Chapter 4 of my continuation of the fanfic set in an AU of the Author’s AU in Once Upon A Time.
Snow did not summon Charming, and he didn’t think it wise to seek her out after he’d pushed things as far as he had earlier.
He did what he’d thought of as his rounds, although nobody had assigned them to him: he walked down to the dungeons and examined them, telling the guards he was there to see if the pirate had left anything telling in his cell — and examining the cell.
He used that as a pretext to remind the guards of basics like maintaining their steel — the shackles were a mess, rusting away, and so were some of the bars! — keeping the place clean, and feeding their prisoners rather than eating the food themselves.
Jones had left nothing but a series of hash marks in his cell, but the pattern of them was interesting, so Charming copied it down into a book. It was possible the pirate really was hiding some secret. Charming certainly had a few of his own. And if he found something — maybe Snow would let them go back to how it had been. Maybe he wouldn’t have to take the pirate to her room anymore, to share her with the pirate.
He’d gotten himself agitated and angry again by the time he left the dungeon empty-handed, so he spent some time working on his swordwork against a dummy, one of the basic magically-animated ones. He wouldn’t take out this temper on a guard.
When he’d defeated several dummies, he took a ride. It was already getting dark, but the stable boy wouldn’t tell him no, not for something as simple as a ride. He took a couple lanterns and rode until his thighs ached and he no longer felt anything but tired.
When he limped back to his chambers, he’d almost forgotten the pirate was there. He let himself in, threw the bolt, and stripped off his sweaty doublet, tunic, and trousers. He washed himself up in the basin, poured water over his head on the patio, and lit a lantern only as he was pulling on a clean pair of breeches.
The pirate was asleep on his bed. Jones was curled on the very edge of Charming’s blankets, one corner of the fur pulled over his hips. His eyes were closed, his breathing was even, and he hadn’t woken up when Charming came in, or even with all the moving around Charming had done. Or if he had, he was very good at faking it.
Charming didn’t think either sleeping solidly through interruptions or faking being asleep were all that useful of skills for a deckhand, or any sort of pirate. He chalked it up to exhaustion and the needs of a body being forced through potions and poultices to heal itself quickly.
He considered moving the man. The rug on his floor was thick and fur — three layers, because Charming didn’t like cold feet — and it wouldn’t be that uncomfortable to sleep on. Besides, he hadn’t told Jones he could sleep in his bed, jokes about his purpose here aside.
He considered the bed. It was more than big enough for two. He considered the rise and fall of the pirate’s chest.
He slid into bed on his side and shoved a pillow between them, careful not to jostle the wounded pirate.
For 2 weeks, Snow did not call for the pirate. She called for Charming — four times, and three of them were beautiful. The fourth time he tried not to think about.
During those weeks, the pirate grew healthier, cleaner. His wounds healed and his cheeks started to fill out. Charming had another bolt installed — just inside the patio door — giving the pirate time outside in the sun, and his color started to come back. He had regular shavings, regular baths, and Dr. Talisman declared him “as healthy as could be expected.”
Charming continued to leave in the evenings and find Jones in his bed when he returned; he continued to pretend it wasn’t happening.
One day, maybe 5 days after Jones had been moved to his rooms, Charming came back after lunch to find Jones reading the book he’d left on his table.
Seeing the pirate there, sitting in Charming’s chair in Charming’s chamber, reading Charming’s book, filled him with a sharp spike of rage. It could’ve been because the diplomat from Arendelle had been particularly dismissive earlier. It could’ve been the trouble he and Snow were having getting the mermaids to hold to the treaty and guard the coast.
Maybe it was just the damn pirate there when he just wanted to sit alone in his room and not deal with anything.
Whatever it was, he snatched the book out of the pirate’s hands. “That’s mine.”
“I beg your pardon.” Jones’s bow from a seated position looked far too sarcastic. “I find there’s not that much to do here, and while I do appreciate the sunlight, I didn’t want to risk damaging your garden.” At the end of the sentence, the humor fell into nervousness. He eyed Charming cautiously. “I’d have considered writing a letter, but I know precious few people who can read and I’ve no way to post it anyway.”
“You can write?” Charming shook his head. “Then you were actually reading.”
“I can write, yes.” The pirate managed to look offended and nervous at the same time. “I had something of an education, back when — well, it was another time and place, but I was educated. That did require being able to read and write.”
“Then write your memoirs.” Charming pulled out the box of paper he used for notes and the pen and ink he used for most things that weren’t formal letters. “I’ll get you some more paper tomorrow.”
“My memoirs. The memoirs of a deck hand. Who would want to read those?”
“Look at it this way. It’s better than doing nothing. Although-“
Charming didn’t know what his expression was, but it appeared to terrify Jones.
“Oh, no, I can be just fine doing nothing. I assure you, doing nothing in the sun is far better than doing nothing in the dungeon.”
“Oh, no, no, I can’t have you doing nothing while I’m busy all day. Come on, stand up.” The anger had bled out and he was left with something strange, something like affectionate rivalry. “So I’m not going to unchain you, but there’s a number of things you can do like you are—”
“I’ve swabbed enough decks, thank you.”
“Oh, that’s a good one. I’m sure the maids would prefer that to mopping around you. I’ll make sure they know that. But let’s see.” Charming stripped off his doublet and set it on the bed, then kicked off his boots. “We’re going to start with basics. Push-ups. Pull-ups. Some lunges. Maybe some jogging in place. That ought to get your blood flowing.”
Snow might like a little tone on him, a little muscle on him. She might not, but it wouldn’t be that hard to go back to starving the boy again if he had to.
Meanwhile, Jones was staring at Charming as if he’d grown another head. “You want me to — to — Have I offended you? Well, of course I have, but it won’t happen again, I won’t touch your books.”
“Relax, pirate. Here. Start by bending over, touching your toes. I know that you’re all healed up . Yesterday was your bath.”
He stepped out of reach of the pirate and demonstrated, bending over lithely till his fingers brushed the floor. “Like that, see?”
The pirate grumbled, watched Charming, and then, when it seemed like Charming wasn’t going to relent, bent over.
“Oh come on, I can tell that you’re not really trying. You can stretch further than that.”
“If you wanted to torture me, Lord Charming, I know you have better methods.” The pirate grunted, but this time he managed to reach nearly to his calves.
“Good, good. Stay there.” Charming straightened and closed the distance so he could push down gently on Jones’s back. “You can get a little further… there.”
The pirate grunted quietly. “That feels — ah, like something all right.”
“You’ll be something by the time we’re done.” He released the pirate. “Now reach up as far as you can.”
The pirate obeyed, and then, with a little prodding, stretched further.
Charming walked him through push-ups — modified to allow for the missing hand — and sit-ups, jogging in place and squat-thrusts. He had him do every stretch he could think of and then walked him through them again.
They reached the point where they were both panting, sweating, and flopped on the floor. Charming reached over and patted Jones on the calf. “There. I’ll write it down for you and you can do those every day, twice a day. And write your memoirs.”
“Homework. I rather feel like I’m back at school. Yes, sir,” he added dryly.
“Good.” Charming broke the conversation there, calling for a tub to clean off the sweat and the grime from himself. But he left remembering the book — and the way Jones’d looked at him him when he snatched the book from him.
That book, he kept as his. He wasn’t going to go back on what he said.
But he stopped by the palace library on the way back to his room and took the time to pick out a few books on naval battles and the oceans around Misthaven — as well as requisitioning some better paper and ink and a spare pen.
He also made it clear that those books, Hook could read.
He left Jones homework, as mentioned, and Jones, in turn, seemed to have done what he was told. He definitely did work on his memoirs, and his body showed signs of working on the exercises Charming gave him.
Their arrangement was still not ideal — Charming still had no privacy in his own rooms — but he could send the pirate onto the patio and he had done so more than once while he bathed, even if Jones came in shivering.
And every night when he came back to his chambers, there was a pirate in his bed.