Bilge Rats and Puppets, Chapter Two

Bilge Rats and Puppets

Chapter 2 of my continuation of the fanfic set in an AU of the Author’s AU in Once Upon A Time.

Chapter 1

The original Fic.


The pirate was already there, of course, in his chamber.  

He didn’t have the largest chambers — big for a guard, yes, but nothing like Snow’s rooms, of course.

The pirate had been given just enough length of chain to reach the garderobe, to reach Charming’s bed, but not the door — not either door. One of the few luxuries Charming’s chambers did have was a small rooftop garden — just enough space for him to enjoy the sun and wind on the rare occasion he felt like he’d enjoy such sensations. 

The pirate had pulled himself to his feet as Charming entered; he was standing unsteadily, his eyes following Charming. 

 He looked like shit. He had dark circles under his eyes that hadn’t been there the last time Charming had seen him.  His face was irregularly shaven and he had several new nicks; in addition, he had cuts visible on his neck and chest and his shirt was torn and bloody in several places. 

Charming swore under his breath.  He was supposed to get this mess looking the way Snow wanted him?

The pirate looked as if he was trying not to flinch back and failing.  

“All right.”  Charming looked at the man.  “Right now, we have the same goal.  My Queen wants you cleaned up and looking pretty when you — when you attend her.  We both want that.”

Jones worked his mouth as if thinking of coming up with a snide response, but ended up staying silent. 

Charming nodded.  “She’s going to hurt you.  She enjoys it.  She enjoys having me hurt you.  You understand that, yes?  Careful what you say,” he added — warned.  “I don’t enjoy hurting you but I won’t hear ill of my Queen.”

Jones’ eyes searched his face.  Then the pirate nodded.  “She wants me to look pretty.” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming. Again.  “So she has a pretty canvas to bloody.”

“That’s right,” Charming agreed neutrally.  There was no point in having a feeling about that.  “Which means you need to be clean, attended to, and fed.  And sunned,” Charming added thoughtfully.  “You’re getting to look too corpse like.  Exercised would be good, too-“

Shit, he was getting into this. And Jones had taken a stumbling step backwards. 

He shook his head.  He’d worry about that later.  “What I’m trying to say, right now, is that it serves you to cooperate with me.  Understand?”

Jones worked his mouth again. “So I can be cleaned up for the next time you beat me?”

“So you can survive the beating!” Charming snapped.  By the stars, had the man never had to take a beating to please someone before?  “So you can hold yourself together and please her.  Blast it all, man, you’ve been given a chance to live in a proper suite instead of in the dungeon.  All you need to do is cooperate!”  He huffed at the pirate.  “Or not.   I can bathe you and shave you without your cooperation just fine, and if I can’t get you clothed on my own, I can always take you to her naked.”

Not that he wanted to do that

From the shift in the pirate’s posture, he didn’t want to do that either. 

Good, they agreed on something.  Not that that mattered, not that their opinions mattered, not when Snow had her own agenda. 

“So.”  He pushed a chair — his chair; he wasn’t in the habit of having company in his chambers.  Not when Snow might call on him.  Not when — 

Well, when. 

He pushed his chair in the direction of Jones, then, thinking twice, grabbed a towel from his wardrobe and tossed that over the chair.  “Sit down,” he suggested.  Ordered.  

He rang for a servant.  While he was waiting for them, while Jones was considering the chair — and then actually sitting in it, good — he laid out his own bathing supplies and then, after a minute’s consideration, one of his shirts. 

Not one of his favorite shirts, of course.  Snow was likely to ruin this one, too. 

“What is going to happen,” he informed Jones, “is that I am going to clean you, give you proper clothing, and make sure you are fed.  You’ll have something soft to sleep on-“

If the rumor was going to spread that the pirate was here to service Charming, he might as well just start with him in his bed.  Charming had no wish to wake up dead, however, either by the pirate’s hands or by Snow deciding that hadn’t been what she wanted. 

“-and in return, you won’t fight what I’m doing.  Cleaning you.  Clothing and feeding you.”

The pirate worked his mouth. “You want —”  His voice wasn’t only hoarse, it was exhausted.  Had he fallen ill? That would be harder to clean up. “—want me to be a good dog.”

“Yes.”  Charming didn’t bother arguing. “Yeah.  I want you to be a good dog. You want to live. I want my Queen pleased with me. You want—”

The servant knocked and opened the door. 

“A bath,” he told them, “with a second bucket of warm water.  Soap.  Clean trousers to fit our friend here.  And send the physician.  He needs someone to look at his wounds.”  He paused.  “Send Dr. Talisman.  She shouldn’t be too busy right now.”

Dr. Talisman was a proper physician.  She tended to the courtiers, the higher-class guards, anyone who didn’t want to be touched by a lower-class healer. She was also much better than the doctor they usually used for prisoners. 

The servant nodded, bowed, and backed out of the room. 

Jones was watching him uncertainly. 

“Look somewhere else,” he snapped.  “I don’t care where, but look elsewhere.  I do as my Queen commands. You should know that by now.”

“And if she commanded you to kill me?”

“Then you’d be dead.”  He ignored the faintest twinge in his gut. 

“Of course.  And if she commanded you dead?”

“Then I’d be dead.”  He glared at the pirate.  “I serve her whim and her order.  Is there a point to this?”

“And I — I, it seems, serve your whim.”  The pirate sketched a painful-looking bow from his seated position. 

 “The Queen’s whim.  Yes. As does everyone in this blasted, blighted place.  I suppose you must be correct.”  

Jones flopped against his chair — Charming’s chair —  and fell blessedly silent. 

It would take even the best servants a few minutes to do as he’d asked.  Charming took the time to take his lap desk to his bed — as the pirate was in his chair — and write a few notes.  One to the captain of the guard, with new instructions.  One to the kitchen.  His pen scratched across the paper as he put his thoughts in order, as he tried to pretend that this pirate, here in his chambers, was just another duty he had to take care of, just like any other duty. 

He’d sealed three missives by the time the servants brought in the tub and the basins and poured steaming water in.  Another servant — one of the top of the hierarchy, a man he’d had tolerably good dealings with before — bowed far too formally as he handed Charming a pile of clothes for the pirate. 

“Is there anything else you wish, Lord Charming?”  His voice was tight, angry. 

“I asked for Dr. Talisman; can she make it today?”  He pitched his voice gently.  He did not want to cause more trouble with this particular serving-man, whatever the trouble he’d inadvertently called was. 

The serving-man shifted.  “You meant that. You’re not injured, Lord Charming.”

“Not at the moment, no.  The pirate, however, is.  He needs proper care.” He met the servant’s eyes and hoped to convey everything he couldn’t say. 

The servant nodded slowly.  “I’ll ask her to come immediately.”  His voice was slightly less tight.  Charming wondered what rumors were flying around.  He wondered how many people would actually care. 

  The servants left, leaving the pirate and Charming alone with the steaming tub of water and a nice selection of bathing oils and soaps.  Charming gestured impatiently at Killian.  “Well? Do you wish to bathe in your clothes?  It could be arranged, but it would be rather a waste of the water, I imagine.”

The pirate looked at him in confusion.  “You want-“

“I want you naked in that tub, now, pirate.  If you get your clothes off before I have to cut them off of you, I’ll take the shackle off for a bit.  Mind you, if you try to run, I might just have to take the foot instead, but I will take the shackle off.”

 The pirate didn’t bother to ask Charming if he was serious. “I’m not going to try to run.” He made his way to his feet. 

He didn’t need to point out that he probably couldn’t run, not with the damage Snow, and the shackle, had done to him. 

Snow, the shackle, and Charming. His trousers were crusted to the cut Charming had sliced in his leg. 

His other leg was looking black and infected from the shackle. 

“Then take your clothes off.  Or I will cut them off, and I won’t be precious about it, either,” Charming warned. 

The pirate considered him for a moment.  Impatient, Charming closed the distance between them in three quick strides. 

That was enough.  The pirate began pushing at his shirt, trying to get it off.  The neck-laces weren’t tied, so he had little to reckon with except his own stiff muscles and shyness. 

As it was, he managed to get the thing half off before he got tangled in it, the shirt stuck over his face and both arms tangled in the sleeves. 

He made a short noise, panicked.  Charming huffed. 

“You’ve been short a hand for how long?” he grunted.  “And you still can’t undress yourself?”

“It’s not — not the hand,” the pirate hissed.  His bared chest was crossed  with thin knife cuts.  Some had festered, but none were deep. 

Charming took the man’s elbows, raised up by his face in the way they were trapped, and turned him in a circle so he could look at his back. 

The pirate whimpered but did not stop him or fight back. 

His back had been flayed.  Snow — or someone — had beaten him until moving had to be torture. 

Charming hissed. “Hold still,” he murmured.  He removed the loose trousers, all but the portions that were stuck to Jones’ leg — not just the one, either.  Those pieces, he cut away from the rest of the pants in careful slices. The water would soak them off less painfully then him trying to pull them off. 

Why did he care?

It just seemed stupid, he told himself, to try to care for the man just to open up his wounds again.  It would just take Dr. Talisman more effort. 

One of the servants had brought a soothing potion often used by Charming when Snow had been rougher than usual.  He dripped a generous portion into the water before he turned back to the pirate. 

Jones hadn’t dropped his arms.  He hadn’t moved at all.  Charming wasn’t even sure that he was breathing.

Like this, mostly naked, his eyes covered, his arms bound, he didn’t look like such an obnoxious pest.  He didn’t look like the pirate who had cost Charming too much in Snow’s eyes. 

Charming pushed the shirt up enough to reveal the pirate’s lips — so he could see his expression — and considered him. “Hold still,” he repeated.  He knelt down at the man’s feet, ignoring the feeling — Charming knelt for nobody but Snow, nobody — and unbolted the shackle.  “Four steps ahead.  There’s a short stool up into the tub.”

“Into-” The pirate licked his lips.  His face turned this way and that.  Maybe he couldn’t get himself out.  It might hurt that badly. “I’ll foul the water.”

“It’s that or you foul my chambers with your smell and your dungeon dirt and foul my Queen with the filth on your hand.  Into the tub, pirate.”

He guided the man with both hands on his hips, up the steps, down into the deep tub, until his arms and head were still out of the water but all else was submerged. 

The pirate hissed as he hit the hot water, then again as the potion hit the wounds on his back.  Then, as it started to do its work, he relaxed with a soft noise that might have almost been thought to be happy. 

It made Charming growl again. 

What right had this bilge rat to be happy when Charming’s life had just gotten turned upside down and sideways. 

Again. 

Because of him. Because of this damned pirate. 

Again.

He grabbed a handful of the pirate’s shirt and tugged backwards on it, eliciting a sharp whine from the man. It made him smile, an expression that felt more like a snarl on his lips.

And that made him think of the way the pirate had shivered in his cell after Charming’d had him  chained in the rain. 

He hissed in frustration.  The pirate whimpered. 

Charming braced his hand gently and removed the shirt from the man, freeing his arms.  “There,” he murmured, surprised at his own tone.  “Put your arms down.”

If that hurt, well then, the man wasn’t going to be able to wash his own hair very well.  Charming dragged his chair over to the tub. 

By the time he got back, Jones had relaxed somewhat into the tub, his hands fig-leafing himself, doing nothing to hide how bony he’d gotten or how bruised and cut up he was. 

Charming sat down behind the head of the tub and touched the man’s chin, guiding his head backwards onto the rest formed into the bath.  “I don’t think I need to tell you to hold still, do I?” he murmured. 

“No, sir,” Jones murmured. He fell silent while Charming worked, the movements now practiced, clearing the man’s face, working around the healing bruises. 

As Charming cleaned the blade on a towel, the pirate’s eyes followed him. 

“Should be me grooming you, if I’m to serve you.” The pirate sounded almost like his old self, if one ignored the hoarseness to his voice.”

“As if I’d trust you with a blade to my throat,” Charming chuckled.  “Besides.”  He made the next pass of the razor very precise indeed. “You don’t serve me.  We both serve Snow.”

“Ah, my mistake,” the pirate murmured.  “And yet here I am chained in your chambers, by your bed, and the servants certainly think I’m here for your use — as do the guards.”

Charming let the blade rest on Jones’ adam’s apple. “And if you are?”

“Well.”  There was a pause.  It was a long pause, while the pirate seemed to think.  Then his lips quirked up in the beginnings of a smile.  “Well, then, I hope it comes with better meals than the dungeon does.”

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