It was the day before St. Valentine's Day, the day which, all across the globe, lovers, young and old, celebrate with the one they hold dearest to them. And in this glorious Victorian era, it wasn't just the normal, civilised people who celebrated the holiday of love; such celebrations were made by pirates as well. Yes, even pirates, the vicious, bloodthirsty terrors of the high seas, understood the what this holiday was all about and always made a ball out of it. Well, there was one pirate who wasn't as willing to be party to such celebrations. In fact, he absolutely dreaded it.
The Pirate with a Scarf dreaded Valentine's Day because it always reminded him of his unrequited love for his captain. And what a handsome captain he was indeed, what with his dark oaken brown eyes, his long wavy auburn hair, usually tied back with a blue ribbon, his curly, luxuriant beard of the same colour, the way his teeth gleamed in the sunlight whenever he smiled that dashing smile of his, his rather broad, muscular build... everything about the Pirate Captain captivated the Pirate with a Scarf so. Of course, he wasn't exactly the smartest or most successful of pirates, but nonetheless, he also had a very kind heart and he always treated his crew like they were his family. And it was because of that that the Pirate with a Scarf couldn't help but remain utterly devoted to him, even though his rather reckless nature usually landed him in trouble. And as the Pirate Captain's first mate, it was his duty to get him out of that trouble.
And yet, despite the fact that the captain had once told him that he would be willing to help him with his own troubles too, the Pirate with a Scarf still dared not tell him of his feelings for him. It wasn't just the fear of rejection that held him back, he also shuddered to think what his captain would think of the concept of a man being attracted to another man, let alone his own first mate. How would it affect their friendship? If he was accepting towards love between two people of the same sex, would he break it to him softly that he didn't feel the same? And what would happen then? Would it be possible for their friendship to remain the same after that? Would it cause feelings of awkwardness between the two of them? Or worse! Would the Pirate Captain be so revolted that he would run him through on the spot, order the crew to have him walk the plank or have him marooned on a remote desert island somewhere in the Caribbean, where he would soon starve to death? Could coming clean with him about his feelings really destroy the deep friendship he shared with his captain? No. No! He simply couldn't afford to let that happen! So he decided kept his mouth shut.
Even when he was growing up, the Pirate with a Scarf never really cared much for St. Valentine's Day. Very much like that whole Pirate of the Year thing which a lot of pirates took very seriously, he saw this rather sappy holiday as just commercialised nonsense. The way he saw it, real love and romance wasn't about writing silly, meaningless poems or love letters to one's significant other, squandering one's doubloons on roses or any of the other usual types of nonsense people would normally be up to on this holiday. It was about caring deeply for a loved one, showing genuine devotion and commitment to them, giving one's heart to them entirely and never, ever putting anything else in the world above them. In fact, love could be celebrated at any time of the year, so why in Neptune's name it needed a holiday of its own in the first place was beyond him. It was for reasons like this that this particular holiday never really bothered the Pirate with a Scarf so much. In fact, it was only until he had realised his own feelings for the Pirate Captain that it really started to arouse such strong feelings within him. But instead of feelings of excitement and happiness, it was always those of hopelessness and melancholy as it always reminded him of the one he knew he could never have: the Pirate Captain himself.
So on the eve of this holiday of romance, the crew were all sitting around the dining table, talking and laughing amongst themselves, taking turns in singing some of their favourite shanties, accompanied by the Pirate with an Accordion playing his beloved instrument, sipping on some delicious grog and, since it just happened to be Ham Night that evening, nibbling on slices of that mouth watering, salty meat they loved so much. All except the Pirate with a Scarf of course. Because of his black mood, he felt like eating very little and just sat there, lazily playing with his food with his fork, his cheek resting on his free hand and all his gloomy thoughts running through his head.
“Hey, Pirate with a Scarf?” asked a voice with a thick Irish accent behind him. He felt a light nudge on his shoulder, interrupting him from said thoughts. He turned and was faced with the questioning gaze of the Pirate with Gout.
“What's wrong with your ham?” the Pirate with Gout asked again. “You've barely touched it.”
“Hm? Oh, nothing,” said the Pirate with a Scarf, shaking his head a little as he tried to force a smile onto his face. “I'm just not very hungry tonight.” He pushed his plate towards his friend. “Here, you can have it if you want.”
“Oh, are you sure now?” asked the Pirate with Gout.
“Yes, quite sure,” replied the Pirate with a Scarf. “I'm sure there'll still be plenty of it left after tonight.”
“Oh well, if you insist,” said the other pirate, tucking into his second helping of ham.
“Are you all right, Pirate with a Scarf?” This came from the Albino Pirate, who was seated across from him.
“Yeah, you look like Jack Aubrey during peacetime,” remarked the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.
The Pirate with a Scarf took a quick look around the dining table and saw the entire crew looking at him with concerned expressions on their faces.
“I...” he trailed off, trying to think of what to tell his friends. What would they think of him, of all pirates, being the type of man who would prefer his own sex to the opposite one? He felt a light blush crossing his cheeks when his eyes briefly locked with those of the Pirate Captain, who was sitting way at the other end of the table, staring at him with even more concern than the rest of the crew put together. However, he quickly turned his head away from the many pairs of eyes fixed upon him and replied, “I'm fine. I'm just a little tired is all.”
He excused himself from the dining cabin and went out on deck. He wasn't sure if it was just the black moods talking, but he started to feel it getting a little bit stuffy in there and felt that a bit of fresh air would do him some good. Walking across the worn timbers, he leaned against the rail and looked out onto the dark ocean, lit only by the full moon high up in the sky. He found himself then surrounded by an eerie silence, broken only by the wind rushing through the rigging, the lashing of the choppy waves and, of course, the low creaking of the ship as it slowly bobbed up and down. He breathed a deep, sad sigh, causing a small fog to escape from his lips into the cold night air as he watched the reflection of the moonlight sparkling against the distant waves like thousands of tiny little diamonds.
Finally, after what felt like hours, he heard the hatch behind him opening and closing, followed by approaching footsteps on deck. Then next thing he knew, someone was next to him at the rail.
“Number Two?” He turned and looked up to find the Pirate Captain looking at him with that same concerned expression from earlier.
“Hello, Captain,” he said sadly, turning his head back towards the dark sea.
“What is it, lad?” asked the Captain. “Whatever could be the matter?”
The Pirate with a Scarf tried to think of what to say to his captain that wouldn't arouse any feelings of suspicion within him. “Oh, it's just...”
He was interrupted, however, when Polly, who was perched precariously on the Pirate Captain's shoulder, suddenly hopped off, landing safely on the wooden rail, and waddled up to him. As she nudged his arm with her beak, the Pirate with a Scarf turned and looked down at her. He saw the concern in her eyes also, and his mood became a little lighter. Seeing her little face always brought a smile to his own.
“Hello, Polly,” he said quietly as he stroked her head, earning an affectionate coo from her.
“Number Two, what is the matter?” asked the Pirate Captain again, a little more firmly this time. “You were sitting in there looking like Admiral Nelson after losing his arm. Now why is that? What with it being Valentine's Day tomorrow, you'd think that, like the rest of us, you'd be as happy as a -”
Just then, as it dawned on him, the Pirate Captain's concern slowly morphed into a Cheshire cat grin that was so wide, his teeth could be seen gleaming in the moonlight. “Oh, wait a minute, I know!”
“Y-yes...?” The Pirate with a Scarf became a little uncomfortable with the way he was looking at him.
“You're in love with someone!” the Pirate Captain exclaimed, the grin still plastered on his face.
“Oh, Captain, you can read me like an open book,” the Pirate with a Scarf answered miserably, rolling his eyes. He knew that it would be useless denying that.
“Aha! I was right!” cried the captain triumphantly. “So, who's the lucky wench then?”
Except it's not a woman at all, thought the Pirate with a Scarf. It's you. Out loud, he merely replied in the same glum tone, “Someone who's very unlikely to return my feelings, sir.”
“Oh, come now, Number Two!” said the Pirate Captain. “How could you possibly be sure of that!?”
The Pirate with a Scarf shrugged. “Not sure, sir. Just a hunch, I suppose.”
“Well, why don't you tell them yourself?” asked the Captain. The Pirate with a Scarf opened his mouth to speak, but quickly stopped himself, finding that he couldn't come up with the appropriate words. This produced a knowing smile from the older pirate. “Ah, fear of rejection, is it?”
The Pirate with a Scarf just sighed sadly and nodded in reply.
“Well, I have a suggestion that should help you solve this little problem of yours,” said the Pirate Captain cheerfully.
Uh-oh. He didn't like the sound of that. Usually when the Pirate Captain came up with an idea to help solve a problem, it usually ended up making it ten times worse. However, loyal as he was, he was still willing to listen all the same.
So the Pirate Captain continued, “Why don't you just drop this person a little hint of your feelings for them? Nothing too forward, but something that should hopefully give them an idea. Like, oh I don't know, a small gift or something. Something simple, but still something that would really please or flatter them. Something that's sure to grab their attention.”
The Pirate with a Scarf looked up at the Pirate Captain, utterly surprised. Did he hear that right? Did his reckless and usually rather foolish captain come up with a good idea? He simply could not believe his ears.
“And besides,” the Pirate Captain went on. “Think of it this way. No matter how bad your Valentine's Day is, it can't be as bad as the one Captain Cook had when he went to Hawaii, that's for sure.”
The Pirate with a Scarf couldn't help but chuckle at that comment, finding that, along with his suggestion, it cheered him up a little, even if it was a little off colour. “Thank you, Captain,”
“No problem, Number Two!” replied the Pirate Captain, giving him a hard, encouraging pat on the back. “As your friend and captain, it is the least I can do to help my first mate.” Picking up Polly and hooking her under his arm, the Pirate Captain yawned and said, “Well, me and Polly are off to bed now. Perhaps you should do the same,” he continued, as he began to walk away in the direction of his cabin.
“Aye aye, sir,” smiled the Pirate with a Scarf. “But I'd rather just stay out here and enjoy the evening air a little while longer.”
“Suit yourself,” smiled the Captain. “Good night, Number Two.”
“Good night, Captain,” replied the Pirate with a Scarf, watching as his captain disappeared with their precious parrot into the cabin.
He remained where he was for a little while longer as he went over the Pirate Captain's suggestion in his head, an idea beginning to form itself as he did so. Yes. Yes, it really was a good idea, wasn't it? They would be docking at Blood Island in the morning, just in time for the Valentine's Day festivities. There were plenty of shoppes on the island that he and the rest of the crew regularly visited whenever they were staying there. So it wasn't like he would have trouble finding something to get the Captain. But it was the part about it not being too forward that stuck in his mind the most. Although this would be happening on St. Valentine's Day of all days, he still didn't want to get him any of those silly, lovey-dovey gifts they'd no doubt be selling. Not only did he see the whole thing as just a complete waste of time and doubloons, he also thought that it would be better to get him something simple anyway. He figured that the slower he broke his feelings to the Captain, the less surprised he would be at the idea, and the more pleasant his answer would be when the time came, regardless on what it turned out to be. He could then at least say that he finally got it all out, and it wouldn't be a total loss after all. Indeed, the more he thought about it, the more the Pirate with a Scarf warmed up to the idea.
Feeling a fresh sense of zeal starting to grow within him, he smiled confidently to himself before heading back below decks to his own cabin. Closing the door behind him, he stripped down to his undergarments and climbed into his hammock. He blew out out the lantern that swung from a hook on the wall, before settling down as comfortably as he could, unable to stop smiling to himself. Even though he still wasn't sure about the perfect present to get his Captain, he was so full of hope that he was still smiling as he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
The next morning, the sun was shining brightly and the crew were all sitting out on deck, singing a rousing shanty, with the Pirate with a Scarf at the wheel as usual. He couldn't help but smile as he listened to his friends' loud singing which drowned out the highly irritating caws of the seagulls which flew along in the same general direction the ship was going, his eyes only on the choppy blue sea ahead of them. Despite the fact that his least favourite holiday had now come, he couldn't help but feel that his heart was lifted somewhat from the pep talk the Pirate Captain had given him the night before, and was still hoping that whatever gift he chose, it would be something that would make his Captain very happy indeed.
He was interrupted from his thoughts when he heard the Pirate who Likes Sunsets and Kittens shouting, “Land hooooooo!!!!” from the crow's nest. Picking up his trusty telescope, the Pirate with a Scarf peered through it and saw Blood Island ahead of them. His smile grew wider; they were almost there.
Although it only took them about an hour to reach Blood Island after that, to the Pirate with a Scarf, it felt like a whole day, his rekindled vigour growing the closer they got to it. But soon, they were finally there and he fought to suppress the enthusiastic smirk tugging at both corners of his mouth as he carefully steered the ship into the docks. He was thankful that the little elderly fisherman was not in the way this time, as he always felt really horrible every time he couldn't row out of the way fast enough to avoid getting his precious little boat crushed under the weight of the huge ship. He was even more thankful at not hearing the usual scream of agony when the Pirate who Likes Sunsets and Kittens flung the anchor overboard. Coming down the stairs to join his friends on the deck, he watched as the Pirate with Gout and the Albino Pirate both threw out the wooden gangplank between the ship and the docks before they all descended onto the streets of Blood Island.
Noticing that his friends were already heading in the direction of the Barnacle's Face, the Pirate with a Scarf said, “Listen, lads. You all start without me. I'm going to take a stroll around the island for a bit, but I'll join you all for a pint of grog later on, okay?”
“Fair enough,” answered the Pirate with Gout, smiling. “See you later, Pirate with a Scarf.”
“See you later, lads,” he replied as they went their separate ways, feeling rather pleased that he was able to distract them all from his real mission.
Just as he had suspected, the majority of the shoppes he visited were decorated with all sorts of Valentine's Day objects – with a piratical twist, of course. On the walls were nailed posters which resembled Blackbeard's infamous Jolly Roger of a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear. But it was the stock on the shelves that made the Pirate with a Scarf roll his eyes and chuckle quietly from time to time. The cards had some of the most terrible piratical puns on them like, “Be my matey!”, “Be my lubber!”, “You arrrrgh my Valentine,”, “I treasure ye,”, “I'm hooked on ye,”, “You've captured me hearty,” and other things like that. The shelves, too, were filled with all kinds of booty: miniature treasure chests filled with little red and pink heart-shaped jewels, figurines of mermaids with long, sparkling red tails, their end fins also shaped like hearts, even skulls with red and pink heart-shaped patches over one eye socket. Among these were also plaques with sappy poems written in pirate talk. Out of these, his personal favourite, if you could call it that, was one that went:
Rubies are red,
Sapphires are blue,
But above all of these,
My greatest treasure is you.
But however perfect these gifts may seem for most pirate lovers, they still didn't seem perfect enough for the Pirate with a Scarf. They just seemed like they would be just obvious, even to the Pirate Captain. So he was glad to see that some of the shelves still had their usual stock up for sale.
Scanning these shelves very carefully, the Pirate with a Scarf's eyes fell upon something which immediately caught his attention: a white mug with the words, “World's Best Captain” printed on the side in red ink. Perfect.
Nodding in satisfaction, the Pirate with a Scarf picked up the little mug and took it over to the counter. Thankfully it was only a couple of doubloons so he didn't have to haggle with the merchant. Feeling extremely pleased with himself, he hurried to the Barnacle's Face, where he joined his friends for a pint or two of grog and another round of shanty singing, though he was careful not to let them see the bag which contained his gift.
That evening, the Pirate with a Scarf knew that the time to make his move was upon him. While the rest of the crew had already retired to their hammocks, he knew that the Pirate Captain would still be up, probably looking over some of his old maps or something. However, as he sat in his own cabin, staring at the mug in his hands, a feeling of apprehension started growing within him, replacing the excitement and determination he had that morning. He had thought he had prepared himself for whatever reaction his Captain might give. However, as the time finally came upon him to carry out his task, he just couldn't seem to lift himself from his chair. He was more unsure than ever of what the Captain would say. This whole thing was the Captain's idea after all, so who was to say that he wouldn't know instantly what the Pirate with a Scarf was hoping to achieve by giving him this gift? He started to tremble as he found that a little piece of himself was actually hoping that his Captain wouldn't take the hint. The dreadful possibilities which could result from this were now coming back to haunt him, making him feel queasy as he turned to face his cabin door. Was this really such a good idea, after all? Would the results be good, disastrous or fruitless? He simply had no idea, and each second that passed made him all the more terrified.
Now, pull yourself together, man! he scolded in his head, mentally slapping himself repeatedly across the face. This could be your one and only chance to find out just how the Captain really feels about you, and dammit, you are going to take it, or else spend the rest of your life wondering!
So, without thinking anymore about it, he stood up, ignoring the wobbliness of his legs, and made his way towards the door. Opening it, he peeked outside to make sure that the coast was clear, before taking a lantern from the bulkhead next to the door and began to slowly make his way through the darkness towards the stairs which led to the deck. Surprisingly, with every step he took, his determination to at least get this over and done with seemed to be returning to him, extinguishing his fear.
He climbed the stairs and opened the hatch before stepping up onto the deck, shivering a little as he was hit with the cool night air. Ignoring it, he took a quick look around, acknowledging the sea on one side, even darker than the night before without the bright full moon to illuminate the sky, and the dimly lit streets of Blood Island on the other, noticing only a few pirates still wandering the cobbled streets, before turning and making his way towards the door to the Pirate Captain's cabin. Holding the mug behind his back, he stopped, bent down and peered one eye through the keyhole. There, he could just make out his Captain, at the very back of his cabin, sitting at his desk and concentrating on what must've been a map, just as he suspected.
Well, it's now or never.
He straightened himself up and forced a smile onto his face. Once he was sure he was ready, he carefully placed his lantern down before, hesitantly, reaching his fist out and knocking on the door.
“Come in!” came the call from within, causing him to automatically turn the doorknob and enter, nearly stumbling over his own feet as he did so.
“Ah, Number Two!” exclaimed the Pirate Captain, his whole face lighting up as he caught sight of him.
The Pirate with a Scarf gave out a half-nervous, half-friendly laugh. “Good evening, Captain!” he replied, fighting to conceal his anxiety.
“Good to see you're feeling better,” smiled the Pirate Captain.
“Th-thank you, Captain,” he stammered. He was just so nervous that he couldn't bring himself to look directly at the Pirate Captain. So he ended up turning to see Polly perched fast asleep on the globe next to the Captain's desk. The sight of her sleepy smiling face calmed him a little and his fake smile changed into a genuine one as he felt himself begin to relax again.
“Um, Number Two, what's that you've got behind your back?” asked the Pirate Captain.
Snapping back into reality, the Pirate with a Scarf froze for a couple of seconds. Now. Now, he had to do it.
“I-I, er...” he stuttered again, his heart beginning to pound inside his chest. “I... got a little present for you today, Captain,”
As he said this, he brought his hand round to reveal the mug. Taking it over to the desk, he bit his bottom lip as he handed it to the Pirate Captain. The Captain took it from him and examined it very closely as the Pirate with a Scarf took a couple of steps backward and clasped together his hands, now clammy with sweat, grimacing with anxiety. However, after a few seconds, the Captain chuckled. “I say, that's rather nice.”
All the fear that was in the Pirate with a Scarf's heart was replaced with hope. “So...” he began, still a little afraid of what answer he would receive. “So you like it then?”
The Pirate Captain looked up at him with a warm smile on his face. “Love it, more like, Number Two!”
His jaw dropped a little. “Gosh... Really?”
The Captain chuckled again. “Why, of course! This really is the nicest present anyone has ever given me! It certainly tops any chest cram packed full of treasure anyhow. Thank you, Number Two. I really do appreciate it.”
The Pirate with a Scarf couldn't stop the huge smile that spread across his face at that moment. The captain actually loved the present he had given him! So, would that also mean that he loved him, too?
He wanted so desperately to ask him, but hesitated when the Captain looked back down at the map spread out in front of him. That was when the hope in his heart began to slip away. However, he still felt the need to ask him.
The Pirate Captain looked up again. “Yes, Number Two?”
“Is there -?” he began, but stopped himself, seeing then in that instant that there was no point. The painful reality had now slapped him in the face. The Captain completely missed the point of his gift. In all honesty, the Pirate with a Scarf really wasn't all that surprised. Knowing the Pirate Captain, he had probably already forgotten his own advice from the night before.
The Pirate with a Scarf merely sighed sadly before saying, “Nothing. Just... you're welcome.” Turning away towards the door, he added, “Good night, Captain.”
The Pirate Captain smiled again and replied, “Good night, Number Two,” before going back to his map as the Pirate with a Scarf slowly walked out of the cabin, closing the door behind him.
Leaning against the door, the Pirate with a Scarf let out deep sigh. Though this time, it wasn't just a sigh of sadness; there was also some relief in there, too. He had finally done it. He had finally left a hint to his beloved Captain of his feelings for him, and although the Captain was completely blind to it, at least he now had an answer. But he still loved his present so that was something, wasn't it?
Well, the deed was done now.
Happy Valentine's Day, Pirate Captain, he thought as a tear fell from his eye and ran down his cheek. Quickly brushing it away, he decided then to just go back down below decks to his own cabin.