worry still clearly etched on her face, but Max's desperation must be clear, because she nods quietly and leans down to kiss her. She pulls back after another breathless minute, clumsily folds her discarded dress and gently lifts Max's head to place the makeshift pillow beneath her.

"Stop me if it's too much or if I'm doing anything that…just stop me if you have to, okay?"

Max settles back and lets go of the fear, embraces the heat that she can feel throbbing between her legs. Eleanor is tentative in a way she never even was the first time they ever did this. She keeps her hands to herself mostly, just tangles one hand with Max's own and uses her mouth to press soft kisses on places she never would have bothered with before.

She avoids her breasts, kisses each rib gently. She doesn't grope her ass as she is wont to do, just lazily drags her tongue slowly up and down the seam of Max's thighs. She traces seemingly innocent stretches of skin with her mouth and turns them into burning, sensitive points. When she drags her teeth across the skin at the back of Max's knee, she finds herself incapable of staying quiet.

Once she starts moaning Eleanor finally moves up and meets her eyes, drags her tongue firmly up the length of her cunt, makes Max arch and scream. It goes on for an eternity, the steady, consistent motion both relaxing and working Max up at the same time until she cannot talk, can barely drag a breath into her lungs. She can't think of anything other than Eleanor and her beautiful mouth, doesn't feel anything but her slick tongue moving against her.

When Eleanor suddenly changes pace and drags her teeth ever so softly over her and then sucks, hard, she stills. She stills and comes with a keening cry, with her hands buried in Eleanor's hair and her heart so near to full and bursting it's painful.

It takes her a very long time to come back to herself and she finds Eleanor watching her with a rather smug, and proud, smile.

"Shut up, Ma chère."

Eleanor laughs loudly at this and kisses her cheek, slips in beside her and holds her.

"I didn't say anything."

Max huffs a laugh at this and gently slaps a hand against her side.

"You were going to and it would 'ave, how do you English say? Ruin the mood."

They stay as they are for a few minutes more, but then Eleanor starts complaining about how hard the floor is and what the dirty pirates and their dirty boots could have smeared on them and Max gets the hint. They dress quietly, but it's not an empty quiet, it's filled with satisfied smiles and gentle touches as they help each other with stubborn buttons and tangled hair.

"You'll stay with me tonight?" She is worn out and tired, but in the best way possible and she wants to end the night in Eleanor's arms.

When Eleanor smiles and nods they make their way out of her office, into the heat and sound of the busy tavern. She makes sure to hold Eleanor's hand and fights the urge to push her against a table and kiss her when Marie finally spots them together.

Eleanor must realize this because she laughs loudly and happily, for a long time too and Max can't think of a time before when she has seen the woman so effortlessly joyful. She had done that, no one else, and it fills her with warmth and pride in equal measure.

"Come to bed before that jealous beast inside of you does something neither of us will ever live down." Max smirks in Marie's grumpy direction, but nods her agreement and follows Eleanor up the stairs.

It takes Max a long time to fall asleep and when she does her sleep is as troubled as it ever has been since what had happened with Vane's men. She dreams of the rapes and the beatings, Eleanor's arms around her not some magical shield that makes the dreams vanish, but when she wakes with a start the woman soothes her back to sleep each time and that, in itself, is a comfort Max is thankful for.

They have time and it will not be this way forever. Max will not always be broken and Eleanor will not always be so glum and filled with worry. Their love would make them stronger, together, as it should have since the start.

So yeah, I hope you enjoyed that. It was supposed to be smutty and cracky and happy, but I'm apparently incapable of writing that. Sorry!