...


Caprice

Chapter XVIII


She had arrived without fanfare, which was rather unremarkable for a servant. Still, Marco was surprised when the new servant arrived on the porch with little more than what she wore on her back for belongings, and without the duchess accompanying her as had been expected.

"You are Keimi?"

The girl nodded at him, keeping her eyes down and her hands clasped in front of her chest. "Yes, sir."

"Just Marco," he murmured. He beckoned for her to follow and led her to the drawing room nearest the kitchen where Lord Portgas was sitting and reading over the letters he'd brought in earlier.

Lord Portgas looked up from the papers to see Keimi in her tattered brown shawl and said, "I cannot believe she didn't send an escort with you. Tell me you didn't travel through the forest."

The girl blushed and Lord Portgas made a sharp hissing noise in the likeness of a crackling fire flaring up. "That woman. You're lucky you're not dead!"

The girl blushed an even deeper crimson and Marco smiled to himself despite sharing the lord's disappointment in the duchess' lack of consideration. He knew the feelings she was now experiencing in front of the handsome lord all too well, having felt them himself, though that was months ago and he deemed himself well adjusted to his lord. Or at least as adjusted as one could get to a demon with various ravenous appetites, only some of which could be satisfied with food and drink.

Marco frowned at the turn his thoughts had taken and felt himself grow tense. This girl was really an upsetting variable to add to the household. He was quite certain Lord Portgas hadn't the faintest idea of what he'd done by inviting someone inside their lives. Or, at least, inside their lives at mere face value. Should the girl learn of what generally happened upstairs after the sun set…

Standing before the noose that day he had thought he'd be hung for sure. Now he knew he'd be hung at a later date for a very different crime.

"Did you bring all of your belongings with you, Miss Keimi?" Lord Portgas asked while eying up the small bundle she had hefted over one of her thin shoulders.

"Y-yes, m'Lord."

Lord Portgas blinked rather stupidly for a few seconds. It had been perhaps two days since he'd heard his title spoken aloud. Marco had taken to calling him by his preferred name.

"Ah, right," he muttered, running a hand through his hair and looking rather sheepish. "Well…Marco can show you the estate. I have some…things that I ought to do."

Marco watched his lord scuttle off towards the stairwell, pause halfway there, and then sharply redirect himself so he strode towards the door. Without a backwards glance he left the manor for the outdoors.

He should have liked to laugh at how uncomfortable the lord was when it came to directing people, but the girl was watching him with wide eyes and a very slack jaw.

"Oh, don't worry, he isn't so queer all the time. He just gets in a state when it comes to the hierarchy of this household. If there is one thing you ought to know, it is that Lord Portgas is not like most. He is fairer than the duchess, that much is certain."

Keimi closed her mouth, but her eyebrows didn't come down from the top of her forehead for quite some time after Marco toured her around the bottom level of the estate. Eventually, they ended up in Marco's old room, which had been cleaned to the point of being remarkably bare. A torrid of feelings struck Marco and he stood silently as the girl wandered in. Considering he'd spent the better part of his life in this room, the happier bit at any rate, it was almost nearing painful to see it so empty.

"You should decorate this room," Marco suggested loudly, startling Keimi into jumping out of her shawl. The older man had been silent or soft-spoken for the past half hour in the lord's absence.

"D-decorate it? Won't Lord Portgas mind?"

Marco snorted, further frightening the girl with his sudden disregard for manners. He had to remind himself that she knew nothing. "Trust me when I say he will not care. You could re-decorate the entire manor and I doubt he would raise objections."

He saw something in Keimi's eyes light up at the offer. "R-really? That…would be a dream come true, Mr. Marco."

Yes, there was certainly something potentially dangerous lurking in those big, innocent orbs. It would be wise to rein her in, he thought. "Start with your room, and we'll see if the lord truly approves of this…idea."

It would at least give him some time to warn the man.

"O-of course–"

"And don't neglect your duties. Because then I won't approve of it." She shook her head to agree, rather wildly, which made her hair swirl around her head. Boy, he kind of liked exercising this power, this command. For perhaps the first time he could comprehend how some men went mad with a lust for power.

He could admit it was a rather nice feeling.

"Is there anything else, Mr. Marco?" Keimi asked tentatively while he stood in the doorway of his old bedchamber. Marco stiffened and looked down at her, eyes no longer glazed.

Then he sighed. "Two things. My name is not Mr. Marco, it is just Marco. And anything that happens in this home stays within its walls. Do you understand what I mean by this? Anything that should happen is not to be spoken about on the streets of Sabaody or to any other person, or creature, beyond this estate. There are grave consequences otherwise. Am I clear?"

He watched Keimi nod seriously, then left her to her own devices with instructions to unpack and then meet him later to prepare dinner in the kitchen. It would be an eventful evening, he was sure of that much.

But first he had to track down his wayward lord.

-oOo-

"You'll never guess whose ships have docked in this harbour, Ace."

"Hmm?"

Trafalgar snorted and threw out a leg to kick at his companion's shin. The toe of his boot caught Lord Portgas off guard and he startled, grabbing the edge of the table they were both seated at.

"Hey."

"You seek me out for a chat when I have better things to do and then you don't hold up your part," the doctor grumbled. "I asked you to take a guess at the ships that have docked in the port. Guess, you sullen knave."

"How should I know what is presently docked in Sabaody's harbour? Word never travels to my estate – it is too east of Sabaody's central square."

"Fine, fine." Trafalgar laced his fingers together, his dark markings jumbling into a mess of symbols. "There are three navy ships docked: the White Hunter, The Bicorne and, your absolute favourite, The Magnus."

Lord Portgas sat up straight in his chair, elbows on the table and hands on either side of his head. "No!"

"Oh, yes," Trafalgar replied, quite smug he could get this rise out of his dear friend. "You ought to be careful. While it may be fun to tease old Commodore Smoker in the presence of his subordinates, it would not be wise to do it in the presence of the admirals."

"The Magnus…how I detest that ship and her captain," muttered the lord, face marred by lines of disgust. "Admiral Akainu presses more men than any other. It's a harsher life for those unfortunate souls than becoming pirates."

"I've heard that's why Drake despises it," Trafalgar mused. "Not to gossip or anything, but these things do reach the ears of doctors that have served time aboard these sorts of vessels."

Lord Portgas touched the doctor lightly on the top of his hand, getting his attention. "Why have they docked here? Last I heard the majority of the fleet was out on a campaign against New World pirates that have been rampaging around the king's new colonies."

"I'm sure the reason will reach me in due time," Trafalgar replied. "Until then, try not to be too visible. Though you have status above that of the average man, I don't want to see you pressed into service as a captain. That would be dreadful."

Lord Portgas drummed his fingers on the table, his brow furrowed. At last he asked, "Are they being given shore leave?"

"What? The marines? Are you bloody mad?" Then Trafalgar threw his head back and laughed, which further stoked a fire that was beginning to burn inside the lord. "Ace! You ought to know! Really, why ever would Akainu give his men shore leave? That is just asking for them to rebel and disappear!"

"I know, I know," the lord replied, grumbling. "I meant Commodore Smoker's crew. Last I checked he wasn't one of the captains that needed to gangpress men into service…"

"They all do it," Trafalgar hissed, eyes narrowed.

Lord Portgas shook his head in disagreement. "With Smoker he lets the bastards go. Says he has no room on his ship for men who don't know how to sail. His sense of justice doesn't align with Akainu's since he so blatantly disregards the navy's rules. He goes after pirates, you know, that's why they call him a hunter."

"You seem to know him well," Trafalgar noted dryly. "You really ought to go visit him if you know him this well."

Lord Portgas snorted. "No, it's not that I knew him well. It's just that I knew him when Garp trained him; not exceptional circumstances to get to know someone, right?"

Law grunted and rubbed at his eyes, choosing not to answer. The dark rings were especially prominent today. He had found himself lying awake all night, his mind a muddle of thoughts about the coming day. Now that the day was here, he was quite adamant about shelving the thoughts that had tortured him the night before.

Eustass Kidd wished to have a meeting today at noon. It was not yet time, but as noon approached Trafalgar found himself getting restless.

"You're being odd," Lord Portgas noted suddenly.

"A lack of sleep can lead to a shaking of my limbs," the doctor replied, clasping his hands. It was not that his limbs that were shaking; he was merely moving them about too sporadically. His friend had noticed his fingers could not stay still, playing with the corner of the tablecloth, the edge of his wine glass, and even rubbing at his eyes was noteworthy for the aggression he put into the act.

"Something's bothering you."

"I'd sooner not admit that fact." Trafalgar glanced at the grandfather clock ticking away. Riding to Batterilla Bridge would take him twelve minutes. Walking would take more. He ought to have left five minutes ago at the very least.

If he wanted to actually make it in time for the lord's meeting.

He scoffed aloud, earning himself Lord Portgas' deepest frown. "Now you're worrying me."

Trafalgar stood up and poured out the contents of his wine glass into the nearest potted plant. It was a leafy miniature tree, though if one stood to the side of it and saw it highlighted with light a light red sheen could be seen beneath the initial greenness. Lately Trafalgar had been substituting away from plain water for the plant and towards his unfinished meals. He didn't like to waste, and the tree seemed to enjoy the extra nutrients.

"I have to go. I have an appointment to make," the doctor said. "Go back and play with your servant boy."

Lord Portgas' frown deepened. "Hey, it is not that I ran from there. It is simply that I wished to get some fresh air. My manor can be stuffy."

"That is surely it," Trafalgar said dryly. "I honestly cannot believe you took from the duchess one of her maids – truth be told, that was a rather stupid decision on your behalf. You put yourself in her focus more than you already have by virtue of your family legacy."

"She's a witch."

"I know that much, fool."

Lord Portgas slammed his hands down on the table, causing the cutlery to jump and the wine in his glass to lurch and bubble. "Why the hell didn't you tell me then?"

"It didn't cross my mind that it would be significant to you. She's a harmless bitch, anyway."

Lord Portgas seized Trafalgar by the wrist when he came to pass by on his way to the door. "Oh, the fact that she's a witch is very significant. She has aging powers! You think that's harmless?"

Trafalgar cocked an eyebrow. "I suppose you found out the hard way. Now you're making me feel bad. I really ought to have warned you not to touch the duchess. I had thought you'd be able to handle yourself accordingly."

Lord Portgas' eyes burned. "Are you suggesting I touched her willingly? You know I have no feelings for her, or for any other woman."

"Still?" Trafalgar said with a glint in his eye. He gently removed his wrist from the lord's clutches and continued on his way, giving his old friend one last reapproving look that made the lord's insides clench. "Like I said, I have an appointment to keep. I shall have to drop by some other day for tea, whenever the new maid is settled and you aren't shirking your responsibilities to your estate."

Lord Portgas said nothing while Dr. Trafalgar wrapped a thin wisp of a white scarf around his neck, with black spots to match the furred trim of his boots. He pulled on a long jacket next and buttoned it up in a flurry, then hastily grabbed his most cherished things. Sword and rucksack equipped, he was ready.

He departed with a mocking half-bow, and once more Lord Portgas said nothing, only seethed that his friend thought him incapable of holding on to a relationship of the magnitude he believed he could achieve with Marco.

-oOo-

He had not informed Bepo that he would be going out on this fine autumn day. Rather he had told Bepo to take the day for hunting. Bepo, of course, was pleased.

Dr. Trafalgar crashed through the bushes, taking all the shortcuts he knew. He hated being late. He was punctual by nature, and even arriving a minute after an appointed time made his gut lurch. For the record his gut, presently, was twisted up and probably resembling the heavily dissected brain matter he had stored in a jar at home.

He was ten minutes late to see Lord Eustass.

He arrived in the clearing leading up to the bridge and halted along the line of evergreen trees that would not loose their needles in the coming winter. Even with the many maple trees dotting the forest's edge, their leaves turning a violently red hue, it was effortless for his eyes to pick out the lord on the bridge's other side. His hair shone a ruddy, earthy hue today in the light cast down from the midday sun.

He shivered when Lord Eustass nodded to him from across the quaint little brook, the wind picking up and reddening his cheeks. He was glad he had his furred hat covering his ears. There was nothing worse than cold ears.

Well, except for a horny cambion pinning him down in the dirt. At its most basic, that was rather unappealing. The thought brought him back to the fragile reason why he had come. Fragile because his reason was poor and, if analyzed too deeply, would break apart.

He watched Lord Eustass start for him and made no movement to meet the man halfway, even as the lord stopped in the center of the bridge and beckoned to him. Really now, his mind was telling him to irritate the demon, to turn tail and stalk away in the opposite direction. Even if he were followed, and he had no doubt he would be, he was faster than the lord and knew the woods like a farmer knows his fields.

That brought him around to thinking if he would actually run.

His body flushed with a different redness as he thought about it, about them. About what the lord could do to him, the sensations he could evoke. Then, as always, there was the matter of his blood.

Lord Eustass beckoned him to the bridge, looking impatient by the rate he was bobbing his knee as he leaned against the bridge's wooden railing.

His nodachi was fastened to his back via a strip of leather wrapped diagonally across his front and attaching to two different places on his blade's sheath, and he reached behind him briefly to touch the hilt under the guise of rubbing his shoulder. It was a subtle reassurance that he was one of the top bred of a more dangerous species than Lord Eustass.

He set one foot in front of the other, arriving at the base of the bridge. He took in the many pink flowers blowing softly in the wind. The flowers were there in bloom from spring until the first frost of winter. They were hardy and beautiful. Resilience was key to the survival of all things, Trafalgar noted with a sweeping smile he aimed first at the flowers and then up at the man glaring down at him.

"So you came."

"So I did," replied the doctor. He stepped onto the bridge and his eyes were drawn to the creek below, which was steadily filling with coloured leaves and soft pink petals. "Rather romantic setting, isn't it?" Trafalgar smirked when his words caused Lord Eustass' lip to curl in disgust.

"I thought so," he replied bluntly, in such a way that Trafalgar was sure it had never even crossed his mind. He laughed lightly as his mind instinctively tried to analyze the reply. Was Kidd attempting sarcasm here, or was he just the type of man who was short with people when it came to the weather and other mundane observations?

He was far too analytical today. "I wasn't going to come."

"Neither was I."

Trafalgar could barely hide an indignant gasp. "You were the one to arrange this!"

Lord Eustass shrugged. "Your feathery friend was not going to leave my home until I either cooked him or gave him something to put in your mailbox. He was too fast for me to choose the former."

Trafalgar had known Penguin had delivered the letter. That much had been apparent. Still, he couldn't help but feel a bit played. "Have you nothing worthwhile to say? What is the real reason you bothered to put pen to paper?"

"Does a man need a reason?"

"He does."

"Is it such a sin to say I wanted to have you to myself again?"

"I think most would agree that's a sin, yes," Trafalgar replied.

They had left a gap between them of three feet, and in two strides Lord Eustass was up against the Trafalgar's body. Between them, Trafalgar's blade, its edge gleaming and trained on Lord Eustass' neck.

The lord eyed the blade with had been withdrawn smoothly and silently. Its only indication had been the motion of Trafalgar's arm, which he had disregarded.

He underestimated the doctor, clearly.

"Sheath your sword lest I feel the need to bring mine out," the lord growled.

Trafalgar blinked, his brow furrowed. Then he burst out into laughter, blowing hot air into the lord's face.

Lord Eustass stepped back, confused by this outrageous reaction. "What?" he barked.

When the laughter ceased and Dr. Trafalgar glimpsed the hidden rapier attached to the lord left hip and hidden mostly by his furred coat he paused, then began laughing again.

"What?"

"Oh nothing! It is just…I thought…ah, I did not think you owned an actual blade!"

Lord Eustass shook his head slowly, realization dawning on him. "You are a pervert."

"You should be clear with what you mean then," Trafalgar argued back.

"Coming from you…"

Trafalgar snorted, drawing his shoulders up and putting his own sword back in its casing. It wasn't needed. Not yet.

While walking here, and indeed much of last night and his morning meal with Lord Portgas, he had thought to run the lord through with his blade. Yet now he was finding it increasingly difficult to imagine the lord as a lifeless, voiceless entity. He was, quite simply, too amusing to gut.

He watched the lord's face change, a smug grin swelling as Trafalgar's smile drooped. "So you are aroused by me then."

Trafalgar looked down at himself with indifference, then back up at the lord, shrugging. "I don't appear to be having any special reactions towards you, so no."

"But I could make you aroused very easily," the lord said. It sounded more like a threat than a remark meant to elicit feelings of desire. Trafalgar held his tongue but his cheeks puffed outward; it was hard to keep his laughter in check.

Lord Eustass stepped into his space and fixed him with a heated glare. The moment for Trafalgar to draw his sword was upon him, yet he held off. The moment of chance passed and he found his body pushed up against the wooden railing, the lord's chest almost touching his own and his arms seized.

"Are you laughing?" hissed Lord Eustass.

"No, no, I'm simply holding my breath to keep from coughing. I have a terrible cold."

"Liar."

"Yes, I am a compulsive liar," Trafalgar admitted with an endearing smile. He was beginning to feel the rush that always came with doing something dangerous, in this case making the lord irritated with him. He let his forehead fall to the lord's shoulder. His scent made his limbs weaken. "I am cold, though. Winters are dreadful, aren't they?"

"It's hardly winter," the lord said softly. "Don't tell me you're this weak to the cold."

Trafalgar scoffed and stepped in closer, pushing his body off the wooden rail so he was flush with Lord Eustass' frame. The other still kept a firm hold of his arms, and he couldn't do much to dislodge him.

"It's not that I'm weak to cold; I prefer to be wrapped in warm blankets or, better still, furs."

"I'm not giving you my coat. You're not a lady."

"Did I ask for your coat?"

Trafalgar decided now would be as good a time as any. He sprang to the tips of his toes and pressed his mouth to the lord's neck. He heard a sharp intake of breath, felt the lord's neck expand and tremble, but he did not jerk away. The scent of his skin was intoxicating, but Trafalgar held off and waited. He parted his lips and let his tongue moisten them, the tip of which grazed the man's skin and caused him to shiver rather violently.

"Well?" the lord whispered.

"Well what?" Trafalgar returned, breath hot on the man's neck. Pressed up so close to the lord he could feel the bulge against his stomach that told of his arousal.

"Aren't you going to bite me?" hissed Lord Eustass.

Trafalgar turned his face up so he was whispering in the lord's ear. "Maybe. Maybe not. But I think it should be said that I can make you aroused very easily. It is not the other way around, my dear Kidd."

Hearing his first name made the lord slacken, and his grip on Trafalgar's arms became gentle. Trafalgar lifted one of his arms from this gentle grasp and wrapped his hand around the lord's neck, then took a long lick of the area he'd been eying up.

Lord Eustass stilled, expectant. When nothing happened for several moments he seized Trafalgar by his waist, though it was clear the other wasn't wanting for escape. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Don't bloody 'well what' me! You know what!"

"What am I doing?" Trafalgar asked him, knowing the lord simply thought he was going to be on the receiving end of the doctor's fangs. He did not yet grasp the bigger picture.

After a second of deliberation, it finally dawned on the lord. "You're bloody teasing me."

"Yes, yes I am," Trafalgar said, pressing his lips to the man's skin and smiling so that the lord could feel his amusement.

Suddenly the lord grabbed the back of his neck and yanked him backwards, much like seizing a puppy by the scruff and giving it a shake for misbehaviour. "You're a naughty little thing, aren't you?" he growled.

Trafalgar nearly snarled, but at the last second he caught himself. Best not to get angry. Anger was a weak emotion, as anger led to mistakes of judgement. "So what? What are you going to do? Beat me?"

Lord Eustass' eyes widened and Trafalgar could feel his fingers trembling on his neck. He had forgotten he had this power over the lord. "No, not beat you," the lord hastily corrected. "Maybe I should just give you a few slaps on that little ass of yours. It might improve your manners."

"As if you could," Trafalgar said with a snort. It was impossible, he knew. Lord Eustass could barely think about hurting him, much lest go through with it. He no longer had that power.

Pupils shrunk at the challenge. "I'm certain I could."

Oh, boggarts.

No sooner had that thought passed through Trafalgar's mind that he found himself staring down at the creek beneath the bridge. Lord Eustass had flipped him around and shoved his stomach onto the wooden rail and was holding him there. Bent over. Prone.

His sword's band that kept it on his back slipped from his shoulder and the whole thing fell with a clatter to the ground. Out of reach of his hands, which were held firmly in place by the stronger of the two of them.

His trousers were fitted but, as usual, when it came to clothing the Lord Eustass spared no thread. He wasn't sure if they'd been ripped coming off of him, but they might as well have for how roughly they were yanked to his ankles.

"Don't you dare!" Trafalgar shouted. Behind him, laughter.

"Is that a bear embroidered onto your undergarments?"

"Come a little closer, my dear, so I can kick a foot up to castrate you," hissed the doctor. He was not so much humiliated that the lord saw his undergarments as angry that the lord thought he could bend him over a bridge and smack the cheekiness out of him.

"We'll see about that," the man said with a grunt, twisting both of Trafalgar's arms behind his back. He put two hands together and held on, freeing one hand to drop the doctor's undergarments next.

Trafalgar groaned as the cold air invaded very private places. "Should have broken your windpipe when I had the chance…"

"Aw, don't be bereft about missed opportunities," chided the lord.

Dr. Trafalgar closed his eyes and took a deep breath, preparing himself for the worst. He was going to get hit on the behind by a brute, and then probably mounted like a bitch. At the very least his coat was still intact. That was a positive in this sea of negativity.

He did not at all expect to feel a heavy weight upon his back and a warm whoosh of air tickling his right ear. "Here's your missed opportunity."

Trafalgar's eyes snapped open. His nose twitched. Lord Eustass was again offering him his neck, only this time he would have to work for it. Put himself in an awkward position, with his neck twisted around, to get to the demon's blood.

Humiliation.

"Fuck you," the doctor stated, turning his head away. He would not do this. Never. It was derogatory. He was better than this. He was not a submissive man, even when bent over a bridge's rail.

"I can always fuck you like this," Lord Eustass replied, thrusting his hips forward. The force smashed Trafalgar's front against the bridge and he hissed in pain.

"But I won't."

Trafalgar blinked, not entirely sure if he had heard the last of the lord's words correctly.

His world once again shifted in a most violent manner, and this time he found himself facing Kidd, though they weren't eye-to-eye. Rather, he was lifted and his butt set down on the bridge's railing.

Instinctively, Trafalgar reached out for his assailant, not wanting to topple backwards into the frigid water below the bridge. After the initial shock he tried to keep a light grip on the man, but with Lord Eustass pushing into him to the point where he was almost being hurled over backwards it was impossible to keep his fingers light on the shoulders he'd seized.

"What are you doing?" Trafalgar demanded, more anxious than angry. He didn't dare look over his shoulder behind him at the pink petals that danced in the slight ripples produced by water drifting in and around stones. He had never really thought of the source of this creek before, but something told him that it ran to the pond on Lord Eustass' estate.

Why he was thinking of all this was unclear. He supposed he was experiencing an irrational fear of being swept away by this creek's meagre current. Because he was, after all, going to end up in the creek. He just knew it. Lord Eustass was going to let him drop over the side, laugh at him floundering amongst the reeds, and then leave him wet and half-frozen to death.

There was humiliation in that, too.

"You don't like to be put in a situation where you have no control, do you?" Lord Eustass said with the smuggest smile Trafalgar had ever seen him wear. "You're a guy who likes to stick to your little plans, right?"

"Oh, so you've figured me out, have you?" hissed the doctor, wary of using a tone too light or heavy. For now he would be complaisant, let the conversation go in the lord's favour. "But yes, I don't like being at the mercy of another."

"That much I figured out a long time ago." The man's lips curled into a demonic, wolfish grin. His hands on Trafalgar's waist began to push backwards and, panicking, Trafalgar reacted. He threw his upper body bent at the place where Lord Eustass had him immobilized and wrapped his arms as tightly around the lord as he could, pushing his chest into the man's face.

It didn't work quite as well as he'd hoped it might.

Not that he had hoped for this action to do much of anything.

Still, to find his toes curling inside his boots over the scent and feel of Lord Eustass' bizarrely coloured hair on his face was rather unexpected.

He had a fetish for certain sensations. Soft and furry, smooth and silky only skimmed the surface.

Before he could control himself he was running his fingers through the man's messy mop. Again and again, watching the reddish locks curl and wriggle through his fingers, feeling the man's warm scalp only fleetingly with his palm.

"Stop doing that," growled the lord, trying to get away from Trafalgar's incessant petting. "Stop that now I really will bend you over this bridge and spank you."

And still, Trafalgar persisted, which indeed became his downfall. Literally.

Lord Eustass got so fed up with his behaviour that he sharply nudged him away. His strength, being what it was, and Trafalgar's hands being absent from any really hold meant the doctor tipped over backwards with a shrill squawk.

He was halfway in the water, with Lord Eustass having grasped him by an arm. Really, he was half soaked already, and the man's grip was painful. The water beneath was deep, that much he knew in his dazed, adrenaline-induced fogginess. He gasped for the chilly autumn air and looked down at the dark water, then back up at Lord Eustass, bent over the rail and straining to keep hold of him.

"Let me go, damn you!" Trafalgar shouted, his voice breaking much in the same way it had when he'd screamed. He was half submerged already: what difference would it make should he go completely under now? "I can bloody well swim!"

Which was a lie, but his arm was ready to fall off and he wasn't thinking all too clearly, having seen his death flash in front of his bleary eyes. All because of the lord's hair, which he wanted to shear off with sheep wool clippers now that it had caused him this grief.

"Drop me!" he shouted again.

Either the lord wasn't able to hear him due to some hearing flaw or he was deliberately disobeying. Trafalgar knew it was the latter. The muscles in his arm began to shriek in pain as the man pulled him up, his hands working up Trafalgar's arm like a seaman hauling up a yard of rope. Finally the man was able to seize him under his arms and was pulling him over the rail, and by that point Trafalgar had conceded his wish to be dropped in favour of helping his body get back to dry land.

He sprawled out on the bridge, breathing hard, and shut his eyes to block out the stupid puff of red hair that had descended to check him over.

As if the man were a doctor. Bah.

"I didn't mean to do that," grunted Lord Eustass. Oddly enough, Trafalgar found there was a hand on his cheek and a thumb stroking his skin gently.

"You can at least say sorry," Trafalgar growled, tempted to turn his head and bite the man's thumb.

"Sorry."

"Thank you, you damned brute." He pushed the lord away and sat up, the chill of the wet clothing giving him goosebumps on his flesh. He picked at his soggy clothing with disgust, only pausing in his assessment of himself to take notice of the thoughtful face the lord wore.

"…I think that is the first time I've ever apologized. To anyone," the lord mused softly.

Trafalgar laughed, making sure it came off as rude to the ears as possible. "You are truly a donkey's rear end then."

"…Did you just call me an ass's ass?"

"I believe I did, yes."

Lord Eustass tackled him for that comment, which to Trafalgar seemed largely unfair given what had just happened to his poor, abused body. He was expecting to be thrashed thoroughly for the day's insults, all of them in accumulation, but he was not beaten. No, Lord Eustass had slid his rough palms up against his cheeks to hold his head in place and was kissing him in that dry, highly inexperienced way of his.

Well, he was an animal.

Trafalgar's body went slack as a tongue parted his lips and the kiss became, like him, half wet. He opened his mouth fully to the lord, and was quickly taken by him, his tongue searching and probing and wanting something more, he could tell. He slowly let his jaw close, his fangs hitching on the lord's pliant tongue. Not enough force to break the skin, but enough to excite him, to put him in a place of danger they both longed to further explore.

He felt that tongue wrap around a fang, draw it close, then the lord pulled back and stared him in the face, his eyes white as the snow that would soon be on the ground.

"Bite me," whispered the lord, pulling the lip of his jacket away from his neck to expose his pale skin. Trafalgar's eyes narrowed in on that spot, the pulsing that had started in his head increasing as the man lowered himself again. Offering himself in an uncharacteristically humble way.

Trafalgar reached up and threaded his fingers through that mess of hair that had nearly drowned him and brought the man's skin to his mouth. He breathed hot air on it, pressed his lips to it to feel the goosebumps gathering there and the little hairs standing on end, then finally licked it. Cleaned the salt from his skin as an appetizer.

Lord Eustass groaned deep in his throat, vibrating the skin he was attending and encouraging him to move on to the main course.

He had never bitten so tenderly, easing into his dinner with little hurry. Always he had been concerned with biting quickly and getting his fill, and then escaping before something bad occurred. Yet with Eustass he could take his time, truly taste. And what a taste it was, a smorgasbord of exotic flavours all tied together and slipping down his throat into his stomach. He deepened his bite, one hand keeping the lord's head close while the other snaked its way between the skin of the man's back and his furred coat, seeking warmth and, dare he even think it, closeness.

With his taste buds tingling and sending many messages to his brain to relay his current state of bliss his other senses had dimmed. Still, he heard the lord's haggard breathing, his occasional groans as Trafalgar's jaw flexed, and what sounded like words but could have been only the wind. His body, too, had numbed, yet he could feel how the lord picked his coat open gently with his fingers, and clenched his jaw when he felt the hand graze his chest.

He pulled back for just a moment and allowed his head to fall just enough for him to gauge the wound he'd afflicted, how it oozed beautifully and dribbled down and across the man's prominent collarbone. The lord, too, pulled back, but only to pry the rest of the jacket's buttons from their respective holes. His dark lips fell to Trafalgar's exposed chest, aggressively nipping and suckling, just as hungry as his vampiric lover.

Trafalgar arched into the teeth that sought to mark him, giving himself just as the other had. He groaned as he felt the slick wetness of the man's blood smear across his chest, warm until the air chilled it.

A hand once more fell on his cheek and he turned his face towards the warmth, slightly irritated when the lord pushed his fingers upwards and took off his spotted hat to feel his short, spikey hair. It had been a miracle that his hat hadn't fallen off into the creek, which said much about how snugly it fit. Still, his ears were not happy to finally feel the cold upon them.

His ears were soon cushioned and protected. One by a hand and the other by warm skin. Trafalgar once again sunk his fangs in to feed, lapping at the excess blood that had been seeping out through the punctures he'd made. His chest again swelled and he felt Eustass' fingers grip him closer, his hardness pushing into his own. For he was aroused, there was no denying that.

He pulled back and turned his head to the side, breathing heavily. The sensible part of him didn't want to be taken on a bridge in the middle of autumn. It would be far too uncomfortable, and he'd had enough discomfort with this man to desire something else. He'd also had enough blood to clear his head.

When the lord pulled back Trafalgar smiled sweetly up at him, half expecting to be assaulted in the same way he had been during their previous trysts. He was mildly surprised when that didn't occur, and instead Lord Eustass grinned devilishly down at him.

"Law," he stated.

"Kidd," Trafalgar returned, feeling that same jolt of excitement he'd grown accustomed to feeling around this man.

"You look like a monster," the lord said with a grin, his eyes roving the mess of gore that had slid down Trafalgar's chin and onto his neck. "My monster."

"A well-fed monster," Trafalgar added, his eyes bright and vibrant. He couldn't help but be jovial after such a feeding. There was no tension in him, no hate, and certainly no desire to move out from under the warmth of the lord.

But he knew this moment had to come to an end, because he refused to be taken on the ground again. "Won't you come back for tea? Or, better yet, hot chocolate?"

"I didn't think vampires knew how to make tea. Or hot chocolate," the man said, confused as to why this was even being brought up while they were in such a position.

"Remember mon francais? That's how the French used to ask good company to bed. Discreet, isn't it?"

"…You did say you were a compulsive liar, but I think I'll choose to believe you this time," Lord Eustass said, his eyes gleaming.


AN.: Sorry for the lateness of this update, everyone. Happy Holidays!