learning the ropes – lovedhands


On a theoretical, objective level, Stede understood nautical knots and how to tie the rigging.

After all, he tied ribbons quite often, and what was a rope if not a thicker, rougher ribbon?

Theory always differed from praxis, of course.

“Fuck sake, that’s the fifth time you untied your own fucking knot,” Izzy said, a hysterical note in his voice like the first puffing squeaks of a simmering tea kettle. Stede defeatedly looked down at the rope in his splayed, bare palms—still burning from his earlier fall, and irritated further by the rough scrape of the rope’s fibers. He, too, was growing quite irritated.

“I don’t intend to mess up,” Stede said hotly. “My hands are wounded, Izzy. Forgive me for being a little distracted!”

Truth be told, the distraction lay less in the smarting pain in the cracks of his palms and more in Izzy’s nimble fingers, working the ropes deftly.

“Anyway, perhaps we should take a break?” Stede’s hands were hot, but after watching Izzy demonstrate his competence, they weren’t the only part of him flushed and seeking relief. He only hoped these trousers could veil his arousal from Izzy’s piercing stare. “A taut twenty?”

“You’re not learning like this.” Izzy held Stede’s stare in a deeply unsettling manner that made Stede want to burrow into the ground—only there was only deck below his feet, and he would only land in the orlop, and that would hardly do either of them any good. Perhaps he could fetch more rope, but there was nothing perceptibly wrong with this length, other than the fact that it refused to cooperate with his hands’ best efforts. “You said you needed applied.”

“Well, clearly, I underestimated how pesky this all is! Is that what you want me to say, Izzy? That I’m wrong?” Stede gesticulated in frustration, then came to regret it as pain pulsed in his palms. He’d felt betrayed by the gloves, but in hindsight, he likely should have kept them on. 

“This application isn’t working for you,” Izzy said, looking down at Stede’s hands, which hung limp in resignation at his sides. Stede’s stomach sunk as Izzy’s stare flicked to his groin, an eyebrow raising as he took in what Stede couldn’t bring himself to face. “That so, Bonnet?”

“Frustration,” Stede said, crossing his hands over his crotch to avoid the scrutiny clutching him through his clothes. “It can… cause that.”

“It can.” Izzy’s eyes skipped back up, narrowing. “Did it?”

“Oh, really, now, Izzy—”

“Bonnet,” Izzy dropped the rope at last, his knot sturdy. He said nothing more, but Stede knew he was expected to answer that mortifying question. He considered his options frantically as Izzy’s stare grew far more insistent, pressing in on him. He could lie. He had to lie. The alternative… Stede could shudder at the thought, were he not so paralyzed by Izzy’s attention.

“No,” Stede said—quite believably, he believed—and didn’t detect his folly until a smirk teased Izzy’s lips. “Wait! Yes. Yes, to the frustration.”

Izzy snorted, planted his hands on his hips, and tilted his chin up, regarding Stede in a way that always, without fail, made Stede feel minuscule, a speck of sand under a spyglass. He knew breaking that stare would show weakness, so he held fast under its force. “You’re full of shit.”

“I am not!” Stede clasped one hand over the other for good measure, relishing the scrap of friction it offered. “I hardly think it’s your business—”

“Should you take care of that, then?” Izzy interrupted, sounding bored.

“Take—here?!” Stede sputtered.

“Didn’t fucking say here, did I?”

“It…” Stede flapped a hand inarticulately as though swatting away his shame. “It was implied!”

“Applied,” Izzy repeated, and took Stede’s wrists in his hands. Stede almost jerked away by instinct, but Izzy’s grip tightened as though he scented the risk in the air. “Could apply some knots to you.”

“That’s…” Stede flailed for a reply. Izzy couldn’t be serious! He did look quite serious, but he always looked intense. “You don’t happen to mean…”

“Tying your wrists.” Izzy shrugged nonchalantly. “Might help you fucking learn. You’ve got to somehow.” 

“Wouldn’t it be better if I… tied you up?”

“With your fuckin’ wounded hands?” Izzy scoffed, then picked up Stede’s loose length of rope. Stede took his hands back, but Izzy snatched them and slammed them against the table immediately. Stede struggled instinctively, but Izzy brought his other hand down, and the effort only gave him worse chafing on his palms as they dragged against the mess table. “If you want me to stop, Bonnet, say the word.”

“What’s the word, in this case?” Stede asked.

“The word is stop.” Izzy raised Stede’s wrists, but Stede had to avert his eyes from the oddly titillating sight of Izzy handling him.

Unfortunately, his face was no better a place to rest a wandering, escapist eye. Stede became aware of how uncomfortable his trousers were as Izzy’s brow scrunched in focus. His tongue darted out to wet dry lips. Stede’s breath stuttered at the glimpse of it, and Izzy chuckled. His eyes raised briefly from his task. Stede hadn’t realized they were in close quarters until then.

Rope rubbed against his skin in a way that was, surprisingly, quite pleasurable. Izzy held Stede’s gaze as his hands moved, and Stede blinked in surprise once, and then again after glancing down and finding Izzy’s fingers were truly working without eyes to monitor them.

Izzy tightened the knot quite firmly, and then asked, “Could you replicate that, Bonnet?”

Stede tested his bonds, but there was hardly any wiggle room. He shut his eyes, flinching as Izzy chuckled again. “No.”

Fingers danced along the ends of the ropes. Stede held his breath until Izzy spoke again: “Still stiff, are you?”

“Don’t look, Izzy.” Stede’s face flamed, but Izzy pinned his wrists when he tried to conceal the erection he’d tried valiantly to ignore.

“Say the word.”

Surrendering, Stede chewed his lip.

“Should’ve known.” Izzy’s hands disappeared from Stede’s wrists, and though Stede expected it, he still flinched when he felt his shirt being tugged free from where he’d tucked it into his trousers. He breathed heavily, feeling like ropes encircled his entire body, most taut in his groin, where he felt ready to burst at the tiniest brush. He nearly did as Izzy grazed him.

Oh,” he sighed as the rough, sultry heat of Izzy’s hand hugged his cock.

“’Course you’re fucking huge…” Izzy took an audible step forward. Stede cracked an eye open.

Izzy, again, did not watch his hand as it unraveled the knots in Stede’s core, but surveyed Stede with that glint in his eye. He grinned at Stede’s peeking, and Stede found him dangerously handsome like that. He opened the other eye tentatively.

“There you are.”

The words were heavy with a heady mixture of scorn and pride. Stede was rapidly coming undone, bucking to meet Izzy’s touch. “Please don’t stop.”

Another soft laugh from Izzy and a well-timed flick of his wrist that reminded Stede of his swanky swordplay sent Stede over the edge.

“Well, Bonnet? Think you learned the ropes?”

Wrung out, Stede only groaned.