Forgiveness

Pairing: Eleanor/Max

Fandom: Black Sails

Author: KJ

Disclaimer: I don't own Black Sails, Max, Eleanor or anything connected with it. This is merely for entertainment and to exorcise my poor Eleanor feels.

Spoilers: Season 1 and first episode or two of S2.

Summary: Max realizes that lingering heartbreak is absolutely nothing in the face of seeing how much she really was loved.

Author's Note:

This is my first story for Eleanor and Max. I really wasn't sure I wanted to write one because I haven't seen all the episodes and didn't want to ruin anything, but to my shock there is a GLARING lack of stories for this tragically beautiful couple so I just couldn't help myself.

Apologetic warning: This may be totally out of character and some details may be wrong. Unfortunately I don't have STARZ so this was inspired entirely by all the clips, the .gifs and the stories I've seen for this pairing and all the feels it generated. I apologize for any inconsistencies, spelling and/or grammar errors and if any French I used was incorrect. I didn't really do much to emphasize Max's accent because it's so hard to really capture. I did the best I could with Bonny's accent.

NOTE: I did take artistic license with Max's rescue because I would have loved Eleanor having taken part herself and showing she will get her hands dirty. Sorry if it doesn't really fit. I hope you like. (Lotta swears in this one)

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

The loud pounding finally ripped its way through Eleanor Guthrie's rum soaked mind and she reluctantly lifted her head off the desk she'd been sleeping on, groaning as the room began to spin. She glared at the mostly empty bottle of rum beside her as she tried to pull her muddled thoughts together.

The knocking came again even louder. "Motherfucker," Eleanor snarled, vowing who ever dared disturb her would sorely regret it. She got to her feet and on a whim grabbed the bottle and stumbled to the door, her throat tightening when she saw her visitor.

"What the fuck do you want?" She managed.

The anger that had driven Max all the way to Eleanor's office was replaced by shock when the door was yanked violently open. Eleanor looked worse than Max had ever seen her. Her beautiful face was smudged with either ink, dirt or possibly bruises, if not all three. Her once silky blonde hair which was usually restrained in a bun so tight Max wondered how she didn't have a constant headache, was sticking up in a wild tangled mess and the stains on her dirty blouse told Max the blonde had spilled nearly as much rum on herself as she had swallowed and never bothered to change the clothes that now hung off her too thin frame.

What shocked Max the most were Eleanor's eyes. Eyes that were once a vibrant expressive blue and had so often gazed at Max as if she were the most beautiful thing in the world, were now bloodshot and lifeless and it shook Max to the core. However, she couldn't deny there was a small unwelcome part of her that reveled in the woman's distress and that was what had her pushing aside any concern and glaring at the blonde.

"Max has come to tell you that she did not like how you spoke to her earlier."

"Christ, stop doing that," Eleanor spat. "Stop talking like you're some different person not even in the room." The once intoxicating affectation had become too painful for Eleanor to stand because she could still hear the throaty erotic whispers in her ear, telling her of all the things that 'Max 'was going to do to her.

"Fine," Max retorted, trying not to feel hurt by the unexpected hostility. "I will not have you disrespecting me in front of my partners and my girls. I deserve to be treated with the same respect that you demand."

Eleanor released a burst of laughter that bordered on hysteria and Max felt her first flicker of fear of this unknown and severely inebriated woman.

"You want respect?" Eleanor exclaimed, wiping tears that had nothing to do with amusement from her cheeks.

"That is fucking hilarious. You steal my leads and undermine me at every turn, ruining my business and my name and I'm supposed to just fucking roll over and thank you for it? Well fuck you Max," she slurred, her heart cracking with every word she couldn't keep from speaking.

"We aren't lovers, we aren't even fucking friends. You've made that bloody clear often enough, so that just leaves you as one more person on this bloody fucking rock that wants to see me burn and I'm going to treat you the same as I would anyone else who gets in my way."

For one moment, Eleanor's listless eyes flashed with an anguish so deep Max felt her resolve waiver. Despite her lingering anger, Max found herself deeply worried.

"I don't want you to burn Eleanor," she said softly. I just…

"No!" Eleanor interrupted, flinging her hand out so quickly, rum splashed from the bottle. "You want to destroy me. You hate me and I get it, but your little plan didn't just cost me a shitload of money, it also cost an entire crew of innocent fucking men their lives. They were butchered by the asshole YOU sold the information to. And now Low's got his fucking foot on my fucking neck just waiting for the chance to slit my throat. Do you even fucking care?"

Max swallowed the bile Eleanor's words caused. It was bad enough knowing men had been slaughtered because of her but knowing Eleanor could very easily be killed by the very devil she'd made the bargain with, made her sick. She admitted to herself that she had initially gotten a perverse satisfaction at seeing Eleanor's sad longing looks and her constant attempts at apology. This shattered Eleanor, however…she was breaking Max's heart and Max found herself struggling to regain the upper hand.

"You do not get to…"

"No, YOU don't get to," Eleanor interrupted angrily, swaying slightly on her feet. "I know I fucked up and ruined your life Max. I will live with that knowledge the rest of my pathetic life, however long that may be, but I had no idea you hated me so much you wanted me dead," her voice cracked and she took a long swig of rum hoping to regain her composure.

Max closed her eyes at that. Every slurred word had been a knife in her heart and she finally let herself see what she hadn't wanted or ever expected to. Eleanor Guthrie, a woman who faced down the most evil, blood thirsty pirates to sail the seas without flinching was totally broken and it was because of her. And despite everything, it hurt Max unbearably to realize it. She hadn't known she held so much power over this woman.

"Oh Eleanor," she said softly, reaching out to take the bottle from Eleanor.

"No," Eleanor spat, pulling away so sharply she nearly fell on her face. "You got what you wanted Max so congratulations. I've got nothing. NOTHING. Any allies I had are gone and I'm a fucking joke all over the bloody island. I'm all alone again and there's not one single person on this fucking rock that gives two shits if I live or die. I spend every fucking second of every fucking day fighting to keep control of the only thing I have left and I'll be damned straight to hell before I let you take that from me too."

Tears stung Max's eyes as she saw the nearly hysterical woman coming close to a breakdown and she had no idea what to do.

"I do not want to take anything from you," Max said honestly. "All I want is…"

"Get out," Eleanor interrupted, wanting nothing more than to be alone so she could drink herself into unconsciousness and maybe get a few minutes of sleep.

"Eleanor, please," Max reached out.

"GET OUT!" Eleanor shouted.

Max left, flinching when she heard the door slam behind her. Guilt ate at her as she made her way back to her room, the sound of a lonely broken scream coming from behind the closed door had tears streaming down Max's face but she didn't look back. She couldn't.

MMMMMMMMMM

"Jesus, Guthrie's gone to shit," Anne Bonny commented mildly as she took a long swig of her drink. Max, who was sitting far closer to her new pirate lover than could be seen as innocent, looked over to the bar. The tavern was as crowded as it ever was but Eleanor sat at the bar with the other patrons leaving a glaring space between them and her. It was clear to Max that once again Eleanor was drunk to the point of being barely able to sit upright. They hadn't spoken since the night Eleanor had kicked her out of her office, but for the last five nights in a row she would end up in the tavern drinking herself into oblivion and Max had done nothing but watch and mourn the loss of a once fiercely proud spirit.

"It does look that way," Max agreed sadly.

Anne gave a grunt of irritation. "Cunt needs to pull 'er head out of her arse or this shithole will go straight to hell right along with 'er."

Just then, Eleanor seemed to sense she was being talked about. She turned her head, her eyes instinctively finding the one person she couldn't escape no matter how hard she tried. She blinked to clear the blurriness and met Max's exotic dark eyes, not even trying to convince herself that what she saw was concern. Then she noticed the redhead Max was all but sitting on and her heart shattered all over again. She knew the Madam and the pirate were fucking. The whole goddamned island knew and took great pleasure in throwing it in her face. She felt her lips curl mockingly and she decided she'd had enough. She pulled her eyes away and began to search the crowded tavern searching amongst the filthy patrons. She finally noticed one painfully young pirate, barely twenty if a day and slightly cleaner than the rest and she got to her feet, grabbing the bar to steady herself.

"Now what the bleeding fuck is she doin'?"

Max was about to tease the usually indifferent pirate about her sudden bout of curiosity when she realized what Eleanor was doing. She watched in growing irritation as the blonde approached the young pirate who was looking as if he was about to be executed. She heard the vulgar insults being tossed at Eleanor and it surprised her. She had no idea Eleanor's reputation had fallen so low that pirates who used to tremble in fear of this woman, now had no problem laughing at her and it frightened her that Eleanor didn't even bother to respond. She continued to watch as Eleanor said something to the young man drawing louder laughs, The pirate nodded and then cheers broke out when Eleanor took his hand and led him toward her office, her eyes glued to Max's and with a sneer on her lips.

"Looks like she's done sniffin' after ya like ya wanted," Anne said with a hint of amusement.

"Max has no interest in what she does or who she fucks," Max sniffed. The snort coming from her companion caused her to stiffen defensively.

"Then why do ya look like someone pissed in yer breakfast?"

Max sighed in surrender. "I had no idea things were so bad," she said fighting every instinct that was pushing her to go after her former lover and try and shake sense into the once formidable woman.

"Can't says I'm surprised," Anne said negligently. "Her life's shit. Her little plan to get them other fences to fall under thumb blew up, half her shit was pinched from her own warehouse because that bleedin' scumbag Vane stabbed her in the back, she ain't got any friends and the one she had don't want nothin' to do with her. Seems to me she just don't give a fuck no more."

Max flinched. "I did this to her," Max said almost to herself and the thought made her sick.

"Yeah kinda," Anne agreed in her painfully blunt fashion, "but the way I figure, she made a lot of cocked up choices that caused it and one of those was not telling you the truth about who saved yer ass."

"What are you talking about?"

Anne sighed. This is why she kept to herself. She hated being drug into peoples shit. "I'm talkin' about the fact that yer walkin' around free because of 'er," she said brusquely.

"I don't understand."

Anne rolled her eyes. "You think I took out those fuckin' rabid dogs guardin' ya by meself? I ain't that stupid."

"Eleanor?" Max whispered in shock.

"It was 'er plan and 'er men. And she's the one who gutted that pig Hammond 'erself, after she cut 'is shriveled up nuts off. He begged and cried like a bitch for a fuckin' hour 'e did," Anne's lips lifted in a rare show of respect.

Max couldn't have been more surprised if Vane and Flint had started fucking in the middle of the tavern. "Eleanor…she did that for me?"

"Yep. Nearly got 'er own throat cut for 'er troubles too."

"Why…why would she do that?" Max didn't even want to imagine Eleanor lying dead on the sand.

"Who the hell knows why the cunt does anything?" Anne replied casually.

Max was relieved she was sitting because she knew her knees would have given out at that revelation. "Mon dieu," she breathed. "Why did she not tell me this?"

Anne shrugged and took another swig of her drink. "Would it 'ave changed anything or 'ow you felt about 'er?"

"At the time? No," she admitted, despair and regret at how she had so misjudged the quietly proud woman nearly choking her.

"Well then why would she waste her bloody time tellin' ya somethin' you didn't want to hear?"

Max wasn't prepared for the guilt she began to feel. "She could have told me later."

Anne just scoffed. "Yeah? Not thinkin' she had a chance what with you avoidin' her or lookin' at her like you wanted to cut her tits off."

"Merde" Max breathed.

"'Sides, the cunt's always been half stupid where you're concerned and has this irritating 'abit of tryin' to be all gallant 'n shit. She wouldn't 'ave told you even if you put a gun to 'er fuckin' 'ead and asked 'er outright."

"God damn that woman," Max sighed heavily, the sorrow in her voice belying the harshness of her words.

Anne barked out a laugh, "You ain't the first to say so. So why are ye still here?"

"What are you talking about?" she asked distractedly.

"Why ain't you goin' after your woman?"

"Anne…" Max was torn. She desperately wanted to follow the dejected woman currently easing her loneliness with the first stranger that caught her fancy, but she had no desire to hurt the pirate beside her who had been her only protector while she was at sea.

"Look Max, we 'ad fun and it ain't been 'orrible 'aving you to talk to," she muttered reluctantly and Max knew better than to even reply or risk sending the aloof woman back behind her walls. "But I always knew yer still panting after Guthrie no matter what you say and I aims to get Jack back in my bed sooner than he thinks, so ya don't need to try 'n spare my feelings cuz I don't have none."

Even knowing that anyone else who attempted it would lose a hand, Max reached out to touch Anne's face.

"You say you have no feelings?" Max repeated and then offered a tender smile. "Max will not dare call you a liar because Max wishes to continue living," she teased, thrilled when she got a gruff snort from the surly young woman. "I shall be here for you always," she said, not letting Anne look away.

Part of Anne wanted to push this woman away from her before she wound up a drunk pathetic mess like Guthrie. She didn't do feelings or friendships or any of that just to avoid this specific fuck up but something about this woman got to her and she suddenly had a bit more sympathy for the irritating blonde.

"Like a bad case of scurvy I reckon," she muttered, uncomfortable with Max's sincerity even if she did secretly appreciate it. Suddenly she spied a familiar face and what little interest she had in Eleanor Guthrie's business flew out the window.

"Yeah I got something that needs doin'" she said abruptly. "You need to go tell that puppy with yer woman to find another leg to hump," she ordered pushing Max to her feet, "I'm getting my man."

Max watched Anne head directly to where Jack Rackham stood, smiling at the pirate's almost frightened expression as the fiery pirate confronted him. Surprisingly it only took seconds for a smug grin to cross his face as he followed the bossy woman through the tavern without argument.

Then her focus turned to her own mission and she swallowed hard. She still had nightmares about everything that had happened to her, but what haunted her just as much and the reason she'd been so unwilling to forgive Eleanor was the memory of how pathetically she'd bared her soul to the stubborn woman and Eleanor just seemed to throw Max aside. Max had been on her knees pleading for Eleanor to give up her life in Nassau and run away with her. She had desperately declared her love and with two horrible fucking words 'come in', Eleanor just spit it back in her face. Max was left to believe she hadn't loved her at all. Had never loved her but now Max couldn't deny just how horribly wrong she had been.

Seeing Eleanor's decline into alcohol and depression, the obvious signs the woman was rarely eating or sleeping and now, knowing how much she had risked to save her, told Max that she may have been very wrong and Max was not about to let the blonde give her body to some incompetent enfant who wouldn't begin to know how to appreciate its magnificence. Not the way Max could.

Despite knowing it was hypocritical, Max stormed towards Eleanor's office, ignoring the looks and comments from the pirates sober enough to know where she was going.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

"Mistress Guthrie?"

Henry Walters stared at the woman slumped on the floor against her desk with horror. He had been shocked into speechlessness when the infamous black-marketer had approached him and asked if was interested in a free fuck. She was without doubt a good looking woman, but she was also so drunk she could barely stand. He had to admit it intimidated him. She intimidated him. Even with her reputation in shreds there were still many who feared her and Henry was one of them. Only the taunts from his shipmates had him agreeing to her offer and he promptly found himself being dragged through the tavern.

Once they arrived, Eleanor had kissed him hard and for a moment he let himself enjoy his first taste of a woman in over a year but then she started yanking at his pants, and muttering something about finding someone who wanted her. He felt as if he might as well not even be there. Then she looked at him, eyes glazed from alcohol and leaned back against her desk in an attempt to be seductive he guessed, but to him, it just looked like she was trying to remain standing. Her efforts failed and before he could move she slid down to the floor and passed out.

"Shit, shit, shit," he muttered beginning to panic. What if she was dead? He looked around and sighed in relief when he saw a sofa in the corner of the office. He walked over to her and reached down to lift her into his arms when the door burst open.

"If you wish to live to fuck your first woman, you will get your hands off 'er," Max warned coldly.

"Wait, she passed out," Henry insisted anxiously. "I was just moving her to the sofa." He found himself suddenly more afraid of the brothel Madam in front of them then his own Captain.

"Then do so and then get the fuck out."

Henry happily complied and not giving two shits if his crew mocked him the rest of his life, he hurried out of the office as fast as he could, buckling his pants as he went.

Once the boy was gone, Max closed the door and locked it. She quickly went to Eleanor's side and knelt beside the sofa. Eleanor was turned toward her and Max fought a sob as she noticed how pale and gaunt she had become. Even in sleep there was a worry line between once elegant eyebrows and it made Max want to cry.

"Oh Eleanor, what have you done to yourself," she whispered, reaching out to caress Eleanor's cheek. "What have I done to you?"

"Max…"

Max started at the sound of her name but saw Eleanor was still unconscious and it caused an ache in her heart to know that even in drunken oblivion Eleanor's thoughts were of her.

"I'm here," she said softly, thumb trailing over full lips that could utter some of the vilest curses ever spoken yet be so gentle and passionate.

"Je suis vraiment desole je vous ai blesses," she whispered and leaned forward to place her lips against Eleanor's forehead. "I am so very sorry I hurt you. When you are awake once more, we will talk," she promised softly. "I still love you Eleanor and you will never be alone again, this I swear with all my heart."

Shifting to get a little more comfortable, Max leaned her head against the arm of the sofa next to Eleanor's and took her hand. She didn't care if she wasn't able to walk the next morning, she would never leave this woman's side again.

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Eleanor didn't want to open her eyes. She knew the blinding headache and nausea that awaited if she so much as even moved, but something felt strange and her body was one giant ache. She slowly opened one eye and then the other and instantly regretted it.

"Son of a mother fucking bitch," she groaned, clutching her head and clamping her eyes shut. Soft laughter in her ear had her jerking up right and then swallowing hard to keep from throwing up. She turned her head and gasped when she saw the last person she'd ever expected sitting on the floor next to the couch.

"Max? What…"she swallowed again and grabbed her head, looking around in confusion. "Why are you here?"

Max hated seeing Eleanor so pale and sick, but she couldn't help but remember how sweet the blonde was when she first woke up.

"We have things to discuss you and I," she said and then gracefully got to her feet and sat beside Eleanor on the sofa. She tried not to wince when Eleanor shifted away from her almost as if she were afraid.

"I think everything's been said already," Eleanor mumbled and rose to her feet, forcing herself not to groan as the room began to spin. She stumbled to her desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a bottle.

"No more of that mon cher," Max said stepping beside Eleanor and quickly taking the bottle.

"I told you to stay out of my business," Eleanor said gruffly but she didn't try to take the bottle back.

"I can't do that any longer Eleanor. I won't."

"Why?" Eleanor turned to her tormenter. "Why won't you leave me be so I can move on."

Max's eyes stung at the pleading in Eleanor's voice but she wouldn't back down. "Because you aren't moving on," she said softly. "You are drowning Eleanor and it is breaking my heart."

Eleanor's throat tightened and she fought not to cry as she looked away, unable to meet the probing gaze. "You hate me. Why would you care?"

Max reached out and pulled Eleanor's face back to hers. "I care because I love you," she said softly.

Eleanor shook her head. "No. You've made it clear that you can't even stand the sight of me."

"I was angry," Max agreed and she shifted to where she had the taller blonde pinned against her desk. "I believed that you did not care for me as I did you. That you were throwing my love back in my face and that hurt more than anything that came after."

Eleanor stared in horror at the woman in front of her. "Of course I loved you Max! I…I know I didn't say it and I should have but I… I've never loved anyone before. I didn't know how," she cried. "I tried to show you. You were the only one I let in. Ever. That was the only way I knew to show you."

Max lifted her hands and cupped Eleanor's face, her thumb wiping away a loan tear. "I understand that now," she said softly, "I've always known you aren't one to openly share your feelings and I know that you did so with me so many times. I am so very sorry that I let my pride and my hurt blind me to that."

At the feel of Max's soft, warm hands on her face, Eleanor's knees began to tremble so badly she clutched the desk to keep her standing as well as to keep from reaching out and touching her. "You don't have to…"

Max's fingers moved to Eleanor's lips to stop her protest. "I do. Now kindly let me finish," she said with a gentle smile which grew as Eleanor sighed in surrender. She had forgotten how often and how easily the blonde gave into her.

"What happened…it is in the past. I was angry at you yes but I didn't know how devastated you had been. At the time, I wanted you to feel the same pain of rejection that I felt but I never…NEVER wanted you dead," her voice broke at that, remembering Eleanor's accusation from the night before. "I never wanted to see you this broken."

"Why did you go to Low?" Eleanor whispered.

Max backed away. "I believe this conversation will take some time. I am going to go prepare some tea and you are going to go have a bath."

Eleanor frowned. "What makes you think I…"

"At the risk of hurting your feelings Eleanor, you smell," Max interrupted with a smile and she chuckled at the resulting blush. Her smile faded as she lifted Eleanor's hand. "Please, go. I will wait for you and then we will talk."

Eleanor desperately struggled against the hope that started to fill her but as always she was compelled to do as Max asked. "Alright," she agreed.

Max smiled in relief. "Merci," she said warmly. "I shall meet you back here in one hour oui?"

Eleanor sighed. "Oui."

Max was saddened by the wariness in Eleanor's expression, but the fact there was a sparkle of life back in the beautiful blue eyes gave her hope.

Having no idea what else to say, Eleanor left her office and headed back to her rooms.

Wondering how she had forgotten just how absolutely precious a pouting and confused Eleanor Guthrie was, Max went about arranging for a hot meal and breakfast to be prepared and brought to the study before she returned to her own room for a bath.

An hour later Max had just placed the tray of food on the desk while one of the girls from the brothel carried in a tea tray.

"Thank you Beatriz," Max said warmly. "And please ensure we are not disturbed until further notice. By anyone."

Beatriz nodded and left the office, knowing better than to question Max about what she was doing.

Max arranged the food on the desk and poured the tea. She was surprised and none too happy to discover her hands shaking. How could Eleanor Guthrie be the only person in the world who could do that to her?

Just then the door to her office flew open and Max jumped and spun around. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the panicked expression on Eleanor's face.

"Mon dieu, you give Max a fright," she said breathlessly.

"Oh. Sorry, I um…I wasn't sure that…." Eleanor stopped, her face burning.

"You weren't sure I would be here," she finished sadly and watched as Eleanor merely shrugged and closed the door behind her and locking it.

"No," Eleanor admitted. She started to walk further into the room but froze, for once unsure of what she was supposed to do. The smell of the food Max had brought caused her sensitive stomach to rebel and she swallowed a lingering bout of nausea.

"Oh poor Eleanor, you are feeling the effects of last night aren't you?" Max said kindly.

"Nothing that a little hair of the dog won't fix," Eleanor replied with a shy little smile, her eyes searching the office for any sign of even a partially full bottle.

"I've poured it out," Max said bluntly, knowing what Eleanor was looking for.

"Why?" Eleanor demanded.

Max was worried by Eleanor's instinctive reach for alcohol. She'd seen what became of people who fell into the bottle so deep they couldn't climb out and she couldn't bear to watch that happen to this proud woman. She wouldn't.

"Because you don't need it Eleanor," she said firmly, stepping close to the taller blonde and placing a hand on her cheek, ignoring the hurt when Eleanor flinched at the contact.

"You are merely lost right now and rum will not help you. I will."

Eleanor frowned, feeling desperately confused and as if she was still in a drunken stupor. "I don't understand."

Max trailed her thumb over Eleanor's lips and smiled. "I know you don't cheri, but you will. First you need to eat and have some tea."

"I'll puke," Eleanor warned uninterestedly, her mind still focused on the feel of Max's thumb on her lips and the desire to take the digit into her mouth.

It sometimes surprised and amused Max how a woman who looked as elegant as Eleanor managed to casually speak like the worst kind of sailor.

"Doubtful, but should you lose your breakfast, I will care for you. Now sit down and eat," she ordered.

"I forgot how bossy you are," Eleanor muttered but then sat at her desk while Max sat in the chair on the other side.

"It is part of my charm non?" Max teased as she began to eat.

They were silent as they ate, well Max ate. Eleanor just pushed her food around and tried not to be sick.

"You must eat," Max urged.

"I don't think I can," Eleanor protested and then sighed as Max's soft laughter filled her ears and broke the last bit of wall she'd built around her heart.

"I imagine not," Max agreed. "Your body has known very little except alcohol these last weeks and is apparently not happy with you."

Eleanor snorted. "Who is?"

Max studied the blonde for a moment. A bath had done wonders to Eleanor's pallor and her lovely hair had obviously been cleaned and was now pulled back loosely at her neck, but there was still a sadness that surrounded her.

"Eleanor, I…"

"Please don't," Eleanor said abruptly, looking up from her plate. "Don't apologize or god forbid, pity me. I can't stand it."

"Alright," Max agreed simply. She couldn't help but smile when 'awkward Eleanor' made a return and began shoveling eggs into her mouth, so nervous she forgot she was too hung over to appreciate it.

"Oh fuck I shouldn't have done that," Eleanor groaned, pushing her plate away and clutched her rebelling stomach.

Max was instantly on her feet and around the desk. "Come, let's step outside and get you some fresh air."

Max poured a cup of tea and shoved it into Eleanor's hand and led her out the doors to the small private balcony. She stood by quietly while Eleanor drank the tea and let her stomach settle. After a while, the sick look faded from Eleanor's face and she seemed to relax a little.

"Better?" Max asked gently.

"I would if it didn't feel like the entire English Navy was firing fucking canons in my bloody head."

"And you wouldn't be feeling the wrath of the English Navy if you hadn't drowned yourself in rum," Max scolded softly.

"Yeah, well…"Eleanor paused, knowing there was no real response she could make to that.

"I need to tell you why I did what I did," Max said quietly.

Eleanor cringed. She knew how much Max had hated her but she'd rather not hear it spoken out loud. "No, you don't need…"

"I'm going to tell you," Max interrupted gently but firmly. "Yes, part of it was revenge," she admitted, looking away from Eleanor's painfully expressive face. "I'm sorry but I must be honest."

"I understand," Eleanor replied sadly and she did, which is what made the whole thing so damned sad.

"Non, my love you do not," Max chided. "Spite was only a small part at the beginning, but the truth is that I wanted you to see me."

Eleanor turned to face Max, a frown on her face. "I did see you Max. I always have," she insisted.

"I know this now," Max assured her, "but I wanted to show you and I wanted to show myself and every filthy pirate in Nassau that I am more than just another whore."

"I have never seen you as a whore Max," Eleanor rushed to protest and Max placed her fingers over the full lips.

"Shh, love, I am not finished."

"Sorry," Eleanor muttered reluctantly and Max couldn't help but chuckle.

"I wanted to be your equal Eleanor. I'm sick of selling sex for a living. I want more."

"Max, why did you never say?" Eleanor asked, appalled.

"Because until I went away, I never believed I could," Max replied thoughtfully. "In a way, everything that happened to me helped me to become free and see who I was meant to be."

Eleanor stared at Max in horror. "You can't mean that."

"Come sit with Max," she said. "With me," she corrected, remembering Eleanor's words from the previous night.

"I didn't mean what I said," Eleanor said regretfully as she followed the pushy brunette into the study and back to the sofa.

"About what?"

"What I said last night. I love the way you talk," Eleanor explained, unable to meet Max's curious dark eyes, "it's just that you don't understand what it does to me when you speak that way."

Max's lips lifted in a knowing smile and she slid over until she was all but sitting in Eleanor's lap. "And just what does it do to you when Max speaks this way," she purred into Eleanor's ear and then chuckled at the blondes sharp intake of breath and the instant flush of her cheeks.

"Max," Eleanor whined.

"I am sorry mon cher," she lied as she smothered a laugh.

"You and Bonney are fucking," Eleanor blurted, desperately trying to keep from doing something that would get her face slapped.

Max placed a hand on Eleanor's cheek and pulled her face toward her. "Anne and I…I owe her more than can ever be spoken…"

"I know," Eleanor interrupted dully. "She saved you."

Max cocked her head. "She did," she agreed. "Though she did not do so alone did she?"

Eleanor's eyes widened. "What?"

"I know what you did that night Eleanor," Max said softly. She wasn't surprised when Eleanor attempted to look confused…and failed.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh sweet Eleanor," she smiled fondly. "You cannot lie to Max, you never could."

"I didn't really do anything," Eleanor insisted.

"I know this is not true," Max replied. Eleanor refused to look at her and Max smirked as she decided to do the one thing that never failed to capture the frustrating woman's attention. She got to her feet, lifted her skirts and quickly straddled Eleanor's lap. The look of fear on her face had Max laughing harder than she had in longer than she could remember and she reached out and took that precious, surprisingly fragile face in her hands.

"How can someone so fearsome be so incredibly adorable?"

Eleanor's blush deepened. "I'm not."

"Not what? Fierce or adorable?" Max teased.

"Either," Eleanor mumbled. She tried to look away but Max wasn't having it and kept her eyes looking upward.

"You are definitely adorable," Max insisted, "and you are still the fierce lioness who fights all who threaten what she loves. You are still the brave warrior who cut off a man's cock to protect the whore who turned her back on you," Max faltered at the pain of that reminder but she wasn't finished. "You are still that beautifully strong woman I fell in love with. You have simply lost her in the bottle and I am going to save her, the way you saved me."

"Why?" Eleanor had never been so confused in her life. "Why would you help me?"

Max stroked the sweet face looking at her and then knowing only one way to answer that would actually penetrate Eleanor Guthrie's thick head, she lowered her head and pressed her lips to Eleanor's. For one brief moment, Max nearly forgot her purpose as explicit memories of their few nights together flashed through her mind and she instantly deepened the kiss, sliding her tongue between the full lips that had parted in surprise.

Max kissed Eleanor until neither could breathe anymore and then she pulled away but only to move her lips to Eleanor's ear, where she began to nibble lightly. She knew the blonde beneath her was clenching at the sofa to keep from reaching out to her which both charmed Max and made her sad. Eleanor had never been a woman who shied away from taking what she wanted.

"Max needs you to touch her," she whispered in the husky voice that she knew made Eleanor wild.

"I can't," Eleanor whimpered. She'd never wanted anything more in her life than to slide her arms around the woman who was everything to her, but so many things kept her hands by her side.

"Please," Max urged, hands resting on Eleanor's neck. She could feel Eleanor's heartbeat beneath her fingers and it was racing so fast Max feared for the woman's wellbeing. "Do not be afraid. Touch me Eleanor."

Eleanor looked into eyes the color of blackest ink and for a moment she forgot how to breathe. She'd never seen anything as captivating as Max's eyes and knew she never would. They could have Eleanor surrendering everything she had or spilling every secret she possessed simply by looking at her.

Unable to do anything else, she lifted her violently trembling hands and placed them tentatively on Max's waist. Max's soft laughter had her swallowing, wondering if she was about to be rejected and told this was all some jest at her expense.

"Oh Eleanor, how does a lioness become a kitten with so little effort?" Max stroked Eleanor's blushing face and smiled.

"Is this…are you mocking me?" she asked warily.

Max was shocked. She hadn't expected that response though she supposed she should have. "No Eleanor, of course not," she assured the blonde. "I simply love to tease you and see the flustered look that nobody else ever gets to see."

"Oh," Eleanor stammered, giving Max the look she loved.

Max shifted deliberately on Eleanor's lap, thrilling as she watched light blue eyes turned nearly black. 'It has been far too long," she drawled, letting her hands slide down until they covered Eleanor's breast.

"Max," Eleanor hissed, the long denied pleasure of Max's touch was almost too much.

"Yes mon amour?" Max murmured distractedly, letting her fingers re-familiarize themselves with Eleanor's soft body before they reached up to the laces of her blouse.

"I...we can't." The words almost choked Eleanor as they came out.

Max froze. "Pourquoi? But why?" she asked sadly. 'Do you not want me?"

In response, Eleanor's hand flew up to clench in Max's hair as she pulled her down into a kiss so heated, Max could no longer doubt just how Eleanor felt about her.

"Of course I want you," Eleanor panted when she pulled away. "There is never a second of any day when I don't want you."

"Then why?"

Eleanor looked away. "For one thing, I'd rather not have Anne Bonny slitting my throat," she replied, unable to keep the jealousy from her voice.

"Eleanor, there is no need to be jealous," Max teased. "Anne and I…we were both hurting and what we shared was simply a friendship with…benefits. Right now I imagine she is keeping Rackham quite busy between her thighs."

"Really? They're back together?"

Unable to help herself, Max reached behind Eleanor and released her blond hair from its restraint, instantly sliding her fingers into the still damp stands and lightly massaging the scalp beneath. "They are much like us I think," she said absentmindedly, losing herself in every sensation where her body met Eleanor's and thrilling at the almost purr like sound coming from the woman beneath her.

"You think so?" Eleanor managed, thinking that if Max didn't stop moving against her, she wouldn't be responsible for her actions.

"Oui. The fights between them, the fire… it's all foreplay non? The passion will always bring them back to each other."

"More likely they know nobody else could tolerate them," Eleanor drawled, feeling a flash of triumph when she heard Max's beautiful laugh. A sound she had desperately missed.

"As I said, love, much like us." Max stroked Eleanor's face and her smile faded. "I can never stay away from you Eleanor. Like the sea is drawn to the sand, I will forever come back to you."

"I don't deserve it," Eleanor choked out.

"And that is your greatest flaw, my love," Max said softly. "I finally understand now. You do not believe you are worthy of love or that anyone can love you and I blame that bastard father of yours for that. You believe your only value is this place, but it's not," she said fiercely.

"Max," Eleanor wasn't sure if wanted to hear any more.

"Your greatest value," Max continued as if she hadn't been interrupted, "is your big beautiful heart. You show it to so few people that even I made the mistake of forgetting it. A mistake I will forever regret making."

"Max please, you did nothing wrong," Eleanor swore. "I'm the one who…"

Max quickly covered Eleanor's lips with her fingers. "No. We will speak no more of that and who's to blame. All that matters is that I love you," she said tenderly. "I allowed myself to forget how you took care of me, of all the girls. You are the only one who fights for those who can't protect themselves. Many of whom are too absorbed in their own lives to see that which you guard so fiercely and I was one of them."

"I don't want anyone to see," Eleanor murmured.

Max smiled. "I know, because to do so leaves you vulnerable. You are in a violent business that relies on violent men stealing cargo from others. You are in the middle between bloodthirsty pirates and the English Navy, both who will do anything to destroy what you have built and both who will strike at the first sign of weakness."

"I never tried to hide myself from you Max," Eleanor said. "You were the only one."

"I know that now. I only 'hope that despite everything that has happened, you will trust me enough to show me again."

Eleanor came close to panic. "I…"

"I know you are afraid Eleanor and I know that it will take time for you to fully trust me again but for now, I simply want to love you."

Eleanor looked up at Max, her heart pounding painfully in her chest. She knew she had deserved Max turning on her, but she also knew that losing her had nearly destroyed her. She wasn't sure she would survive if Max left her again.

"Are you sure?" she whispered and Max nearly wept at the hopeful innocence in the wide blue eyes. She wasn't sure she would ever understand the contradiction that was Eleanor Guthrie.

"Oui. I have never been more certain of anything." Then before Eleanor could come up with another argument, Max dropped her head and covered the too tempting lips. Almost immediately Eleanor responded and with desperation mixed with a long denied passion, she thrust her hands once more in Max's thick beautiful hair, fingers clutching almost painfully.

"I love you Max," she whispered as she moved her lips along the strong jaw and down her neck. "Never again doubt that my heart, that everything I have or am is yours and yours alone."

Max's head fell back and she moaned deeply as Eleanor sucked hotly at her throat, no doubt leaving a mark.

"Max wants you," she whispered urgently, shivering as a warm tongue slid hotly up her neck and teeth nipped playfully at her chin. Almost desperately, she slid her hand into Eleanor's blouse, seeking the softness she'd been craving.

"I want Max as well," Eleanor panted reluctantly stilling Max's hand, "but would you…can we slow down?"

Max froze. "I don't understand," Max said, starting to grow a little angry at Eleanor's continued rejection. She tried to remove herself from Eleanor's lap, but strong hands went to her waist and kept her still.

"I…" Eleanor swallowed, fearing she was about to humiliate herself beyond recovery. "It's just that…I want to um…if you don't mind I'd like to…" she groaned in frustration as words deserted her.

Despite her frustration, Max tried not to laugh at Eleanor's stammering. "Eleanor, kindly spit it out," she finally said.

Eleanor heard the touch of impatience in Max's voice and sighed. "I want to court you," she blurted.

Max's eyes widened. She'd had various customers offer the same thing, but always when they were too drunk to see straight and usually pawing at her. Eleanor was sober, even if she was hung over and her beautiful pleading eyes told Max she was sincere and Max had no idea how to respond.

"You do not 'have to say such things," she finally replied. "Max is already yours if you want her."

Eleanor's eyes slid shut and inexplicably a tear tracked down her cheek. "I do want," she said, "but I want…I need to prove to you that I deserve you."

Max's own eyes stung at sadly spoken honesty and despite the fire still simmering inside of her, part of Max actually delighted at the idea of someone trying to woo her, plus she never could deny Eleanor when she looked so innocent, but she certainly wouldn't make it easy.

"Well, now," she purred, trailing a finger slowly across Eleanor's lips, "does that mean you will not kiss me during this courting?"

Eleanor gulped, shivering at the dangerously seductive mixture of Max's dark eyes and throaty voice being directed at her.

"Fuck no," she rasped out. "I think I would die if I couldn't."

Max chuckled, again absolutely charmed by the endearingly besotted look on Eleanor's face accompanied by the profanity that so easily spilled from her lips.

"Non, ma chère this I will never allow to happen," Max vowed. "However, Max can deny you nothing. I will be happy to have you court me."

Eleanor offered a relieved smile and then to Max's horror, she suddenly burst into loud heavy sobs that seemed to hold every bit of pain she'd been clinging to for so long.

"Oh Eleanor," Max whispered sadly. Eleanor buried her face against her breast, arms wrapped so tightly around her, Max could barely breathe, but she said nothing, just stroked Eleanor's hair gently while whispering soft soothing words as her own tears began to fall.

"It all fell apart," Eleanor rasped once her tears had finally stopped. "It fell apart and I no longer had my harbor."

Max's heart clenched painfully. "I know," she said softly, her cheek rubbing unconsciously against Eleanor's soft hair, "but she is here now and plans to stay. I know you are used to being alone," she added quietly, "but you don't have to be Eleanor. Not anymore. Together we can fix everything better than before. If you will let me help you."

Eleanor lifted her eyes and Max's thumbs gently wiped away the lingering tears.

"I…yes. I want that," Eleanor said earnestly. "I know you have brilliant mind for business and I…don't…I can't do this without you anymore. You and me? We could make this place into what we want where we could both be free and happy and tell Vane and the rest of the syphilis ridden pricks to go fuck themselves."

Max smiled as she studied the beloved face looking expectantly up at her. Reluctantly she slid off Eleanor's lap.

"So we have reached an agreement non?" she teased. "I will help you restore your business and you will court me."

"I can't feel my legs," Eleanor stated unexpectedly and Max laughed once more.

"Are you saying that Max is fat?" she huffed in mock offense.

Eleanor got to her feet and stepped into Max's personal space. "Of course not," she said seriously, "but I wouldn't give two fucks if you were. Even if you were fat, bald and with a moustache that would make Flint jealous, I would still adore you like I have no other."

Max knew without a doubt that Eleanor meant every word and that just made her love her more. "How can someone with the vocabulary of a drunken sailor, say the sweetest things?" she said tenderly. "I hope your version of courting doesn't take too long. Max is very anxious to have you between her legs once again." She reached out and slid her arms around Eleanor's waist, her hands sliding down to cup her ass.

Eleanor groaned. "And Eleanor is very anxious to be there." And then, her heart swelling with renewed hope for a future she'd thought was gone forever, she took Max's face in her hands and kissed those beautiful taunting lips with all the love she'd always felt but was unable to express the way she should have.

"Je vous aime avec tout mon coeur," she whispered into Max's ear. "I love you with all my heart."

"And I will love you always," Max replied, content at last. They lived a very dangerous life and dealt with very dangerous men. Things would never be easy for them and each day would offer multiple threats and dangers, but knowing that she would go to bed at night holding this proud woman in her arms and waking up with her each morning, made all of that seem almost unimportant.

"I want you to promise me something," Max said stepping back and looking deeply into Eleanor's eyes.

"Anything," Eleanor replied quickly.

"Please promise me that no matter what happens or what darkness takes you, you will come to me. I could not bear to see you so broken again."

Eleanor bowed her head in shame, but long gentle fingers raised it back up. "Promise me," Max repeated.

"Nothing will ever break me except for losing you," Eleanor said softly, "but I promise."

"Merci," Max smiled. "Now, I believe you also promised there would be kissing?"

Even though she was still feeling the effects of extended drinking and her head was still reeling from Max's change of heart, Eleanor smiled. "Oh well I always try to keep my promises." she said happily. And then she kissed Max once again, thinking that no rum, no business, no prize…nothing in the world could ever be as addictive as the love of this strong, passionate woman.

END.