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"Puzzle Pieces" by shegollum for caras_galadhon - Lotrips SlashaBaby fic

Author: shegollum
Title: Puzzle Pieces
Recipient: caras_galadhon
Pairing: Viggo / Sean Bean
Rating: R
Summary: Two young men are looking for changes as they move into their thirties. A chance meeting may offer them a life neither ever imagined. [Cruise Ship Engineer AU]

Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.

Chapter 1

Viggo pulled the door closed behind him and set off down the cramped corridor, his height making him careful to dodge the low-hanging light fixtures. It was Formal Night and the cruise ship was busy with men in suits and tuxedos and woman in gowns. A group of girls in tight-fitting dresses passed, one of them careful to brush against him and make a moment of direct eye contact. He smiled back but kept moving, heading toward the lifts and then to the Captain's Table where he was expected for dinner.

As Chief Engineer, Viggo would be obligated to make small talk and answer a multitude of questions about how the enormous ship worked. At the start of the evening, everyone wanted time with the Captain, drawn to him by his title and considerable charm, yet almost invariably it was Viggo who was cornered by admirers at the end of the night. Strikingly handsome with short brown hair and clear blue eyes, Viggo was used to his share of attention by both sexes. When on duty as Chief Engineer, he resisted. When he was off duty, however, all bets were off.

=====


It was late when Viggo was able to make his excuses and leave the dining room. Too late really to find a companion for the night and be back on duty by morning so he was alone in his small cabin, finishing a drink as he moved around the space, removing his uniform and taking a quick shower. Even as a key member of the Captain's team, he was entitled to only a small room on the crowded cruise ship and he felt vaguely dissatisfied as he looked around and acknowledged how impersonal even that remained. If not for the clothes in the closet and the books filling the undersized shelf, it might have looked completely unoccupied.

Viggo had never set out with a great plan to find someone to share his life and had never felt especially compelled to settle down. He'd gained his education with a plan to go to sea and see as much of the world as possible. As crew on public and private vessels, he'd touched down in places all over Europe and the States and while he'd enjoyed himself, he'd never regretted moving on when his time was over. Along the way, he'd been with more than his share of women and men, had dabbled in all kinds of arrangements, but had never found anything beyond physical enjoyment and casual friendships. That had been fine for a long time but when he'd broken away and started his new position in the Caribbean - his first day on board had been the eve of his 32nd birthday - he'd begun to have this nagging feeling that something was missing. This growing sense of emptiness was unsettling and he careened into more and more encounters in an attempt to find equilibrium.

It was late and he was tired yet he still considered slipping upstairs to one of the dark nightclubs. He wrestled with the issue for a moment but ultimately his sense of duty won out. With a muttered 'fuck', he finished his nightcap and reached above the bed to turn off the light. Leaving the glass on the nightstand, he quickly found other uses for his hands as they slid beneath the covers.

=====


In a ship carrying 3,500 passengers, it was easy enough to be anonymous in one of the dark nightclubs and Viggo was there, looking for someone to be with for the night. He felt greedy and needy as he watched two men moving together, bodies rubbing sinuously against each other and lips just barely touching in feathery kisses. It was that juxtaposition that had begun to intrigue him. The heart-racing physicality of torso against torso he knew well, but the gentleness of new kisses, hands cupping a face or stroking a cheek in a languid exploration... those things were foreign. Somewhere along the way he'd started to realize that that was what he wanted, what he felt was missing. Viggo watched until the pair moved away and after a moment, he fell back to what he knew. Scanning the bar, he met the gaze of a dark-skinned man with an open invitation in his deep brown eyes and Viggo cut through the crowd toward him.

=====


Viggo's next encounter lasted exactly six days, from the first port of call on the itinerary to the last. In the darkness of Andre's room, he'd once thought about staying. He'd wondered just a bit about where Andre was from and when he'd been born and what it would be like to kiss him awake. Yet he'd slipped out of bed and into his clothes, knowing Andre watched. When he pulled the door closed behind him, all he felt was relief.

=====


It was weeks later and they were back on a new run on the same cruise circuit. Sometimes the routine became tiresome. As much as Viggo loved his work and the sea all around, he was often restless. They left Miami every Sunday and came back the following Saturday. Each time, they did a 36-hour turnaround to clean and load supplies and then they were off to do the whole thing all over again.

Shrugging into his blue uniform jacket and doing up the buttons, Viggo thought about the night just ended. Casey had the face of a choirboy and the mouth of a true sailor. The younger man had pursued him and Viggo had made himself an easy catch when he was pressed against the wall in a dark corner of the dance club, feeling the soft scrape of Casey's beard as he whispered a long list of filthy things he wanted to do to him. Feeling his acquiescence, Casey had kissed him so roughly that Viggo had tasted blood as he ground against him in a rhythm that mimicked the steady pounding of the music.

**=====**


Chapter 2

"Pusser's on the rocks, Viggo." Nodding at the bartender, Viggo took his drink, turning slightly to scan the crowded room as he took a sip of the rich dark rum. Off the normal tourist route, the Hook and Crook was a tad shabby in a familiar and comfortable way. There were open, unshuttered openings on each wall and light came in all around. Reggae and voices filled the space and spilled softly into the streets outside.

While St. Thomas wasn't Viggo's favorite place to dock, he almost always took shore leave when he was there. The town of Charlotte Amalie was overrun with souvenir shops and timeshare sellers but if he walked far enough, he could lose himself in this small bar. If he was looking for sex, there was no problem in finding a partner and if he just wanted a place to be quiet in the midst of steady music and a raucous crowd, it could be that as well.

Today, the nagging sense of emptiness trailed him and he felt tired. He had no idea what he was looking for - gentle kisses wasn't exactly a quantifiable description after all - but he hadn't found it in bed after bed. Or hallway, closet, bathroom, garden or car either. He found a small table outside in the bright sunlight and sat, stretching back to welcome the heat that began to work its way into his bones.

"I'm a complete and utter slut," he thought, honestly laughing at himself as he took his first swallow of the strong rum. There was no guilt or shame in it. He loved everything about the pounding of his heart and sweat-slickened bodies working together in unyielding conviction that orgasms were better shared than enjoyed alone. "Okay, hedonist...," he allowed himself as he tallied up his thoughts. "...with a fine appreciation of debauchery."

He took another drink, staring out at the street and feeling a welcome quietness flow through him. It had been too long since he'd really been alone. It felt good to sit in the midst of a crowd of people and not feel the need to interact. He wasn't the engineer in uniform or the guy looking to pick someone up. He was simply still and observant and it felt better than anything he'd experienced in too many months.

"Hello. Ready for another round?"

Viggo narrowed his eyes at the man who spoke to him, ready to run him off and continue to enjoy his solitude, but when he caught a good look, his words refused to line up as planned. The man was striking, handsome in a careless, confident way that made him endlessly compelling. Viggo took in his sun-goldened hair and sparkling green eyes, judging him to be roughly his own age. The man smiled a little as Viggo scanned his body, making a small movement to hold his arms out just slightly, putting himself on display for the evaluation. He had an expensive watch on one wrist and a silver bracelet on the other and wore a casual silk shirt and long cargo shorts. All of the extraneous things were very nice but Viggo couldn't take his eyes off his tanned arms and legs and the kinds of muscles that came from hard, steady work. There was a faint hint of redness across his cheeks and nose and it only made him more appealing.

"What?" Viggo murmured absently.

"I asked if I could buy you a drink." The man's voice had an edge of roughness to it but his British accent was bold and clear and it made Viggo smile.

"Well...um...I just got this one."

"Then you have a whole other hand that's empty, now don't you?"

Feeling his need for solitude beginning to dissolve, Viggo gave a slight nod and another grin. The man flagged down the bartender and placed an order for two more glasses of rum.

=====


The table on the deck was the perfect distance from the bar. It was far enough away to make it easy to talk but close enough to keep the drinks coming.

"So what's a guy like you doing in a dump like this?" The man's smile lit up his face and his green eyes flashed. He leaned back in his chair, taking a drink of his rum and watching Viggo over the rim of his glass. "No. Wait. Don't tell me." Another sip and a broad grin. "You're here looking for your heart's desire... the man of your dreams." He nodded slyly and leaned close. "Looks like you can quit that nonsense now because here I am." He laughed and leaned back with a perfectly smug grin on his face.

With a crinkling of his eyebrows and a long swallow of his drink, Viggo made clear what he thought of that idea. He took a piece of ice in his mouth and played with it, waiting for the next words. He didn't have to wait long.

"Oh, come on then." The accent was definitely sexy. It was British but didn't have that hint of arrogance so easily affected. It was down to earth, warm and seductive. It clashed terribly with his ridiculous patter. "The object of your affection? The apple of your eye?"

Viggo laughed and talked around the ice as he crunched on it. "I don't even know your name yet. I'd like to know the name of my one true love."

With a wide, breathtaking smile, the other man introduced himself.

"Sean. Sean Bean at your service." With a dramatic tip of his head by which he almost knocked over both of their drinks, he smiled meaningfully at Viggo. "Truly at your service."

Viggo laughed and shook his head. "Oh geez, I need more rum. Quickly. I have a low tolerance for unrelenting bullshit."

"Bullshit, is it?" Sean all but purred.

Viggo took a deep breath, feeling a physical reaction to the soft roughness of Sean's voice and the sudden warmth of his hand as he covered Viggo's fingers with his own. But not now. Not the same thing... not again. Not yet anyway. They'd be out of port by nightfall and... fuck. He just needed a break... but this guy... fucking gorgeous and charming to boot. He took another deep breath.

"Look... another time... I'm just..." Viggo stopped. He was annoying even himself. In contrast, Sean seemed amused. "I'm kind of trying to take a break," he finished lamely.

"Is that right, Viggo?" Hearing his name caught him off guard.

"How'd you know my name? I don't think-"

Grinning, Sean nodded toward the bar. "Heard Tommy say it when he gave you your drink. You caught my eye when you walked in."

Exasperated, Viggo stared at him. "I'm in here once a week like clockwork. Every time my ship docks, I'm here. If you know Tommy, you must be a regular so how come I've never seen you before? And frankly-" Viggo stopped with a frown. "Frankly, if I'm so irresistible now, how come you've never approached me before?"

"You're here every week?"

Viggo nodded and took another drink, tipping more ice into his mouth as he looked at Sean.

It was Sean's turn to frown and he did so as he leaned back in his chair. "Once a week, is it?" He took a long drink of rum. "So you're a sailor, are you? From the Nina or Pinta or whatever is out there bogging up my harbor?"

"One and the same."

"I don't like you much then." The scowl on Sean's face was countered by a wink. "Not fond of the boat boys."

"Boat boys?" Viggo asked, amused. "You have a name for me? Us?"

"Yeah," Sean drawled.

"And it's your fucking harbor?"

With a laugh, Sean leaned close. "Okay, that one's not mine. I stay on the other side of the island."

Viggo shook his head and stood, throwing a few bills on the table. He grinned at Sean. "You're a strange one," he said with a little laugh.

Sean shrugged, his grin smug. "Yeah. I am." He took another drink, savoring it before he swallowed. "So I'll see you here next week then?" he asked and his eyes stayed locked on Viggo's until the other man nodded.

**=====**


Chapter 3

"Want anything from town, Em? I'm going ashore for a while."

"Hmm... no... well not unless you can bring back a hot guy..."

Viggo just grinned.

"For me, Viggo, not you!" Emily scowled at him.

"Okay, okay. I'll behave," Viggo said with a laugh. He smirked but underscored his words with a promise.

Emily swept a hand along the Customer Service counter, watching him with a devilish sparkle in her eyes. "Hmm... might want to wait a second or two before you decide if you really plan to be good or not." She smiled smugly.

Viggo raised an eyebrow in question. "Wait?"

"Yeah. Who's Andre?"

"Andre?" Viggo's face was blank.

"What are you? A parrot?"

"I just don't know what you're talking about. I don't know an Andre..." His voice trailed off as he recalled the man he'd been with six nights straight at least a month ago. "What's he... Wait. How the hell do you know Andre?"

"He's here. On the ship. He's doing a cruise and said you're a friend he sailed with before."

Viggo felt a sense of panic encroaching. "He's on board?"

Emily nodded with a smile. "Nice eyes..."

"Oh shit, Emily. Fuck!" Viggo cringed and stepped a little closer to the counter, avoiding eye contact with the gray-haired woman who gave him a dirty look. He did his best to be a little quieter. "Shit," he hissed to Emily. "I don't want to see him!"

"Well, he seems dead set on seeing you, Vig."

With a quick look at his watch, Viggo ran his hand through his short hair and sighed deeply. "I have to meet some- I have to be somewhere. I'll worry about him later."

"You're a free man." Emily shrugged. "Just be home when the streetlights come on."

Grabbing her hand and kissing it, Viggo stepped back for a quick inspection, double-checking that his shirt collar was in place and his shorts were smoothed down.

"Gorgeous as always, you big stud," Emily teased. "Go play - just be safe, would you?"

Viggo grinned and was on his way without another word.

=====


"So how'd you know I'd be here?"

"How'd you know I'd be here?"

"You first." Viggo's blue eyes sparkled as Sean kept his gaze locked on him.

"I didn't know. I hoped... just like I do every single time."

"I hoped so, too," Viggo said. "You're kind of becoming a habit."

Sean grinned and gestured for Viggo to take the seat next to him. "Good."

=====


"So what exactly is it with you and this Andre guy? He's pretty persistent." Emily frowned at Viggo as he came on board.

"He's bugging you again? Can't you tell him I drowned or something?"

"Oh no. No way, Vig. I'm not your mother or your girlfriend. If you want to dodge him, you're going to have to find a way to do it on your own."

With a cocky grin, Viggo replied. "No problem. I'm good at slinking off after the fun's ended."

"So he's one of your guy friends then," Emily said dramatically. "Why do you get all the hot ones?"

"If he's so hot, why don't you ask him out? Maybe you can charm him straight." Viggo turned away with a smirk but winced as the pen Emily threw caught him right in the seat of his pants.

=====


"What's this? You're back already?"

Viggo shrugged and actually blushed a little. "Couldn't pass up the witty repartee."

"And the chance to study my classically handsome face," Sean countered.

Viggo's smile was broad and real. "There is that, I suppose..."

"Tommy's already bringing your rum. I saw you coming back in."

"You know, I've never been ashore twice in one day before." Viggo couldn't believe that he felt another flush across his cheeks and up to the tips of his ears but there it was. Before he'd met Sean, he hadn't blushed in years. Sean smiled.

"Never?"

"Nope."

"Not for any of what I am sure have been numerous flings?"

"Not even then," Viggo replied with a grin.

Sean leaned forward and slid his arm across the table, his fingers gently touching Viggo's. "I'm flattered." His motion revealed a silver bracelet with a u-shaped hook, the open end turned toward his hand. He gently turned Viggo's hand, pressing their palms together and gently stroking the sensitive skin on the inside of his wrist. "And very glad."

Caught off guard, Viggo focused on the bracelet while he gathered his thoughts. "I like that. It's different."

"This?" Sean asked, drawing back and frowning a little at the sidestep. "It's a St. Croix hook bracelet. You wear it with the hook facing like I have it if you're available; wear it the other way to show you're not." He caught Viggo's eyes. "Keep waiting for the day I can turn it around to face the other way."

Viggo looked up and smiled.

**=====**


Chapter 4

Sean looked out over Magen's Bay. The sun was just beginning to set and the sky was a glorious wash of color. In front of him spread the heart-shaped cove. The Grand Ambition sat solidly atop the water and the ice clinked in Sean's glass as he swirled it absently, the rum in it a dark, gold-streaked amber. He turned to survey the yacht's living area. He'd always felt at home on the water - loved the feel of the waves and the heaviness of salt air - but on this unwieldy behemoth, the sense of water beneath him was minimal. The boat was too big and too full of things from someone else's adventures. All around him were items his father had acquired over the years - beautiful and indulgent things - but Sean's gaze settled, as it always did, on the three worn needlepoint pillows that sat in the center of the sofa. He recalled the winter his mother had made them and how simple it had been to love her. His father had always been far more interested in striking a lucrative deal than sitting around chatting with his sons but their mother treated them like treasures. His father had remarried several times since Sean's mother had passed a dozen years before, each new wife younger than the one before.

Sean exhaled in annoyance as he recalled having to dig the pillows out of a chest in one of the smaller bedrooms when he'd taken charge of the Grand Ambition. "Just make the yacht your responsibility until your brother is through school" his father had said and Sean had reluctantly accepted the responsibility. Time spent in his father's purview typically equated to an acute awareness of the disappointment he was to him.

He knew how fortunate he was to have access to the things the family money and power provided, but it came with a personal cost that Sean wasn't always sure he could afford. The Grand Ambition, the executive suites and stock prices and endless fakery - all of that was made for men like his father and Jonas and that world seemed to intersect with his only tangentially. It would always be so despite his father's insistence that he would eventually fall into step but Sean hadn't spoken to Jonas in months, his father longer ago than that and when he thought of them, it was tinged with a sense of dread and unwelcome obligation.

There were a great many stops along the way but Sean eventually found his way to the Virgin Islands. Once he'd seen Magen's Bay and its perfect heart-shaped shoreline, he'd dropped anchor and settled somewhere for the first time in his life.

He turned back to the water, this time letting his eyes rest on the sailboat in the third slip from the far end of the docks. The deck was littered with stacks of wood to be used in replanking and the mast had been removed and not yet replaced. That boat and the house he was building up on the hill above the water had become the most important things in his life in the last year. He studied the Sirens' Call. It was a world away from the Grand Ambition. Far more nimble and sitting low in the water, she'd let him feel the roll of waves under his feet. He'd found what sometimes felt like his first real connection to the world outside of Bean Enterprises and Sean embraced it fully, finding a simple contentment that continually amazed him.

His father would turn up eventually and when he did, he'd characterize this desire to settle in one place as another phase that Sean needed to get past, just as he had done with his interest in art school and his desire to travel to places that had little to do with society or business. He was certainly still telling himself that his son's interest in other men was something that would magically disappear with time. He had his own very specific picture of what Sean should be and to his way of thinking, Sean was dragging his heels at taking the steps to match it. His impatience was obvious and the friction between them grew greater all the time.

Sean watched the carpenter he'd hired to redo the interior on the Sirens' Call pulling his equipment together as he left for the night. Sean would be there working shoulder to shoulder with him again tomorrow and he smiled at the thought of brass polish and teak oil.

**=====**


Chapter 5

"Imagine meeting you here."

"Like you're surprised. The ship comes in once week without fail. Boat boys and all."

Sean grinned at him and his green eyes sparkled. "I told you I never liked boat boys."

"Yes," Viggo countered and his face was serious. "You did. And I'm a boat boy, aren't I?"

Sean's smile changed, softened. "You most certainly are. And yet I definitely like you...I most decidedly do. I'd say you may have changed my view of boat boys forever."

Viggo reached across the table and squeezed his hand and Sean surprised them both by leaning forward and kissing him. His touch was warm and sweet and soft and Viggo smiled into it.

=====


Andre finally cornered him. Viggo grimaced at the sound of his name being called from the other side of the small coffee shop. Tucked away on a quiet floor, he thought he'd been well hidden.

He met the other man's gaze but didn't smile in response to the one on Andre's face.

"Hello," he said. "On another cruise so soon?" His voice was the one he used when mingling at the cocktail parties held for guests of the captain. His posture was just as reserved.

"I thought it'd be good to see you again. Last time was quite a- an adventure." Andre grinned teasingly and for a moment, Viggo felt that familiar warmth begin to wash over him. It would be so easy. "I thought we could pick up where we left off."

"I'm flattered," Viggo said. "But I'm not one for relationships." That much had always been true.

Andre stepped close and his hand touched Viggo's. "I'm not sure I completely believe you... but I can live with that," he murmured. "...for a while." He stopped, frowning at something he saw in Viggo's eyes. He held his gaze, appraising him, and it was clear that he gradually realized that they'd reached a stalemate.

Viggo didn't look away. He didn't look interested or disinterested. He simply seemed to wait.

After a moment, Andre spoke again and this time his voice was less warm and more direct. "So then... how about just how we were before? I can meet you tonight. Wherever you want. Just tell me when."

An agreement almost fell from Viggo's lips - it's just how things like this worked - but then, almost before he knew it, he'd taken a step back. "I don't think that's going to work, Andre. Like I said, I'm flattered."

"Are you with someone or something? Is that it? I thought you didn't do relationships." Andre spoke with a tinge of bitterness in his voice.

"I- I didn't think I did," Viggo said, the words a surprise. He saw Andre's annoyance and disappointment and pulled back behind his officer's decorum. "I hope you'll have a nice trip, Andre. It's been nice seeing you." He paused. "You know, there are lots of cruises to the other islands. Maybe you can try-"

With a flash of anger and a "Fuck you", Andre was gone. Viggo stood quietly, realizing that his hands were shaking just a bit and his head was full of thoughts of Sean and the gentle kiss they'd shared.

=====


"I have a boat on the other side of the island. Near Magen's Bay."

"Really? Your own?"

"No, not exactly. It's my father's but I'm to watch over it for him. He's off doing other things and I'm perfectly happy to stay right here. St. Thomas has become home."

"I guess I don't really have a home. Always at sea and I love that. I really do." Viggo paused. "But that doesn't mean I don't want to settle down someday." He looked up and Sean smiled at him.

"I wouldn't want you to settle down too much," Sean teased. "I like the thought of you being a bit wild. I suspect you have quite an untamed streak..." He took a drink and looked away for a moment. "But you know, nothing says the two can't coexist. Very happily." He winked and took another swallow of rum, quietly pleased when Viggo blushed and then smiled broadly.

=====


Without fail, Viggo met Sean at the Hook and Crook each week. Summer rolled into Fall and the only thing that gave it away in St. Thomas was a little more attention paid to the threat of storms. Viggo had less and less interest in prowling the ship for company and as odd as it felt at times, he was quietly happy about it.

=====


"I think I could get used to this, Viggo," Sean whispered, gently pulling him into a quiet alley far beyond the Hook and Crook. He pressed him against the sun-warmed wall, resting his hands on either side of his head and leaning forward until their lips almost touched. Viggo's eyes had drifted closed and he opened them to see Sean looking at him as though waiting for permission. He closed his eyes again and felt Sean's mouth brush against his, the touch as soft as the whisper of his name that accompanied it. Viggo let himself be kissed, warmth all around him, and he rested his hands on Sean's hips, then the small of his back. He savored the kisses, each one an exploration and appreciation. When Sean pulled away, Viggo was smiling and gently biting his bottom lip. He didn't say a word for a long moment; his expression was thoughtful and colored with quiet happiness.

"I've gotta go." He finally broke the silence and sighed helplessly. "I don't want to..."

"Boat boy's on a schedule?" Sean teased, caressing his cheek and making a small hungry sound when Viggo turned to kiss his palm.

"Yeah. Goddamn duty calls," Viggo leaned forward and took another slow kiss, this time parting Sean's lips with his tongue and kissing him deeply and unhurriedly. "Fuck," he said regretfully as he pulled away. "For the first time in a long time, I wish I wasn't a boat boy."

"I've got a boat, you know." Sean kissed his forehead and then his throat, nipping gently when Viggo tilted his head back. "I could use a boat boy." Viggo groaned and laughed as he pulled away.

"I'll see you next week, okay? You'll be there?"

Sean sighed in frustration but then answered with a smile. "Where the fuck else would I want to be?"

=====


"What do you do for a living anyway?"

"You're just getting around to asking me that?" Sean laughed and his eyes sparkled in a way that made Viggo smile. The Hook and Crook was crowded and busy and full of all manner of colors and light. People rushed by, but all Viggo saw was Sean.

"Well...yeah," he said slowly. "We've gotten to know each other pretty damn slowly. That's not really been my style before..." His words trailed off as a part of him suddenly wondered if Sean understood who he'd always been and even if it mattered. "Frankly if I'd acted on instinct when I first saw you, I'd already know your body real well...assuming you were equally interested, of course," he added with a wry grin. "But I would have never thought to ask more. We would have had mind blowingly great sex until one or the other of us moved on." He shuffled his feet under the table and took another drink. "That's what it would have been..."

Sean nodded slowly and kept his eyes trained steadily on Viggo even though the other man suddenly seemed fascinated with the glass before him. Finally Sean cleared his throat and spoke carefully. "You sound like you're not happy about that." He took a drink and gathered his thoughts. "Is it that you wish you'd acted on that instinct? That we'd fucked and never seen each other again? Or become some sort of once-a-week fuck buddies? Is... this... not what you want?"

Viggo pushed his glass of rum back on forth in front of himself, studying the change in the pattern of the water that had collected under it. He suddenly felt foolish and too childlike for this discussion between adults. He looked up, feeling helpless. "I just...I never have quite figured out...I've never figured out how to be with someone. Really with someone. Honestly, I've always wondered if there was anything else out there. You know, whether or not love could be more than just sleeping together."

"And do you still wonder that, Viggo?"

Viggo looked at him, an expression somewhere between wonder and relief dawning on his face. He tilted his head to the side. "No," he said slowly, measuring each word. "I don't think I do. I think I can see something... a bit different." He laughed softly. "I think you're showing me something I've never seen before." He felt that same ridiculous blush warming his face and looked out to the street past Sean, not sure what was supposed to happen next. Sean watched him, waiting for him to meet his gaze before he spoke.

"I love you, you know," he said gruffly, eyes steady on Viggo's. He finished his rum in one gulp and stood up before Viggo could reply. "Need another round. Liquid courage and all of that lot."

Viggo watched him walk toward the bar, feeling like he was suddenly in some place he'd never been before. When Sean set his fresh drink before him, he locked his hand around his wrist and pulled him down for a long, gentle kiss. "I... Jesus, I've never wanted to say that back before." He laughed and Sean pulled away, watching him and smiling. "I love you, too."

Without warning, Sean dropped alongside him. From where he knelt on the floor, he took Viggo's face between his hands and kissed him until they were both breathless.

=====


"So what do you think? Wanna go inside or what?" Another week has passed and Viggo leaned against the wall outside the bar, casually reaching out to push Sean's hair from his forehead.

"I don't know. I was thinking it's time for you to see my place."

Viggo grinned slowly. "I thought you'd never ask." He leaned in for a kiss. "I've been watching that ass of yours for months now and as much as I've enjoyed the view, I'd like to see it naked for a change."

Sean grabbed his hand and pulled him down the street. He signaled for a cab and practically shoved Viggo into it as soon as he got the door open. He fell in behind him, telling the driver to head toward Magen's Bay between laughs and not quite surreptitious gropes.

**=====**


Chapter 6

"So tell me what you do again?" Viggo spun slowly around, taking in their luxurious surroundings. It was the very first thing he'd said since he realized they were headed toward the Grand Ambition. Sean stood back, feeling slightly embarrassed.

"I don't think I ever said," he muttered.

Viggo stared at him and said the first thing that came to mind. "You don't dress this nice!" He looked a little surprised at his words and started backpedaling. "I mean...you dress fine. I like your...clothes...I mean they're fine...but... you don't even carry a phone! Or have a car!" He threw his arms wide. "What are you? A fucking Rockefeller?"

"Well no... not quite," Sean said and it was his turn to blush. "It's all my father's. I told you that. It's just... on loan, I suppose."

Viggo tilted his head and looked at Sean incredulously. "Hell of a loan..."

"I don't live here... exactly. Well, I do at the moment for several reasons, one of which is to keep my father happy and the other is because they've not quite finished that house right up there." He pulled Viggo over a few steps and pointed out the house that would be his home. "Or that sailboat right over there." He gently turned Viggo around to show him the Sirens' Call. "If I had my way, that's where we'd be right now. Feeling the water beneath our feet and together in a bed I helped build." He lightly kissed the back of Viggo's neck, breathing deeply to smell his warmth as he ran his hands along his forearms until their hands met. Viggo turned to him, carefully keeping their fingers gently twined. There was a small frown on his face.

"None of this matters, you know. It's all kind of strange... but I'm here because... I want to be with you. I want to make love to you... and you to make love to me. I want..."

Sean kissed him deeply and when he pulled back, there might have been an extra touch of sparkle in his green eyes. "And you have how long before you have to be aboard, boat boy?" he murmured.

"I can run really fast up that dock if need be..." Viggo unbuttoned Sean's shirt and slowly pushed it back off his shoulders, kissing the line of his collarbone. He tasted his skin and nipped at the base of his throat, reveling in every whisper and growl he coaxed from him. "We have plenty of time," he murmured before kissing him again.

=====


The bedroom was light and open and music played softly from hidden speakers. Warm honey wood graced the walls and the bed was made up with a deep green cover that contrasted perfectly with the blue water visible through expansive windows. It was a ridiculously large space yet somehow made warm with a soft leather couch and chairs at one end, alongside a small bar and bookshelves filled to overflowing.

Viggo stood still and took it all in and Sean waited until he saw a smirk forming on his lips. "What?"

"Big band music? You intend to seduce me to big band music?"

"What's wrong with big band music?"

"Well nothing, but the cliché is jazz."

"Or Barry White."

"Or Barry White," Viggo agreed with a grin as he moved close and pushed Sean back against the wall to finish the undressing he'd started. He explored the breadth of Sean's strong shoulders and the curves of muscle in his arms, memorizing with hands as well as eyes. He was lost in it, amazed at how perfect and satisfying it was to move this slowly, how sweet it was to savor and discover. Sean cupped his chin in his hands and pulled Viggo up to face him. He studied him and Viggo felt as naked as he ever had. "I love you," Sean whispered, kissing him gently and saying it again. He kissed his lips and his cheek, the curve of his ear and the column of his throat, gently nudging Viggo toward the bed one slow shuffle at a time. When Viggo had said the same thing in return a half-dozen times, Sean smiled and pounced, sweeping his legs from beneath him with one foot and landing solidly atop him on the bed.

"Jesus," Viggo laughed breathlessly. "I'm guessing... that... you like to top?"

Sean grinned and bit at his throat until Viggo tipped his chin up and Sean could nuzzle and murmur against his ear. "I'd like to do that the first time around anyway...if that's going to be alright with you."

With a long, lingering kiss, Viggo gladly sealed the deal. "Sounds like a good first act..." he whispered. "But the second one may be even better. I'll be driving and all... but don't let that intimidate you..."

With a hungry growl, Sean parted Viggo's legs with his knee and made quick work of removing his shorts. "We'll see about that," he muttered just as he took Viggo deep in his mouth, gratified when he heard his name said in a raspy groan and felt Viggo's fingers tangle in his hair.

=====


"Hey..." Viggo called lazily, sprawling under the soft sheets and trying to think of a valid excuse for not getting up, putting on his clothes and racing back toward the cruise ship before nightfall. He'd felt the shifting of the covers when Sean had left the bed but he'd drifted back to sleep in a haze of satiation and wonder. With a groan of protest, Viggo kicked the sheet back, half-smiling and half-grimacing as his body reminded him of the exertions of the afternoon. He opted to lie there for a few more minutes, hoping Sean would come around the corner and slide back into bed for a while longer. He could hear faint thudding noises beyond the bedroom door but they didn't come any closer so he gave up, grudgingly pulling on his shorts and shrugging halfway into his shirt as he headed out into the living room, scratching his head and yawning as he went.

"Hey!" he called again, started to do up his buttons.

"Sir?"

Startled, Viggo slammed into wakefulness as he heard the unfamiliar voice. A young man in a woefully out of place long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants stared at him from a door that opened in from one of the decks.

"Um... sorry. Looking for Sean."

The younger man looked at him blankly.

"Sean? Bean? I seem to have misplaced him." Viggo smiled.

"Mr. Bean left just a little while ago, sir. I came aboard to meet with him this afternoon. About one of those positions with the new crew he's hiring, you know? Since he's leaving St. Thomas so soon, I thought I'd better get out here as soon as he'd see me. He's the one who set up the appointment... told me to be out here at 4:30 sharp, but almost as soon as I arrived, he made excuses and left for some meetings he said he had in Charlotte Amalie."

"Mr. Bean? Mr.--? Wait a second... He left? For work?"

"Are you going to do the interviews instead?"

He shrugged when Viggo shook his head silently.

"Well, he told me I could look around for a few minutes but that he didn't expect to be back until late this evening."

Viggo looked around the room between him and the man at the door. He couldn't quite link what he was hearing to the emotions he'd experienced in the hours just before. Sean loved him... he'd said it many times but more than that, he'd made sure Viggo felt it in his touch, saw it in his eyes... but he knew damn good and well that Viggo would be back on the ship and out of port by nightfall. His heart pounded hard and a cacophony of shock and hurt hammered at him until he felt he might be sick. He took a long breath, letting anger sweep over his pain, drawing air again when the two emotions negated each other and left him feeling hollow.

"Sir?"

"Yeah," Viggo said, looking up. He felt disconnected from everything around him. Even the young man's voice seemed distant and brittle.

"Are you part of the crew as well? Do you work for Mr. Bean?"

Viggo just looked at him as he took another deep breath. Finally, he smiled. On the inside it felt grim and tight but Viggo knew how to smile and look like he meant it when the situation called for it. "Nah. Not me. I'm gonna grab my stuff. How do you plan to get back to the docks?"

"I met him out here. I can leave when I'm ready."

Viggo looked at him again. "Hang on," he said. In less than a full minute he was back, wallet in hand. He opened it and drew out some bills. "How about when I'm ready?"

=====


"Jesus," Sean grumbled as he reached the dock, recognizing the other tender from the Grand Ambition at once. It rocked gently in the water next to his own but where his father's was pristine and empty, his own was a bit scuffed and the leather along the wheel was worn. He had an armful of bags and boxes from the best bakery on the island and he wanted nothing more than to get back to the yacht and wake Viggo. Not your typical late lunch fare but then he didn't necessarily have typical late lunch plans for it. Thinking of painting Viggo's body in creamy fillings and icings and then following each stroke with his tongue had inspired him.

It appeared that the inevitability of having his father drop back into his life had come to pass. He must have grown impatient at not finding Sean on board the yacht, and brought the tender over to the mainland looking for him. There wasn't any other way to do it since Sean didn't carry a phone and there wasn't any crew out there for his father to send in. Sudden realization hit Sean like a hammer. His blood ran cold at the thought of his father encountering Viggo and what might have transpired. He dumped the bags behind the tender's bench and jumped aboard. Just as he reached to start the engine, he heard his father calling his name.

=====


There was time for only a single exchange of wary greetings before Sean's father went in for the kill. "And there's a man on board, I see. My prospective assistant called shortly ago to let me know he'd taken someone off the ship. I assume he was some new hand? Some member of the crew we'll need? I'll take care of those things-"

"He's not a member of any crew. He was there with me. And what bloody crew are you talking about?"

His father ignored his question and his entire demeanor was a vivid display of disapproval. "He's one of those then?"

Sean felt the heat of rage fly over him but fought to quell it. He was only partially successful despite his desire to break away from this discussion and get back to Viggo. "What could you possibly mean by that comment, Father?" he asked bitterly. "A magazine salesman? Someone who'd fallen overboard and signaled for help? Maybe a prospective buyer for the Grand Ambition?"

"Oh come on now. You know what I meant. No need to-"

"His name is Viggo. And I know precisely what you meant. Just for the record, your gay son was spending an incredibly gratifying afternoon with his equally gay boyfriend on your yacht." He enjoyed his father's discomfort at his remark for a moment before the earlier words abruptly registered. "Viggo was taken off the ship? What do you mean? You had him removed?"

His father shook his head dismissively. "Apparently he paid Jose or Juan or whoever it was I had out there earlier to take him ashore. I suppose he didn't feel obligated to wait for you." He looked at Sean with poorly veiled disappointment. "I guess he got what he came for... Unless you owed him some form of payment. If that's the case, I'm sure you'll hear from him ag-"

Sean didn't hear another word because the crash of his fist directly into his father's face silenced anything he might have been planning to add. Given the blood throbbing in his ears and tumultuous thoughts of Viggo rushing through his head, Sean was aware of little beyond a desperate need to get to the Hook and Crook, or if need be, to the ship beyond.

**=====**


Chapter 7

Though the ship stopped at Charlotte Amalie every week like clockwork just as it always had, and Sean made a point of being at the Hook and Crook at least an hour beforehand, he didn't encounter Viggo. He had tried repeatedly to reach him but each attempt had been fruitless. There'd been no response of any kind. He had access to almost everything in the world through the wealth he'd been born into, but nothing interested him beyond finding a way to talk to Viggo and try to make right what had gone so wrong.

The temperatures didn't change much as Fall rolled into Winter, but Sean thought it had never been so bitter.

=====


Viggo stepped on the letter that had been slipped beneath his door as he entered his cabin. There was a square yellow note taped to the front of a sealed envelope. Emily had written, "Viggo - Another day, another hot guy - and of course, he was looking for you and not me! As usual, I don't know what's going on, but I know I'd give him another chance." The smiley face she signed off with rankled.

Desperately wanting to go back to not caring, Viggo leaned against the counter, slowly and methodically rolling Emily's note into a tiny ball before he dropped it on the floor and opened the envelope.


Dear Viggo,
I can only imagine the things you must think about what happened that day. Please let me try to make things right. If nothing else, I need for you to know how much you mean to me. I would have never hurt you like that. Please meet me on your next stop. I'll wait at the Hook and Crook just as I do every week.
Sean


=====


When he left the ship that morning, Viggo still wasn't certain what he'd do. He'd started walking, wasting minutes that he wouldn't have on those earlier days when he'd rushed to meet Sean. He rounded a bend in the street and saw the Hook and Crook ahead. It was as crowded as ever; everything about it seemed just as it was before yet the edges seemed sharper and straighter and less inviting. Still he went closer, letting himself be moved along by shoppers and tourists. Unprepared despite thinking he was, he saw Sean and felt a stab of want that was so twisted up in disappointment and pain that he felt disoriented. Sean sat at a table near the doorway, looking up often, watching the street. Tommy brought him a fresh drink and then set another down across from him as though Viggo would join him any second. Sean talked to the bartender for a few moments and from the safety of a shop doorway, Viggo watched, feeling a remoteness settling over him, suddenly certain that the time he'd had with Sean was just what he'd had with everyone else. He let himself watch just a bit longer, jagged edges of something threatening to break through his reserve but then he finally began to back away. He was startled as Sean moved just when he did and he stopped, unsure if he'd been seen, but Sean stood and finished his drink in one swallow without ever looking his way. He pulled a box from his pocket and walked over to the bar, sharing a few words with Tommy before he left it with him. He lingered at the door for a few more moments, but then with a shake of his head, Sean left without another look back.

Viggo watched and fought the urge to call after him. Only when he saw Sean disappear around the last bend did he enter the bar, suddenly needing to see it once more before he walked away for good. He had no plans to come ashore in Charlotte Amalie again. The room was crowded and loud and Viggo leaned on the bar and waited for Tommy to notice him. Almost before he knew it, his rum was set in front of him, the box Sean had left right alongside it.

"He said to give it to you if you ever came back in. He'd planned to give it to you himself but you just missed him. Probably on accident, I suppose," Tommy said, making sure Viggo knew he didn't believe so for a second. He walked away and Viggo slowly opened the box. Inside was a St. Croix hook bracelet just like Sean's. The accompanying note was brief.

"Can we start over? My name is Sean and first things first, I'm no longer available to anyone but you."


Viggo dropped money on the counter and left with the box in his pocket.

**=====**


Chapter 8

The sky was giving itself over to the brilliant colors of sunset and Sean stopped his work and settled himself on the deck, leaning back on his arms. The sun was warm and the winds were fair, and he could hear Christmas music from a slip down the way. He watched a neighbor stringing lights along his mast and though there was a lingering sadness in him, he felt a sense of contentedness as well. The Grand Ambition no longer sat in the harbor. From where he sat on the deck of the Sirens' Call, Sean could feel the gentle water beneath him and breathed deeply of the scent of freshly sanded wood. He leaned forward, pressing his head against his arms and trying not to think of what he knew he would. At times like this, when all else seemed to be taking shape as it should, memories of Viggo swept over him... his laughs - the ridiculous giggle and the long, deep chuckle that was so full of warmth - and the way he frowned when he was searching for words to describe precisely what he intended. And he relived the first touches, the first kisses and the wonder of discovering his body with an ache that was physical.

"So...still interested in hooking up?" Sean leapt up, startled near to death. Viggo stood in front of him and Sean saw that he held a crumpled piece of paper in one hand and the hook bracelet in the other.

"That is the worst line I've ever heard," Sean replied cautiously, amazed to see Viggo for the first time in months.

Viggo smiled and Sean felt his heart pound. "Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it," Sean's voice was raspy and tight.

"I got your letter," Viggo said, indicating the worn paper in his hand.

"Which one?" Sean asked sharply with sudden surprise at how raw he felt. Frustration and loss had worn at him for too long. His eyes stayed locked on Viggo's.

"I'm sorry," Viggo murmured. "I just couldn't..."

"I only wanted you to hear me out. I needed to make sure you understood that I-"

"I do. I do, Sean. But I couldn't...I couldn't stand the thought that what you might say would make you someone other than the man I'd finally fallen in love with... the man you are..." He searched for words and Sean wanted so much to smooth away his frown yet he waited. "I'd always been okay before I knew you. But you opened things up... made me different... and I didn't know if I could bear it if what you said made it all untrue."

"You should have trusted me."

Viggo looked at him helplessly. Sean stepped close and took both of Viggo's hands in his own, feeling the warmth of his skin and the coolness of the silver. He searched Viggo's blue eyes and finally nodded ever so slightly. "You can always trust me, Viggo" He gave him the gentlest of kisses, savoring the contact and taking in every second as though it might be stolen away. He heard a soft murmur and pulled back just enough to look into Viggo's eyes again but before he could speak, there was a round of hoots and hollers from one of the other slips. Sean smiled as he saw color rising in Viggo's cheeks.

"Come on. Come with me," he said, pulling Viggo toward the door to the hatch. He stopped when Viggo resisted.

"Sean... stop. I didn't come here for that... Not just for that." Viggo's voice trailed away and the uncertainty in his eyes cut through Sean again.

"And that's not why I asked you inside," he said gently. He moved closer and pushed Viggo's hair off his face, smiling a little at how the breeze put it right back where it had started. He leaned forward and kissed his forehead alongside the wayward lock of hair and then pulled him close to wrap him in his arms. "I'm so sorry, Viggo. It wasn't me. My father... I never meant to leave you. I... I left only to get a surprise... something to wake you with... I couldn't wait to be back in that bed with you. I wanted to convince you to stay and not go back to your ship." He pulled back to look into Viggo's eyes. "I wanted to be there to wake you up and tell you how much I love you and how I want you... I still do..."

Viggo studied Sean's face, nodding and murmuring in response. "I know...the letter.... Your father sounds like a hell of a great guy, Sean." He smirked as a faint sense of irony spread through him.

Sean grinned in reply and took Viggo's hand again, sliding the bracelet around his wrist, making it match his own to show they were available only to each other. He kissed Viggo again. "I want you to stay. With me. Please. Wherever you want to be so long as we're together."

Viggo smiled. "Then let's make it as far away from your family as it can possibly be. He can have one end of the oceans and we'll have the other. I don't think I'm going to spend a lot of time bonding with my new father in law." Cupping Sean's face in his hands, Viggo kissed him deeply, pushing him toward the hatch, not even blushing at some of the suggestions carried on the air from the boats around them.


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