Sealed in Blood and Saltwater

[Because it’s National Coming Out Day today, apparently (not sure whose ‘national’ we’re talking here, but it serves well enough as a prompt), and I realised that I’d not actually written the point at which Archer found out that Sabbat was trans. Or, more specifically, the point that Sabbat realised that Archer knew and confronted him about it.
This takes place a good few years before the start of
Blood on the Snow, back when the two of them were crewmates on board a pirate/privateer ship (depending on whose definition you were going by at the time)
For additional context, the worldbuilding post about transitioning in Sacaan]

“So,” Sabbat said, once the silence had dragged on long enough to be suffocating. “Y’saw it, then.”

It wasn’t a question, and Archer was smart enough not to take it as one – he nodded, once, but said nothing.



Fucking spit it out and have done with it, why don’t you? “We goin’ t’have a problem?”

Archer blinked – or, at least, closed his eye for a second. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said, we goin’ t’have a problem?” His fingers itched – with an effort of will, he kept his hand away from the razor and flat on the table in front of him. Ain’t drawing steel on him. Not yet.

“Yes, I heard you. And no, I don’t believe we are – at least, unless you’re planning on killing me for it.”

This time it was Sabbat’s turn to blink. “Don’t reckon it’d fuckin’ stick,” he managed, after a while. “An’ I ain’t plannin’ on slittin’ your throat on account of you seein’ somethin’ you shouldn’t. Less you’re plannin’ on tellin’ the rest of ’em.”

Archer’s eye narrowed, the unburned side of his brow furrowing. “Gods, no. If someone’s done that to you-“

“No-one you know, an’ no-one who’s goin’ t’be tellin’ anyone anythin’ else.” It’d been a betrayal he’d almost expected, but it had stung all the same. Though he suspected the sting of his blade across the bastard’s throat had likely been sharper. “Y’swear t’me you ain’t goin’ t’tell, an’ we’re square.”

“I swear,” Archer said. He leant forward, placing his hand carefully on top of Sabbat’s own, and looking him dead in the eye. “On my honour, and in the sight of the gods, I will not tell another soul without your agreement.”

Pretty words, but he sounds like he fucking means them. And swearing by the gods ain’t something his sort do if they’re minded to break that oath when it’s convenient.

Didn’t mean he didn’t want his own surety on the matter as well, mind. “An’ by the Lady.”


“Y’swore by the gods, an’ that’s fine an’ good. But you’ll swear by the Lady, too, an’ bind it in blood and water while you’re about it.”

The corner of Archer’s mouth twitched, just a little. “Of course. Your knife or mine?”

“Mine.” The razor might not have been a traditional belt knife, but it had more weight and worth than any other blade he’d bought, borrowed or stolen over the years he’d spent both on the streets and at sea. “Here.”

Look at that. Leeches bleed just like anyone else.

The vampire’s blood welled red and glistening from the back of his hand – he wiped the razor on his handkerchief, folded it closed, and handed it back to Sabbat with a nod that was halfway a bow. “Do you have some seawater to hand?”

If the situation had been less serious, Sabbat would’ve made a crack about them being surrounded by the stuff. But this was too fucking important to be making a joke of, even if Archer’d been a fuck of a lot better about the whole business than he’d been expecting. (And what were you going to do if he hadn’t been? a treacherous part of his mind whispered. Break his nose and then get yourself flogged for attacking the damn quartermaster?)

The flask of seawater he’d put aside for prayer was still where he’d left it, tumbled in amongst the shirts and linens in the top of his sea-chest. He pulled it free and tossed it across to Archer, who caught it one handed with a flicker of a smile.

“By the Lady?”

“By the Lady. Assumin’ y’know who she is.”

“Oh, I know.” He unscrewed the lid and poured a trickle of seawater over the cut on the back of his hand, wincing just a little as the salt stung the open wound. “I swear by the unnamed goddess and the unbuilt temple, by the loaded die and the hidden blade, and by She whose breath turns aside the knife that I will keep what I know to myself and myself alone unless you agree that I should do otherwise.”

Something twisted oddly in the centre of Sabbat’s chest. He’d expected the quartermaster to hold at least some regard for Her – most pirates and privateers did, unless they were dangerously arrogant or complete fucking idiots – but the fact that Archer knew the right words… that, he hadn’t expected.

Then again, he’d not expected the other man to wade into a burning wreck and pull him out of danger seconds before the sodding thing sank, had he? Even if it had meant he’d seen more of Sabbat’s skin than anyone on the ship was ever supposed to.

“Are we square?” Archer asked, looking up. The way he said it sounded odd – not a quartermaster talking to a rank and file sailor (and one who’d been flogged more than once for insubordination and back-talk, at that), but more like someone talking to an equal, and an equal they’d wronged at that.

“We’re square,” Sabbat told him. He took hold of the vampire’s unburned hand and shook it, hard. “An’ now y’know.”

“I do. And if anyone makes a comment about…” He gestured vaguely.

“Folks like me?”


Sabbat grinned. “Then I’ll fuckin’ deck ’em an’ y’can have me up for fightin’ again, same as always.”

“I see,” the vampire said, with an answering smile of his own. “Though I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t also deal with whoever it was that made the comment in the first place. After you’ve finished with them, of course.”

“‘course.” He could take care of himself – he’d had to for most of his life, after all – but he couldn’t help feeling an odd kind of warmth building in his chest at the idea that Archer’d be willing to step in for him. Y’know, I reckon this might work out after all.

Copyright © 2021 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

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