Oliver Wells frowned as his doorbell chimed. He didn't recall having any appointments for the day, though that had never stopped one from popping up on him before. Surely Carson would had let him know to expect visitors had that been the case. Oliver marked his place in his book. He heard the distant sound of the door being opened, followed by faint pleasantries as Carson greeted the visitor. Judging by the tone of Carson's voice, it was at least a familiar visitor, if an unannounced one.
He stood as the door was open and paused mid bow, any last lingering trace of annoyance at being interrupted vanishing as his guest strode in. Oliver's eyebrows rose as he straightened. "Captain Sparrow. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Gabriella Sparrow was an imposing figure of a woman, though her gender was only obvious if one knew where to look. Her heavy woolen overcoat was bulky enough and tailored well enough that it hid the curve of her hips. He wasn't quite sure how she managed to compress her ample breasts - which he knew she had due to one very unfortunate incident with a faulty door lock - and he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know. The less known about Sparrow's breasts the better.
She swung a document case off her shoulder and popped off the cap of the tube. A roll of brown paper slid out. It crinkled as she spread it out across his desk, the paper protesting with age. Sparrow weighed down the corners with books and grinned across the table at him. "It's a map."
He raised an eyebrow and glanced down at the paper. "Yes, that's quite obvious." There was marked terrain laid out and a compass rose in the corner, though it was more ornate than standard maps usually called for. He pushed his glasses further up his nose as he bent over the desk, his chair momentarily forgotten in favor of getting an up-close look. His fingers ached to touch the paper but he refrained. The less handling the map saw, the better. It looked a little fragile.
"Here." He pointed to the bottom left corner of the map where a line of French was scribbled. "This is meant as your starting point. La Nouvelle Ville. That's a reference to Georgetown." He frowned at the map. The lay of the land was all wrong. Oliver circled the table until he stood next to Sparrow. There. That was better. He traced the line of the coast, his finger hovering just above the paper. "The rose is backwards. It's a common misdirection technique."
There were other marking on the map. Most were in French, though there were parts in Dutch, English, German, Spanish, and a few phrases he wasn't immediately sure the origin of. There was a definitive trail to the map, though it would take him some time to figure out the stops marked along the way. Each stop had a tiny sketch next to it, likely references to landmarks along the trail.
Sparrow was watching him when he looked up. "How soon do you need this?" He asked. "It's going to take me some time to decipher."
Sparrow frowned. It made her look even more like a man. "Sooner is better. I'm not the only one who knows about that map. Almost lost an eye getting it."
Oliver jerked back from the desk. "Is it safe here? Shouldn't you take it with you?"
She shook her head. "No one knows I work with you, and I know you've been discreet."
Oliver nodded quickly. It'd hardly help his standing in the academic sphere if he was a known associate of pirates, especially pirates as eclectic as Sparrow and her crew. The rumors of her recent exploits in Paris had been positively indecent.
Sparrow knocked on the map. "Work on this fast and send word. I'm staying at the Rusty Badger, over by the docks."
He nodded again. As much as he wanted to take his time and study the map, with Sparrow's line of business it was always better to get anything she brought him out of his house as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough.
Oliver huffed as the doorbell rang. He'd had Carson clear all his appointments for the week so he definitely wasn't scheduled for visitors. Interrupted twice in one week. What was the world coming to? He was half tempted to have Carson ignore the door and pretend they weren't home, but there was a slim chance it was Sparrow again. That and Carson's stiff sense of propriety wouldn't let him leave the door unanswered.
He rolled the map up anyways and hid it under his desk, just in case it wasn't Sparrow at the door. He shoved his notes in the bottom drawer and covered them with two books on Egyptian pottery. The drawer shut just as his study door opened.
Oliver stared. A man he hadn't seen in close to a decade walked in with a familiar smirk etched across his achingly handsome features. Oliver had started to stand once the door opened and then quickly reversed trajectory, landing heavily in his seat.
"Oliver." Khalid ibn Abbas smirked at him. Oliver had almost forgotten how that smirk made his insides feel like warm marmalade. Almost, but it was hard to forget Khalid. "It's been ages."
He nodded dumbly. Words tended to fail him when Khalid was around. At first he'd attributed that to Khalid's standing among the other men at their university, the way he practically ruled campus as king, but he'd been naive as a boy. Now he understood exactly why Khalid affected him so.
Khalid sauntered towards Oliver's desk. He was obviously doing well for himself, though if there was one thing Khalid had never lacked it was opportunity. He'd been rumored to be the son of a sultan off in the East, though that had never been confirmed. His wealth had been obvious. When combined with his good looks - dark, exotic skin, finely chiseled features, perfectly trimmed beard - and copious charm, he'd never wanted for women. Men too, though Oliver had found out about that far too late to do anything about it.
Khalid had always seemed a bit too perfect. Oliver had fantasized, once upon a time, that Khalid had a darker side, one that he hid from the rest of the world behind a charming facade. That fantasy had been the subject of copious dreams, even after he'd left Khalid and university long behind.
Oliver licked his lips and pretended there was more than polite interest in Khalid's stares as he watched Oliver. "How..." His voice cracked. He coughed and tried again. "How can I help you?"
Khalid leaned against Oliver's desk and idly perused the mound of books that covered the surface. His smile seemed to widen even more as he read the spines. "I hear you're a bit of a consulting historian these days."
His lips twitched towards a frown and he fought to keep a polite smile on his face. "Yes. I do work with the museums. Did you perhaps see the exhibit from Cairo that came through?"
Khalid shook his head. He didn't look at Oliver, just at his books. It reminded Oliver far too keenly of their college days. He'd been beneath notice then, just another average student in a throng of many. "I heard you do private consultations as well."
Oliver shifted. He was torn between the urge to move away from Khalid and the urge to lean closer. "I do. For friends."
Finally, Khalid looked at him. His black eyes were piercing. Oliver instinctively jerked away but the chair stopped him from going far. "I didn't realize you were friends with pirates."
Oliver paled. How did Khalid know? More importantly, since he obviously knew about Oliver's dealings with Sparrow, why was he here? Did he work for the government? It would make sense. The government always went after the best and brightest, even if they were foreigners.
Khalid's smirk took on a menacing cast. It made Oliver's stomach clench and sent a rush of warmth to his groin. He shifted his chair away, or at least started to. Khalid caught it with a firm hand on the back and when had he moved so close? Oliver wasn't usually one to be distracted by a pretty face, but Khalid has always been an exception to every one of Oliver's rules.
"Did Sparrow come see you?"
His tongue caught in his throat. He should deny it but it was too late now. He could tell just from Khalid's pleased expression that he'd already known the answer.
Khalid loomed over him. This close, Oliver could smell a faint hint of spices from Khalid's cologne. It was intoxicating. "Where's the map?"
"W-what map?" It was a useless defense, but he had to at least try.
Wood creaked behind him as Khalid tightened his grip. Oliver squeaked and leaned away from Khalid's arm. There was no humor in Khalid's expression. Gone was all the charm and in its place was something equal parts frightening and arousing. Khalid's cold eyes went straight through Oliver, like he was no more than a bug that could be squished at leisure. This, then, was the real Khalid, the one he'd been hiding all those years in university. He was a dangerous man, dark and deadly, and knowing the truth of him didn't make Oliver want him any less. "The map."
Oliver pointed. Khalid kept his eyes on Oliver as he bent to retrieve it. The motion made his long overcoat fall open, giving Oliver a quick glimpse of the sheathed blade belted to Khalid's hip.
Khalid moved to the other side of the desk and unrolled the map, much like Sparrow had done though he never took his hands off it. He studied the map for a long moment before looking up at Oliver. "You can read this?"
He wasn't sure what made him answer but he did with a slow nod of his head. He should have lied.
Khalid rolled the map up tight and tucked it away in his coat. "Good. You're coming with me."
Oliver opened his mouth to protest. Khalid put his hand on the pommel of his sword, his coat falling to the side, giving Oliver a clear view of the blade. It was rather long and presumably quite sharp. Oliver had never been a fan of bleeding.
"Right. Do I have time to..." He gestured towards the stairs and his bedroom beyond. It would be nice if he could take some spare clothes with him but he doubted he would be allowed. He was right.
Khalid shook his head.
Oliver sighed. "Of course. Can I just-" He cut himself off at Khalid's sharp glare. "Right." He stood and offered a shaky grin. It was rather pitiful as far as smiles went but he gave himself credit for managing something given the situation. "Where to?"
"You know, this is hardly necessary," Oliver said, not for the first time. Course ropes cut into his wrist and the wooden chair he was tied to was starting to become uncomfortable. He missed the chair in his study. It was padded and worn down in all the right places. Also, he'd never been tied to it.
Khalid ignored him. That was a theme in most of their conversations. Gone was the smiling charm that Khalid put on in public. Oliver kind of liked it better this way. At least this version of Khalid was real.
"What's this?" Khalid pointed at the fifth stop on the map. They'd been going over the map for days, thankfully not with Oliver tied to the chair the entire time. That was only when he was near the map and not in a prison cell in the belly of the ship. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought Khalid liked tying him up. It wasn't like Oliver could run away. They were in the middle of the ocean. Where was he going to go? Atlantis?
"It's a statue of some kind." He'd just been finishing up translations of that section when Khalid had abducted him and brought him aboard his ship. Well, not his. Oliver had caught a glimpse of a female with black curly hair that the crew called captain but he'd yet to meet her. She looked just as dangerous as Khalid, which meant he was in no rush to make her acquaintance. One dangerous person at a time was his usual limit.
God, he hated dealing with pirates. At least Sparrow kept all the dangerous bits far away from him.
Khalid glared. "Yes, I realized that. What does it say?"
He frowned, already knowing Khalid wasn't going to like the answer. "Well, nothing really." The look Khalid shot him was murderous. He hastily continued. "It's just descriptors. They don't really make sense. Growing. Man-head. Red eyes. It doesn't say where it is, or anything useful, just what to look for."
Khalid sighed and leaned back against the plain wooden table the map was laid out on. Oliver wasn't sure what Khalid expected from him, especially when he was bound to a chair miles away from his books, but it was obviously more than he was producing. None of the parts of the map that Oliver had translated gave any specific location beyond the starting point. The map seemed to rely more on nameless landmarks, quite probably because the area they were heading into didn't have named landmarks. It would make for difficult traveling. Oliver was hoping the pirates would let him go before then, but that seemed doubtful.
"What about this?" Khalid pointed to the sixth and final stop.
Oliver leaned forward in the chair. His shoulders ached from the strain. There was a single word written next to a statue of a vague human shape. He settled back against the chair with a raised eyebrow. "You know what that means. It's in Arabic. It's the root of the verb 'to hide'. Obviously whatever treasure you're looking for is hidden near that statue."
Khalid stared at him, his expression never changing. If that had been a test, Oliver had no idea whether he passed or failed. "And how will we know how to find it?"
Oliver shrugged as best he could. "I have no idea. The map doesn't say. I suppose you'll just have to look."
Khalid shook his head. "No, Oliver, you'll be the one looking."
Oliver let out a very uncivilized curse. Khalid's expression finally changed, shifting into that familiar smirk. There was a not so small part of Oliver that was pleased at the prospect of spending more time in Khalid's presence.
That part of him was an idiot.
Oliver had assumed that once they reached Georgetown, they'd continue their journey on foot. He'd assumed wrong. A strange shaking pulled him out of a light doze. He rolled upright on his cot and squinted into the dark. The lantern by the stairs was swinging on its hook, casting the room in strange moving shadows. He heard a heavy lock click and then the door at the top of the stairs opened. Khalid descended the stairs, the familiar rope in his hands.
"What's going on?" Oliver moved to stand by the bars. There was no sign of worry or even concern on Khalid's face, which meant either the man had the best poker face in the world or the shaking was meant to happen.
"Turn around," Khalid ordered in lieu of an answer.
Oliver obediently turned and stretched his hands behind his back so Khalid could tie them. Once his wrists were securely bound, Khalid unlocked the cell. His hand closed over Oliver's wrists, guiding him up the stairs. The hall was dark. Khalid didn't usually take him out of his cell at night. Oliver stopped once they reached the room with the map, but instead of opening the door, Khalid shoved lightly to propel Oliver forward, further into the depths of the ship. Oliver frowned. This was new. They kept going until they reached a set of stairs going up.
They emerged out on to the deck. Cool sea air caressed Oliver's face and he felt his entire body relax slightly at the sensation. He hadn't realized until now how tense he'd been from being caged up for so long. The near full moon provided decent illumination, enough that Oliver could make out a small crew moving around the deck, securing sails and tightening lines. There was a strange humming in the air.
Khalid moved them both towards the prow. For a second, Oliver thought Khalid was going to throw him overboard but they came to a halt a foot short of the railing. Khalid's hold on Oliver's wrists tightened, stopping just short of painful.
The ship was rising. From his vantage point, Oliver could see the faint lights of a settlement, presumably Georgetown, in the distance. The water was choppy and growing further and further away with each second that passed. For a minute, he thought the ship was growing but then the ship pulled free of the waves and they climbed up in the air. Oliver stared, wide-eyed and breathless as the distant coast grew closer. They passed just south of Georgetown but by then the town was like a toy model below them. Oliver leaned forward in Khalid's hold as they flew over the forest, straining for a better view.
Oliver didn't want to move, but he didn't protest when Khalid eventually led him back into the ship. He caught sight of large propellers on the sides and rear of the ship. A huge cloud of steam trailed behind them. Once he was back in his cell, Oliver stayed awake for hours, staring at the ceiling.
They were flying.
It was much easier to navigate through the jungle when they were traveling above it rather than through it. He could hear the lookout calling out the landmarks as they passed them, his voice carrying all the way to Oliver's cell, if faintly. He felt almost forgotten since Khalid had brought him out on the deck to see the ship rise. They had no more need of map translation, which meant all Oliver had to do was wait. He longed for a book, anything besides plain wood walls to look at.
Two days passed in silence, interrupted only by a crew member bringing him his meals and then immediately leaving with empty tray from the previous meal. Then the ship shuddered. Oliver had a brief moment of panic. Were they falling? But, instead of dropping the ship slowed and stilled. A few minutes later, the door opened and Khalid descended to bind Oliver's hands. It was hard walking with his hands bound behind his back, but he'd gotten a bit used to it. That didn't stop his trepidation when Khalid led him onto the deck and towards a thin gangplank.
He was marginally reassured by Khalid's grip on his arms, but only slightly. He had hoped that his schoolboy crush would fade in the face of being kidnapped. If anything it had grown stronger. His inclination to act on said crush had diminished greatly, which was mildly reassuring. At least if he fell getting off the ship, he'd take Khalid with him. There was a bit of poetic justice in that.
He didn't fall.
Khalid's grip shifted from reassuring to annoying as they marched through the jungle. He wanted to yank his arms out of Khalid's grasp but the number of armed pirates around him made that seem like an unwise thing to do. He sighed as they stepped from the jungle into a wide clearing. There was the statue the map had shown, with a large relief carved into the cliff wall behind it. The statue was up on a stone dais, barely wide enough for two people to stand on at the same time. The statue depicted a strange sort of figure, not quite feminine but not masculine either, more like a blending of the two into a figure of androgynous beauty. The figure's eyes were closed, head downcast, as if sleeping standing up. Oliver wanted to get a closer look, which seemed to match Khalid's plans for him.
The pirates spread out in a circle around the statue. The captain seemed to be studying the cliff wall. A Chinese man stood close behind her, likely a bodyguard. As he got closer, Oliver could make out more details of the statue, including the strange black stone it was made of. The stone seemed to sparkle slightly in the sunlight.
"Well, where do we go from here?" The captain turned away from the wall to stare at them. She had a melodic voice, like what he'd expect from a trained musician, but with a definite air of command. Oliver belatedly realized she was talking to him.
He blinked and glanced over his shoulder at Khalid, who also seemed to be waiting for a response. He shrugged. "I don't know. I need to look around."
The captain frowned but nodded and turned back to the wall. Oliver tugged lightly on his wrists. "This would be a lot easier if I could move."
Khalid glared. "I'm not untying you."
"I didn't ask you to. Just let go for a minute."
Oliver rolled his eyes. "Where am I going to go? I'm outnumbered and in the middle of a jungle."
Khalid let him go. Oliver resisted the urge to sigh and hated himself a little for missing the warmth of Khalid's touch. He stepped up onto the dais and leaned in towards the statue. It was finely crafted. He couldn't see even a single chisel mark. The statue stood on a square base with a single inscription written in a foreign language, possibly Nahuatl. He wasn't fluent enough to translate, but he thought one of the words meant 'desire'.
One of the pirates screamed. Oliver jerked back from the statue and stared as blood spread across the pirate's shirt. There was something metal sticking out from the man's chest. Surprise filled the man's face as he fell. Oliver's stomach twisted and threatened to rebel. He gagged and staggered backwards into the statue.
Too many things happened at once. Small men poured out of the trees, armed with crude spears. The pirates pulled their swords. Khalid reached for Oliver. His expression was different than what Oliver was used to, almost as if he were concerned. Oliver was falling, which was odd because he was sure the statue was behind him and yet instead of his back hitting stone, it went through it like it was thick marmalade. It closed around him. His eyes caught Khalid's and he desperately wanted to reach for him but his bound hands had already sunk into the statue.
The last thing he saw before black closed around him was a spear hurtling towards Khalid's back.
Oliver stared into a blue-grey fog. He squinted. That wasn't right. There should be sky and trees and Khalid. He sat up. Fog surrounded him in every direction. He ran his hands over the floor. He could feel it solid beneath him and yet it looked as if the fog continued on below him.
Something moved at the edge of his vision. Oliver whipped his head around and stared at the figure that crouched in the fog. It looked exactly like the statue. Then it opened its eyes. Red light shone out from two gem-like eyes. Oliver stared. It tilted its head and stared back at him.
It kept staring.
Oliver waited but the figure didn't seem inclined to move. He slowly shifted to his feet. "Can you speak?"
It tilted its head further to the side.
Oliver sighed. He turned in a slow circle. There was nothing but himself, the figure, and the fog. He turned toward the figure. "I need to get out of here." The image of Khalid impaled on a spear stuck in his brain. There was a chance the spear had missed. Really, he should be relieved not to be captive anymore. He should be making a plan to get back to civilization but he was worried about Khalid. He took a step towards the figure. It didn't react. "Please. Can you show me how to get out of here?"
It stared blankly at him. His stomach clenched and he felt unfamiliar panic grip him. He wasn't used to danger, even less used to people he cared about being placed in danger, and he did care about Khalid, more than he should. He didn't want Khalid to die. There was likely little he could do to help but that didn't stop him from needing to try.
The figure stepped forward. Oliver took a step back. In the space of a blink, the figure was next to him, far closer than propriety dictated. It reached forward and touched his cheek with one cool hand. A brief sense of peace washed over him and then the figure's hand slid down to his chest. It shoved and he fell once more.
Oliver landed hard on the ground. He recognized the clearing from earlier. He never thought he'd be happy to be stuck in a jungle before. Then he sat up and all traces of happiness fled. There were bodies in the clearing. His stomach rolled and he twisted to the side to vomit into the grass. Dull dead eyes stared at him from less than a foot away. He jerked away and then paused. Those eyes were familiar. He knew her, but she shouldn't be here, shouldn't be dead at all. That was Layla from Sparrow's crew. If Layla was here - and dead, his mind helpfully added, making him retch once more - then Sparrow was here, which meant that it was more than just Khalid in danger.
At least Khalid and Sparrow weren't among the dead bodies. He didn't want to look, would rather just ignore the blood and death and flee the clearing as fast as possible, but he had to, just in case Khalid or Sparrow were here. They weren't. Most of Sparrow's crew was missing, along with half of the team that had come with them from Khalid's ship. There was a lot of blood but he tried not to think about that. His stomach clenched painfully. He turned, trying to figure out where Khalid and the others had been taken and then stared as the statue stepped off the dais. It looked straight at him, it eyes glowing red like jewels, then it turned and walked into the trees.
Oliver hesitated and then followed. Tree limbs snapped as the statue barreled through the jungle, seemingly heedless of what was in its path. At least that made it easier for Oliver. He didn't have to worry about ducking around trees because the statue cleared a path straight through them.
They emerged a the base of a cliff. There was a settlement built into the cliff and he could see more of those small people moving about between buildings. Thankfully most of them were without spears. He should hide, but the second that thought crossed his mind, a shout rose up from the settlement. People pointed. Oliver took an involuntary step backwards, preparing to run into the woods but the statue turned and stared at him. He stilled. It looked between him and the top of the cliff and Oliver got the strange sense that the statue expected something.
No one had run out to attack them. In fact they seemed to be running from them. People pointed and shouted and then turned and disappeared into the buildings. He hoped they weren't going to find more spears.
The statue stared moving again, slowly at first, glancing back repeatedly to make sure Oliver was following. He did. It was a stupid thing to do but he was all out of ideas on reasonable things to do. Following an animated statue into a village full of kidnappers was probably better than running back into the jungle and getting eaten by something.
They wound their way through the small village, climbing up roughly carved roads that switched back and forth up the cliff side. No one emerged from their little houses which probably was a sign that he shouldn't be around the statue but he was fairly certain the statue wouldn't let him leave. At least there was a chance his friends were here. A very good chance, he realized, as they reached the top of the cliff. There were over a dozen wooden poles staked in the ground, each with a person tied to it. There was Sparrow, and Khalid two spaces down. Oliver felt a small sliver of satisfaction at seeing Khalid tied up. He found it incredibly ironic that he was the only one not tied up at the moment.
Two huge bonfires burned at the opposite edge of the cliff, where it overlooked a large lake and more jungle. The poles were arranged in a semicircle near the far edge. Oliver wondered if it was part of some strange ritual. There were no markings on the ground, no ceremonial knives or paint, or anything to indicate what the little people intended to do with the people on poles.
Come to think of it, there were no little people at all up here. Maybe the statue had scared them off.
A shrill cry pierced the air and Oliver looked up, expecting to find a bird overhead. There was, indeed, a creature there but it was far too large to be a bird. It was closer in size to Khalid's ship, with great leathery wings and a wicked curved beak. What worried Oliver more, though, were the tentacles that stretched out behind the creature as it swooped down to land on the far side of the cliff.
Oh. So that's what the poles were for. They were feeding it.
Oliver reacted without thinking, which was probably better because if he thought about it, he likely would have run far, far away. Instead, he screamed, distracting the creature as its tentacles reached for two of the poles. He was vaguely aware of eyes turning towards him and people shouting, but his brain couldn't process what they said. He could only focus on giant monster about to eat his friends. He ran to the side and grabbed one of the burning logs off the bonfire. His skin prickled from the heat. He turned and chucked the wood at the creature. He was horrible at throwing, but thankfully the creature provided a large target, nearly impossible to miss.
The first piece fell short, but it managed to further distract the creature. He kept throwing. On his fourth try, he actually hit the thing, making it howl in pain. It launched backwards off the cliff. For a brief second, Oliver thought he'd driven it away, but then it turned and dived towards him.
Perhaps that hadn't been the best of plans
He dropped to the ground next to the bonfire, one hand covering his head while the other covered his glasses, and curled in on himself. He heard the creature hit the bonfire. Burning wood bounced off his back. There was a whoosh of air as the creature sailed over him. He started to uncurl, thinking he was clear, but then something thick and rubbery smacked into him and curled around him. Right, tentacles. The creature glided across the plateau, dragging Oliver with him. He had a second to wonder which would be worse, if the creature carried him off with it or if it dropped him off the cliff. Then he stopped, suddenly and without warning. The tentacle around him flopped to the ground, unmoving.
Oliver turned and stared at the statue. Its hand had closed around the tentacle, apparently ripping it from the monster. The creature howled. It swung around and dove again. The statue didn't move. The creature opened its beak and crashed straight into the statue. Blood sprayed. Momentum carried the creature forward and over the cliff as it was cut in two. Oliver only saw the impact and the aftermath, he was too busy vomiting for the rest, each squelch and splatter making his stomach heave anew.
When silence fell, Oliver tentatively chanced a glance. The statue stood exactly where it had been, covered in blood. Oliver wondered if it had reverted back to a stationary statue, but it turned towards him at that moment, then looked to the poles.
Right. People tied up.
He tried very hard not to think about what he was stepping in as he crossed a stream of red to get to the poles. It didn't work. Thankfully, his stomach was already very, very empty at this point so he merely gagged as he approached Sparrow's pole. The knots on the ropes were a tangled mess.
"Are you alright?"
He looked up at Sparrow but didn't open his mouth, not trusting himself to speak at the moment. Something else might come out. His face must have been answer enough for her because she frowned and shifted one foot forward.
"There's a knife in my boot."
The handle was thankfully obvious. He wasn't sure he could handle being forced to feel up Sparrow at the moment, even if it was just her foot and for a good cause. The ropes fell away with ease. She squeezed his shoulder, then pulled a knife from her hip and moved to untie the rest of her crew.
Oliver started cutting free Khalid's crew. He started with the ones closest to him, barely pausing when he set to undoing Khalid's ropes. By then there were enough people helping the others that they were all free. Khalid rubbed at his wrists and stared at Oliver. The knife hung limply in Oliver's hand.
"Oliver." He turned towards Sparrow's voice. She waved him over. Her crew was already starting to descend towards the village.
He looked back towards Khalid, but Khalid was already gone, joining with the rest of his crew. Oliver went with Sparrow and didn't look back.
Oliver never thought he'd live to see the day where he was actually glad to be at a party. Normally he found them boring but there was something about being trapped alone on a ship that made him crave company. He smiled and made small talk and drank far more than he really should but he figured he was allowed, just this once, to skirt the edge of decent levels of public intoxication, what with being kidnapped by pirates and nearly killed by a sky kraken.
A warm hand settled on the small of his back. He turned, prepared to admonish the person attached to the hand for being overly familiar, but the words died on his lips. He stared up at a handsomely chiseled face, skin naturally tanned, with a perfectly trimmed black beard.
Khalid smiled one of those charming, fake smiles. Now that Oliver knew where to look, he could see faint hints of the real Khalid beneath the smile, hidden in the sharp corners of his grin and the steel focus of his eyes. "Oliver."
He should move away from Khalid's hand, but he didn't. "Come to kidnap me again?"
"Hardly." Khalid's grin grew sharper, with a trace of danger in the set of his jaw. "My captain thinks you're bad luck."
He raised an eyebrow. "It's hardly my fault that the treasure at the end of your map was a giant monster."
Khalid chuckled. It was a strange, delicious sound. Oliver could see himself getting attached to it. "Carmen does tend to overreact to the supernatural."
Oliver couldn't quite connect the imposing curly-haired woman he'd seen with someone who believed in superstition. He wasn't going to question it, though, if it kept him from getting kidnapped again.
"Would you care for a stroll?"
He nodded. Khalid's hand guided him out. It was a much better sensation when his hands weren't tied. They stepped out into the cool night. The streets were relatively quiet, with only a scattering of other pedestrians wandering out this late. Oliver found himself smiling, though he wasn't entirely sure why. No, that was a lie. He knew why and it was all tied to the spreading warmth in his back where Khalid kept touching him.
"Whatever happened to that statue thing?" Khalid asked.
Oliver's smile widened. "It followed me home. I set up a room for it, but it seems to like to hang out in the garden and scare the pigeons. I call it Ginny."
Khalid coughed. Oliver wasn't entirely certain if Khalid caught the joke, but he seemed to, judging by the appraising look he shot Oliver. "You have a jinn in your garden?"
He shrugged. "It likes it there. Who am I to argue?"
Khalid shook his head. The false charm had faded into what may have been a real smile. They rounded the corner and Oliver gasped as he was rapidly turned. His back hit stone but he hardly cared because Khalid was pressed against him and his mouth was warm and wet and very, very good. Oliver could feel his toes curling in his shoes. He was only aware of his hands curling in Khalid's jacket after the fact, as Khalid started to pull away and was stopped by Oliver's grip. Khalid grinned. "Maybe you are cursed."
Oliver grinned back. Khalid's mouth was so close, barely inches away and he wanted to stretch up and taste it once more. "I think everything worked out in the end."
Khalid kissed him in response. As glorious as it felt to finally - finally! - have Khalid kissing him, Oliver was keenly aware of how exposed they were. It may be dark and the section of the street Khalid had stopped at was plentiful in shadow, but there were much more appropriate places to be kissing.
He pulled away regretfully. "I could hail a cab if you'd like. I'm afraid my house is quite a ways away."
Khalid smirked. "My place is closer."
If Oliver had any sort of sense, he wouldn't be following his former kidnapper home. He also wouldn't have been kissing said kidnapper in the middle of the street or inviting his kidnapper to his home. Thankfully, his sense in this regard was absolutely non-existent, which was how he ended up stretched out across Khalid's wide bed in his modest townhouse, silk sheets cool under his naked skin, and his hands tied to the headboard with what was likely a very expensive silk tie. It was so much better than rope.
Oliver squirmed as Khalid's fingers played inside of him, twisting and curling as they spread lubricant and stretched him, preparing his body for Khalid to take his place in Oliver. It felt amazing. This wasn't Oliver's first time with a man, but it was his first time with a man he wanted more than a passing fancy, someone who made his heart pound and his skin burn. He moaned, louder than he really should given the proximity of Khalid's townhouse to its neighbors but he couldn't help himself. Khalid seemed to like it that way. His eyes were fixed on Oliver's face, no longer cold but just as deadly focused.
He wanted Khalid, danger and deadly eyes and all. He got it. Khalid pulled out his fingers and lined up his hips. He jerked forward, like he was lunging with a sword, but instead of being pierced by steal, Oliver was pierced by flesh and it felt just as deadly. Khalid impaled him, pushing all the way in in one swift thrust, and Oliver screamed his pleasure. It was rough, a little too close to pain but also just close enough, and it drove him wild.
Then Khalid moved, pulling out slowly to thrust back in, repeating the motion over and over in a steady slap-slap that pressed Oliver closer to the headboard inch by inch. He twisted his hands in the tie, pressing them against the headboard so that he could get a little leverage to push back and keep his head from hitting into the wood. The next time Khalid thrust, Oliver locked his arms, and then curled his fingers into the wood as Khalid pressed even deeper.
He was ruined, absolutely ruined for anyone else. He'd always associate his hands being tied with Khalid, and he'd been right, Khalid really did have a thing for typing him up, but it went deeper than the initial amusement Oliver had assumed to something deeper, darker and possessive. Oliver was okay with that. He didn't mind being possessed and he certainly didn't mind being tied up if it meant Khalid fucked him so hard he could barely think straight.
His world narrowed to sweat and muscles straining and gasps and the slap of flesh hitting flesh. He felt like he was being consumed, eaten alive by the heat of Khalid's body. It spread inside of him, moving up from his groin to his stomach until his whole body felt like it was on fire, tense and ready to explode. Then Khalid leaned over him, nosing Oliver's chin aside so that he could place a gentle kiss on Oliver's collarbone and immediately follow that kiss with a sharp bite.
Oliver howled and came harder than he ever had in his life. He was distantly aware of Khalid watching him as he came, of Khalid's hips speeding up, his body tensing, then slowing until he stilled and stayed that way, buried deep in Oliver but seemingly disinclined to move. Oliver was okay with that. He didn't really want to move either, though he wouldn't mind his hands being untied. But not right now. Right now Khalid was kissing him and everything was perfect.
He was beginning to think pirates and adventure and treasure maps weren't all bad, not if this was what it got him.