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Have Fun Storming the Castle!

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1.
In which Gerard is suspiciously absent
and Mikey embarks on a quest

 

Gerard never helped Mikey milk the cows.

That was fine with Mikey, since there were only two cows, and the one time Gerard actually got up in time to help milk them, he'd been so awful at it that Pandora had given Mikey looks he could only identify as pleading. The animals were used to Grandma Elena's gentle, steady hands; Gerard was just too...Gerard for them. Usually by the time Mikey finished with the milking, Gerard was sort of awake--awake enough to make coffee, which was awake enough for Mikey's standards.

There wasn't really that much to do around the farm: as she got older, Elena leased many of her fields to the surrounding farmers, and, having neither the interest nor the ability to farm the land themselves, Gerard and Mikey continued the practice. They kept the cows and the chickens and one occasional goat (they weren't sure it was technically their goat, but it hung around a lot and ate their underwear if they tried to dry it on the clothesline, so it may as well have been). Gerard fed the chickens after breakfast, because the last time Mikey tried to feed the chickens they attacked en masse and Gerard was forced to drag him to safety, keeping the chickens at bay with the broom from the shed. Mikey stuck to the cows; Gerard took care of the chickens. It was a good division of labor.

They spent the rest of their mornings tending to the vegetable garden that had been Grandma Elena's pride and joy; somehow they managed to keep it alive, which both regarded as a miracle. In the afternoons Gerard would often disappear--either into the root cellar to work on one of his many projects, or out on long rides through the surrounding fields. Mikey was still trying to figure out what to do with himself during those times. As a result, he spent most of his afternoons pondering how to spend his afternoons, and doing a bit of light dusting. (The farmhouse was spotless. Grandma Elena would have been pleased.)

Life on the farm wasn't very exciting, but they had enough money from the rents and food from the garden to keep them in a comfortable, if not particularly luxurious, lifestyle. All in all, Mikey was content. And then one evening, as he was contemplating the possibility of knitting sweaters for the barn cats, Mikey realized that it was evening.

With a sigh, he abandoned dusting the mantle and went out to the root cellar to fetch Gerard, since it was Gerard's turn to make dinner. Unfortunately, Gerard was not in the root cellar. Nor was he anywhere else on the farm that Mikey could see, and his horse was in the barn, happily munching on some oats and ignoring Mikey as she usually did.

As a last-ditch effort, Mikey even shouted -- then threw a rock -- down the well, but either Gerard hadn't fallen in the well, or he had already drowned.

Mikey stood at the edge of the vegetable patch as the sky darkened, but there was still no sign of Gerard anywhere.

Well, shit.

The logical thing to do would have been to wait until morning, then (assuming Gerard hadn't turned up in the meantime) go into town to ask whether anyone had seen Gerard around. Then, if they hadn't, to saddle the horse and begin searching Gerard's favorite places in the forest, as well as any ravines, sinkholes, or other places he could have gotten himself stuck.

But that would have been logical. Mikey knew better.

He lived on a tiny, unassuming farm in a nondescript-yet-beautiful part of the countryside, enjoying a peaceful existence until his brother disappeared under Mysterious Circumstances. There were only two options, and given that the only other principal character was his brother, Mikey was sort of hoping he hadn't found himself in a Kissing Story.

Mikey packed a bag, then set off down the lane, stopping by the Cortez farm to ask Matt if he wouldn't mind looking after the animals while Mikey was gone. Matt agreed, and even nodded understandingly as Mikey explained that this was, apparently (hopefully), an Adventure Story, so he might be away for quite some time. With the farm in good hands, Mikey took off toward the coast, heading away from the nearby village of Belleville. After all, no adventure ever happened in the nearby village.

(Even if the nearby village did contain Bert, but that would have been a different sort of story altogether).

 

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2.
In which Mikey lacks critical supplies,
new friends are made,
and vital information is shared

 

The Thieves' Guild maintained a notice board, which Mikey was initially pleased about. Being kidnapped and held for ransom by one of the brigands and/or ne'er-do-wells who lived in the Thieves' Forest was exactly the sort of thing that would happen to Gerard, so he was hopeful that this would be a short Adventure Story and he would be able to get home before the cows missed him too much. (Bernadette still had some separation anxiety issues.) He ran into problems, however, when he realized that he didn't have a nail, or a hammer, so hanging up his carefully scrawled notice was going to be difficult. Maybe he could re-use an older nail...?

"Need help?"

Mikey blinked up at the guy who had spoken. He was momentarily blinded by hair, but the guy was smiling and brandishing a brand-new nail and a rock, which Mikey thought was kind of strange until he used the rock to nail Mikey's notice to the board. It stood out proudly against the aging collection of WANTED posters, most of which had been covered in graffiti'd mustaches.

{ATTENTION}, the sign read,

{If one of you kidnapped my brother Gerard, you should know that we only own two cows and some chickens and possibly a goat, so it's probably not worth listening to him lecture you about how your life of crime is hurting families, and if you could give him back before the chickens starve, I'd appreciate it.
~Mikey}

"Nice sign," the guy said.

Mikey shrugged. "I'm looking for my brother."

"I gathered. Ray Toro, swordsman," Ray said, sticking out his hand to shake.

Mikey shook it. "Mikey Way."

Ray nodded at this. His hair nodded, too. "I don't think anybody around here kidnapped your brother," he said. "That kind of news tends to get around. Plus, Bob frowns on kidnapping."

"Bob?" Mikey asked.

Ray nodded again, this time enthusiastically enough that his hair stopped nodding a few moments after he did. "He's a Giant, so everyone agrees with him most of the time. He's really great, though. And he might know something." With that, Ray started walking in a seemingly random direction, leaving Mikey to trot a few steps to catch up with his long-legged strides. It only took a few moments to reach a hut that was nearly identical to every other hut they had passed, but which was apparently the home of Bob the Giant. Ray knocked on the door.

"Hey, Bob! Need your help!" he called out, and Mikey heard the sounds of movement in the interior. The door cracked open.

"Yeah?" The guy inside, who was probably Bob, looked at Ray for a half-second, then turned his head to scrutinize Mikey. For a giant, Bob was surprisingly short. Shorter than Ray even, which didn't seem to be hard to do, but Mikey had been under the impression that Giants were... giant. Then again, he'd never actually met a Giant before.

"Bob, this is Mikey. He's looking for his brother." One of Ray's big hands came down on Mikey's shoulder.

"He disappeared under Mysterious Circumstances," Mikey filled in as he was ushered inside.

"Nobody's been kidnapped lately," Bob said evenly. "When did he disappear?"

Mikey explained, even the part where he'd checked down the well. When he finished, Ray and Bob were wearing matching suspicious expressions.

"Wasn't that about the same time--" Ray started, and Bob nodded.

"The same time Pete left. Shit," Bob grumbled to himself.

Mikey sat and watched them trade looks for a long minute.

"Are you sure this is an Adventure Story?" Ray asked, in the tone of voice one uses when they're well aware of the answer, but are hoping for a last-minute reprieve, or possibly someone to jump out of the bushes and yell, "Gotcha!" very loudly.

"Pretty sure," Mikey nodded.

Ray gave Bob one last look, then turned to Mikey with an air of finality about him. "Then... Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but your brother was probably kidnapped by Prince Peter of Wilmette."

Mikey blinked a few times. "...What?" (In retrospect, it probably wasn't the most intelligent thing to say, but at the time it was really all he could think of.)

"He showed up here about a week and a half ago? Weird guy. He didn't say he was the prince. He just told everyone to call him Pete, and he kept trying to get volunteers for this crazy plan he had to raid the castle," Bob shrugged.

"A couple of days ago these other two guys showed up and started calling him 'Your Majesty' when they weren't swearing at him, and then they left," Ray finished the tale. "They were headed in the right direction, and if this is an Adventure Story..." Ray gave Mikey an apologetic look.

"Shit," Mikey frowned. The cows were never going to forgive him for being gone this long, but it was up to him to save Gerard if he ever wanted the chickens to be fed again. And also, y'know. His brother.

"They were dragging Pete back to the capital," Ray mused. "We'll head out in the morning. Wilmette isn't too far away; if we take a few shortcuts we should be able to get there just a day or two after they do."

Mikey was mildly bewildered at this. "You don't have to--" he started, but Bob cut him off with a wave of his hand.

"Ray's bored," he said simply.

"It's true," Ray agreed. "There's not much call for a swordsman around here. And this is shaping up to be a quest. Everyone knows you need at least three people to have a quest."

Mikey had to admit that this was quite sensible. And so he found himself accompanied by a swordsman and a Giant (by adoption, Bob explained when Mikey finally asked, and Mikey knew enough to know that was all he was going to get out of Bob), and -- after a nice breakfast and several stops so that Bob could glare at some people, all of whom promised to behave themselves in his absence -- they headed towards the capital.

 

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3.
In which a detour is taken

 

"Well, I really wanted to play guitar. Make music, travel the world..." Ray looked up wistfully at the trees that arched over the path. "But my father wouldn't hear of it, of course. He'd always say to me, 'Ray, you're going to be a swordsman. You come from a long line of famous swordsmen! We even have a Spanish surname!'"

"...That's a requirement?" Mikey honestly didn't know very much about swordsmen. Possibly you did need to be Spanish.

Ray shrugged. "It sounds better than 'Ray Smith, Swordsman', anyway."

Mikey conceded this point.

"Bob, though... Bob is the rebellious one," Ray grinned. Ahead of them by a few paces, Bob the Giant looked over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes at Ray. "His parents wanted him to take over the family business--"

"Which was banging rocks together," Bob grumbled faintly, and Ray's smile widened at this sign of participation.

"--But he decided there were greater things in life. So he left the mountains and came to the Thieves' Forest, and met me, and now here we are!" Ray gestured vaguely, indicating everything from the path to the amorphous idea of their quest.

Mikey wasn't sure that rescuing Gerard from a weirdo royal kidnapper really counted as a greater thing in any life, actually, but he kept that to himself. What he did say was:

"Where we are looks a lot like the Fire Swamp."

The three of them stopped. Around them, giant trees loomed ominously, covered with thick, draping vines and hanging moss. The path they were on had dwindled from a wide, open road to barely more than a track, and not too far in front of them, even that was obscured by undergrowth and fallen branches and vines that had clearly not been properly trimmed back by the roads commission.

poppoppop pop pop

"...Did you guys hear that?" Ray asked, mere seconds before a gout of flame shot up out of the ground with a whoosh of displaced air and a sudden blast of heat. They leapt back in unison, though Mikey's heel caught on one of the ever-present vines and sent him tumbling down onto the dirt.

He sat up awkwardly, taking the hand Ray offered to help him to his feet and nodding at Ray's worried, "You alright, Mikey?"

Mikey looked over at Bob, then cleared his throat. "Bob?"

"Yeah?"

"...I think you're on fire."

Bob looked down at his leg, which was, in fact, on fire. "Oh."

There was a brief flurry of activity that involved Bob's leg being put out and Ray fussing over Bob more than Bob, at least, thought the situation warranted. By the time he convinced Ray that he was just fine, Toro, leave it alone, they were forced to dodge five more flame spurts.

"Maybe we should head down the coast instead?" Ray suggested, as Bob very narrowly avoided being set on fire again.

Bob didn't care either way, given that he'd already gone one-on-one with the flame spurt and didn't think it was anything to be that worried about, but Mikey had a severe aversion to dying a crispy death. And though they hadn't seen any of the legendary Rodents Of Unusual Size yet, Mikey didn't feel like taking any chances.

"Coast," Mikey decided. It was a longer trip, but at least it wouldn't be as dangerous as trying to travel through the Fire Swamp. Well, presuming Ray and Bob knew where they were going, which Mikey was beginning to have doubts about.

 

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4.
In which no-one is murdered by pirates
and assistance is rendered

 

As the pirate ship Revenge bore down on the small fishing boat Bob had "borrowed", Mikey decided two things:

One, that going on Adventures was always a bad idea.

And two, that he was going to kill Gerard for disappearing and getting him murdered by pirates. (Murdered by pirates was at least a cooler way to die than being burned to a crisp or eaten by rats on steroids or both, but it still ended with Mikey dead, and Mikey didn't want to be dead.)

Ray drew his sword and Bob did his best to adjust the sails so they caught the best wind, but it was hopeless from the start. The Revenge was well-known to be among the fastest ships on the sea -- she'd never been caught, anyway -- and everyone knew the Dread Pirate Roberts left no survivors. Which was why it was weird that the ship pulled alongside their little boat and a cheerful voice from above called, "Hello!"

The three of them looked up to see a youngish guy hanging half over the side of the ship. He waved at them. "They told me to bring you guys up, so I'm gonna throw a ladder down, okay?"

He disappeared, and Ray shouted up at the space where he'd been, "What if we don't want to come up?"

The guy's head reappeared. "Oh. Um.” He thought for a moment. “You really should! There's a storm coming in, and we're in the middle of shrieking eel territory. I mean, if you want to be eaten by eels, that's cool. You should make your own choices, y'know? But if you want to come up, I'm throwing the ladder down now. Watch your heads!"

He did indeed throw the ladder down. Mikey looked at it, then glanced at Bob, who shrugged.

"Wait. Let me go first." Ray grabbed hold of the ladder, somehow managing to climb and keep his grip on his sword at the same time. (Ray was pretty awesome, Mikey was discovering.) Mikey went up next, after it was clear that Ray had not been brutally murdered as soon as he reached the top, and Bob followed. The fishing boat drifted forlornly away. Mikey watched it go, then turned to face their captors.

The guy who'd thrown the ladder down was watching them, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet, like he couldn't stand still. There were a few other guys standing around, looking at them curiously. Ray was locked in a staring contest with a guy who had hair nearly as crazy as Ray's.

"Welcome aboard! I'm Brendon." Brendon kept bouncing as he introduced himself. He stuck his hand out at Bob, who looked at it for a long moment before taking it and shaking. Brendon didn't seem fazed by Bob's Bob-ness, and started pointing out the crew members who were standing nearby.

"That's Alex, and that's Alex, and this is Alex," Brendon said, then pointed to hair guy. "And that's--"

"Alex?" Mikey asked, mildly.

The Alexes looked scandalized, and Brendon frowned. "No. That's Ian."

"Right," Mikey nodded. Why not? It made as much sense as anything else. Another man approached the group, and Brendon's face lit up further as he launched himself at the guy.

"And this is Jon! Jon, meet... um." Brendon pulled a face that Mikey would, previously, have sworn humans were incapable of making.

Ray stepped forward. "Ray Toro, swordsman," he introduced himself, using the opportunity to sheathe his sword with a bit of a flourish. (He didn't get to add flourishes very often.) It didn't appear that they were going to be brutally murdered, at least not at the moment. Ray nodded in the general direction of Bob, "And this is my companion, Bob the Giant."

Bob sighed at the universal looks of confusion. "Adopted," he explained in his I-don't-want-to-explain-this voice. Brendon nodded understandingly, the Alexes following suit like a line of bobbleheads.

"I'm Mikey," said Mikey. "I'm looking for my brother."

Brendon made a worried face. "Was he sailing around here? Because we've seen a few ships and boats around here, but they all. Er," Brendon looked helplessly at Jon.

"They keep jumping into the water," Jon filled in.

"It sucks!" Brendon complained. "They either jump in the water and get eaten by the eels, or they keep trying to fight with us, so then we have to kill them. Or, well, not me, since they won't let me have a sword again after the last time, but you know." Brendon waved his hands expressively as he talked. His sign language for "eel" was particularly creative.

"Maybe in a few more years," Jon said consolingly, wrapping an arm around Brendon's shoulders.

"So are we prisoners?" Bob spoke up. Jon and Brendon looked at each other, then took turns looking to the Alexes and to Ian, who was still busy eyeing Ray's curls (he had a lot of them; it was taking a while).

"Do you want to be?" A new voice entered the conversation, and the Alexes scurried to get out of the way. The man who had spoken was dressed in black from head to toe, including a mask and bandanna that obscured most of his head.

This, then, was the Dread Pirate Roberts himself.

...He was shorter than Mikey had thought he would be.

"Not particularly," Ray answered. Mikey shrugged.

"Are you going to try to kill me or my crew?" The Dread Pirate Roberts asked, cocking his head a little. Mikey did his best to feel menaced.

"Wasn't planning to," he said honestly. "I'm looking for my brother."

There was a moment of silence. "Oh," Roberts said shortly. "Did I kill him?"

"Not that I know of." Mikey pondered, then asked, "Did you kill a guy who asked you about the socio-economic injustices that led you to a life of piracy?"

Roberts blinked. "No?"

"Then you probably didn't kill Gee." Mikey was satisfied. At the very least, Gerard hadn't died at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts. He was still kidnapped, but kidnapped was a step above murdered. Mikey was willing to celebrate the little things.

"Great." Roberts sounded relieved. "Do you think his boat's out here or something? There's not many people around."

Mikey shook his head. "We think he was kidnapped. We were going to rescue him."

Brendon gasped and clutched at Jon. (No one actually reacted to this, because Brendon was sometimes a fifteen-year-old girl but everyone was used to it.)

"Kidnapped?" Roberts perked up at that. "By who?"

"By whom," Jon corrected absently, still mostly preoccupied with hugging Brendon.

"Shut up, Walker," Roberts grumbled. "By whom?" (Jon smiled.)

"The dastardly Prince Peter of Wilmette," Ray supplied. Mikey let him, because Ray liked saying "dastardly".

"Fuck. Pete? Seriously?" Roberts looked annoyed. Ray nodded. "Okay, fuck this, we need to talk." He reached up and pulled both the mask and the bandanna off his head. His hair was sort of stupid, like he'd tried to shave his head but got distracted in the middle, but Mikey wasn't one to judge.

Roberts led the three of them, with Jon and Brendon in tow, to the Captain's quarters at the back of the ship. Roberts' quarters were clean and comfortable, not gaudy or made up to look menacing, though there was a nightshirt thrown haphazardly over a sea chest in the corner.

"Oh, hey, I'm Frank, by the way," Roberts said as they all found places to sit or lean.

There was a pause.

"...Isn't this the Revenge?" Ray asked, somewhat cautiously.

Roberts nodded. "Yeah. And I'm the Dread Pirate Roberts, but my name is Frank."

Mikey blinked at him meaningfully, but it was Bob's glare that actually did the trick.

Roberts--Frank--waved a hand vaguely in the air. "It's sort of a franchise operation. The original Roberts retired ages ago; now he just sells the rights to the name. My uncle's the Dread Pirate Roberts on the North Sea; you should say hi for me if you ever run into him." Frank paused for a moment to let this information sink in. "So. You said Pete kidnapped your brother?"

Mikey shrugged. "He wasn't in the well or the root cellar."

"Ah."

Mikey proceeded to explain that Gerard had disappeared under Mysterious Circumstances. "It was either Prince Peter of Wilmette, or Gee's ex-boyfriend Bert," he finished.

"So obviously it was Prince Peter!" Brendon declared excitedly. Mikey nodded.

("Why--?" Jon wondered, but Brendon elbowed him before he could finish.

"It's an Adventure Story," Brendon explained.

Jon's eyes widened with understanding. "Oh. Okay.")

"Hey!" Brendon was practically sparkling. "We should help you! We can storm the castle and steal your brother back!"

"No," Frank said flatly.

Brendon deflated a little. "But--"

"No." Frank cut him off. "You are never allowed near any weapons ever again. You're also never allowed near Pete ever again."

Frank started explaining before Bob could use his amazing glaring powers. "He was part of the crew for like, a week. He said he wanted to be a pirate and nobody knew who he was so we let him join up. Crazy fucker, he never even slept the whole time he was here, and he kept talking about getting an eyepatch and a parrot. Then a couple of dukes or something showed up to drag him back home. It was weird."

"He was cool," Brendon added, then clearly had a thought, based on the way he bounced and turned to Frank. "You should go!" he announced, grinning.

Frank took a half-step back. "No way. I'm a pirate, I don't go around rescuing people's brothers!" He looked at Mikey and added, "Sorry."

Mikey shrugged. He hadn't planned on asking the pirates for help, anyway. He had figured that not killing him and Ray and Bob was help enough. But Brendon was not so easily satisfied. He turned a puppy-eyed look on Frank that Mikey thought might be illegal in several countries.

“You were talking about re-branding,” Jon suggested, and based on the venom in Frank’s eyes as he glared at Jon, this was a betrayal of the highest order.

“Not by running off and rescuing damsels in distress!” he yelped. “No offense.”

Mikey gave another half-shrug. Gerard could damsel with the best of them, and he’d probably spend an hour lecturing Frank about how there was nothing offensive about being a “damsel”, in distress or not.

“Besides,” Brendon added, “Pete totally stole your favorite shirt. It’s not really rescuing; it’s more like vengeance!”

Frank thought about this. It was true. He had really liked that shirt.

“Alright. I’ll help you storm the castle.” He pointed at Mikey, “But I’m not getting myself killed.”

“I don’t think Pete would kill anybody…” Brendon murmured to Jon.

“Shh. He’s being dramatic,” Jon whispered back.

Frank really hated his crew.

 

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5.
In which a notice is read,
Brendon discovers love at first sight,
and helpful advice is given

 

Frank's hatred was short-lived.

The guys had them sailing into the port of Wilmette the next morning, despite the storm that disrupted them for several hours during the night. (Mikey threw up once, and Brendon laughed at him. Bob also threw up, but nobody laughed at Bob.) They may have been annoying, but they could sail the Revenge like nobody's business.

The few people milling around the docks that morning ran away (with the usual screams of terror, etc) at the sight of the ship, so they took their time disembarking. Mostly so that Frank and Brendon could argue for nearly an hour about whether or not Brendon was allowed to come with them, since it was an Adventure and Brendon had only joined the crew so he could have Adventures (and because the Revenge had Jon Walker, but seriously, Adventures, Frank!), and he promised he wouldn't challenge anyone to a duel or even touch a sword, Jon would make sure of it, so please could they come along at least part of the way? They could be backup in case Frank had to make a Daring Escape!

(Mikey was fairly certain that Brendon won only because he was the only person in existence who could keep talking that quickly, for that long.)

It was mid-morning when they finally got underway, leaving Ian in charge of the Alexes and the rest of the ship in their absence. And it was just after noon when they encountered the first sign.

{ANNOUNCING}, the sign read, {The wedding of Prince Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III of Wilmette, to be held one week hence in our fair capital...}

"Goddamnit," Mikey said once he'd read the first few lines. It was Gerard. It had to be Gerard, because only Gerard would be both kidnapped and married in the same week, seriously.

The rest of the group exchanged looks, though Brendon appeared to be charmed by the whole thing.

"Do you think they eloped?" He asked Jon in a too-loud and too-excited whisper.

(Jon proceeded to explain that people who were eloping usually didn't post official notices about it on the main roads into the capital.)

"You know something about that?" an unfamiliar voice asked from behind them. They all turned to look at the speaker, Ray and Frank drawing their swords at the same time. The speaker looked unimpressed, standing on the other side of the path with his hands on his sort-of-amazing-actually hips and glowering at them. Brendon made a very strange, squeaking sort of noise.

"What do you know about it?" Frank asked, advancing a step with his sword still at the ready.

The guy rolled his eyes. "I know it's Pete, which means something's totally fucked up about it." Brendon giggled, and for a second Bitchy Guy looked more startled than bitchy. He had a quick recovery time, though.

"He's probably marrying my brother. Who he kidnapped," Mikey said.

That was enough to throw Bitchy Guy for a noticeably longer time. "Seriously?"

Everyone nodded.

Bitchy Guy looked impressed now. "Wow. That's pretty crazy, even for Pete." He looked them over carefully, then nodded to himself. "You guys should come with me."

"Why?" Bob asked, matching Bitchy Guy's glare pretty well.

"You're planning to storm the castle, right?" Bitchy Guy asked.

"Yup!" Brendon nodded happily. He had already taken two steps in Bitchy Guy's direction, with Jon right behind him. Frank was looking mildly annoyed, as much as he could look mildly annoyed with his mask on.

"Then you'll need our help. Come on already." He took off down the path, with Brendon following on his heels, Jon following on Brendon's, and the rest of them left with no choice but to follow.

They left the main path after only a few minutes of walking, following a barely-marked trail to a ramshackle hut that was built into the side of a hill. It had clearly seen better days, but the area out front was clear of weeds and brush, and through the dingy windows a careful observer could see the edges of clean, bright curtains. There was a faded sign over the door that read {Miracle Spencer}, which had been haphazardly crossed out and replaced with {Keep Out, Pete}. Bitchy Guy opened the door and walked in.

"Ryan!" he called into the interior, gesturing for the rest of them to come in. They crowded into the entryway, Ray conscientiously pulling the door shut behind them as a tall, skinny guy wearing far too much paisley emerged from deeper inside the hut.

He took in the crowd, then said, "The fuck, Spence?" Ryan's bitchy look was almost as good as Bitchy Guy's (who was probably the Miracle Spencer the door mentioned, Mikey figured, and if he wasn't, Mikey was just going to give up on guessing people's names as being a skill for Other People).

"It's Pete's fault," Spencer told him, producing chairs from hidden alcoves and shadowy corners until there were enough to seat everyone.

"Of course it is," Ryan stated in a monotone. "It's always Pete's fault."

"He kidnapped Mikey's brother," Ray said.

"And he's probably going to marry him," Frank added.

"So we're going to storm the castle to save him!" Brendon enthused, then frowned. "Well, not me. Or Jon, I guess. They're going to storm the castle."

"And they're in our house why?" Ryan looked pointedly at Spencer.

"They need to get into the palace," Spencer said.

Ryan was not appeased. "And once again, they're in our house why?" Spencer opened his mouth, but Ryan cut him off. "No, seriously Spence, the whole point of moving out here was so random people couldn't wander in here demanding miracles, and now you're bringing home strays?"

Spencer put his hands on his hips and glared. Brendon clung to Jon's arm, but Ryan stood unmoved.

"They're not going to bring Pete back here. They're going to break up his marriage to Mikey's kidnapped brother." Spencer raised an eyebrow. "You have no interest in liberating someone from Pete's clutches?"

Ryan's face shifted almost imperceptibly, but it was enough that Spencer stopped glaring. (His hands stayed on his hips.)

"They need to get past Joe," Spencer said meaningfully, with a long look toward the back door Ryan had entered through.

Ryan considered carefully. Finally, after a long pause, he nodded. "I'll be right back," he said, then disappeared into the recesses of the hut and beyond a curtain.

"Who's Joe?" Jon asked as Ryan made his exit. Mikey was wondering the same thing. (He was also wondering when this had become his life, but decided to shelve existential thinking until Gerard was located.)

"The Captain of the Guard at the palace. But he mostly he just sits by the gate and like, takes naps," Spencer replied, sitting down next to an extremely pleased-looking Brendon. "I used to be the Royal Miracle Worker," he explained.

"Oh!" Brendon's eyes got comically wide. "Were you cruelly and unjustly fired, forcing you to live in the forest while you plan your revenge?"

Spencer paused. "Um. No?"

"Oh." Brendon deflated a little.

"It was great working at the palace, don't get me wrong. Pete never really needed many miracles anyway; it was mostly Lord Patrick, and most of the miracles he needed were just finding Pete before he did something insanely stupid."

"So why'd you leave?" Jon asked.

"Pete kept hitting on Ryan," Spencer shrugged. "It got really annoying, so I quit and we moved out here."

"Oh." Brendon deflated a little more, and a flush rose on his cheeks. Jon leaned in and rested his shoulder against Brendon's, which helped some.

Ryan came back into the room a few minutes later, carrying a small bag.

"Is that weed?" Frank asked, taking the bag from him and peering at the contents.

"Best in the kingdom," Ryan said in a monotone, but there was a hint of a prideful smile in his eyes.

Jon whistled. "Nice."

Spencer nodded. "Guaranteed to get you past Joe. After that you're on your own. But if this is another one of Pete's crazy schemes, you should try to find Lord Patrick. He'll probably be on your side."

Mikey processed this information. Give the weed to Joe. Find Lord Patrick. It didn't seem too complicated. He was probably going to die.

"Thanks," he said, shaking Spencer's hand.

"No problem," Spencer replied. Then he elbowed Ryan until Ryan conceded to allowing his hand to be shaken as well.

"Hey," Frank turned back as they were about to leave. "Would you guys mind letting Jon and Brendon stay here while we handle this?" Spencer and Ryan exchanged looks, while Brendon managed to look both disappointed and excited at the same time. (Mikey thought it must be tiring, being Brendon.)

"I guess?" Spencer said finally, and Brendon grinned happily, tapping his fingers on his thighs.

"Call if you need us to rescue you," Jon told Frank, who signaled his agreement by flipping Jon off. Jon laughed.

They filed out of the hut, leaving Jon and Brendon and Spencer and Ryan watching them from the doorway.

"Have fun storming the castle!" Brendon called cheerfully, waving at them. (Ray waved back. So did Bob, but he probably wouldn't admit to it.)

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

6.
In which the castle is stormed,
sort of

 

Wilmette Castle was an imposing structure, but it wasn't heavily defended.

(It helped that Wilmette hadn't actually had a war in something like five generations. The guards' fathers' fathers still told the tale of their heroic actions the day someone left the gate to the goose's pen open and the goose flapped its way into the kitchens, startling several scullery maids and upsetting a perfectly good mince pie.)

The gate was half-open, and being guarded by a man who appeared to be sleeping, sitting on a small stool with his shoulders braced against the wall and his cheek leaning on the shaft of his halberd. Maybe he wasn't sleeping, though, as he sat up when the group emerged fully from the trees.

"Hey," he said, standing up and positioning himself so he was actually in front of the gate rather than off to the side. "What can I do for you?"

Mikey was unfamiliar with the standard procedure for guarding a castle gate, but he was pretty sure this was not it.

"Are you Joe?" Ray asked. "The Captain of the Guard?" The guard looked him over, his eyes briefly resting on the sword that lay against Ray's hip.

"Maybe," he answered laconically. "What's your business here?"

Bob glared a little, and Mikey was about to step forward and explain the whole situation, but Frank got there first.

"We're here to see Pete."

"Uh-huh," the guard nodded. "You and everybody else. They're trying to plan a wedding, you know. So if you've got some kind of dispute or whatever, you should probably come back next week." He shrugged apologetically.

Frank sighed. "Look, you're Joe, right?"

Joe finally nodded in confirmation. "Yeah, I'm Joe. Captain of the Guard of Wilmette, at your service. Who are you?"

"I'm the Dre--," Frank paused, reconsidering. "I'm Frank. That's Ray and that's Bob the Giant and that's Mikey. We're here to see Pete, and we come bearing gifts, courtesy of Miracle Spencer." Frank pulled out the bag Ryan had given them.

Based on the way Joe's face lit up, Mikey deduced that Ryan had not been lying when he said his weed was the best in the kingdom. Joe took the bag, carefully examining the contents before looking up at them again.

"So you're here for the wedding...?" Joe asked, still skeptical.

"Family and friends of the bride," Mikey deadpanned, which earned him a snort of amusement from Frank and a grin from Ray. Bob twitched a little.

Joe looked worried. "Please tell me Pete didn't steal someone's fiancée," he said in a weary tone that indicated that very thing may have happened before. Possibly more than once.

"My brother, actually," Mikey answered mildly, not entirely sure whether that was better or worse than a stolen fiancée.

"...Your brother's fiancée?" Joe asked, confused, before realization slowly dawned. "Or--Wait. You don't mean--Oh, shit!" Joe's face broke into a wide grin. "No, seriously? That's your brother?"

Mikey sighed. He should have known.

"Er," Ray waved awkwardly toward the gate, "Can we go in?"

"Only if somebody promises to come back and tell me the whole story, complete and unabridged," Joe said seriously. "Andy'll skip all the good parts," he explained, and shook the bag Frank had given him. "I'll even share the weed."

"Done." Frank reached out and they shook on it.

"Do you know where we can find Lord Patrick?" Mikey asked.

"Oh, yeah, maybe," Joe said. "He'll probably be trying to stop Pete from doing something stupid. Or more stupid, anyway. First door on your left, then up the stairs and to the right. If you follow the yelling you should find him pretty quick."

Bob raised an expressive eyebrow as they filed past Joe and through the gate, but Joe just smiled after them and bounced a few times, holding up the bag of weed so he could scrutinize it more carefully. They moved on into the castle proper.

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

7.
In which Mikey is attacked
and there is a certain amount of gender confusion

 

"Are you sure we're going the right way?" Frank asked Ray. Not that Ray actually had any more knowledge of the castle's layout than the rest of them did, but he was the one who'd thought he'd heard yelling.

"I think so. Maybe we took the wrong stairs?" Joe's information had been helpful, up until the point that they realized there were several staircases beyond the 'first door on the left', none of which held any special indication that it was the correct staircase for tracking down a dastardly prince and a kidnapped brother.

Bob carefully peered around the corner. "Did you hear something?"

"Hear what?" Frank managed to scale the heights of Bob in the blink of an eye, clinging to invisible handholds and resting his chin atop Bob's head so he could see around the corner, too. Bob twitched the twitch of one who is thinking about dumping his passenger on the ground, but has decided to endure being made a watchtower. (At first opportunity, however, he was planning to throw Frank into a lake.)

"I hear it, too," Mikey agreed. It was a sort of scratching, shuffling noise, but the echoing stone walls of the hallway they were in made it impossible to tell which direction the sound was coming from. As a result, none of them were prepared when a massive rodent hurled itself around the adjacent corner and hit Mikey just above the knees, knocking him to the ground and clambering over him before he could get his breath back.

"It's an ROUS!" Ray exclaimed, drawing his sword and hoping that Mikey had not already been mauled to death. Frank dropped from his Bob-tower and had already taken a step toward the action when a loud yell issued from the same hallway as the ROUS.

"HEMMY!" A man wearing very tight leggings and a hooded tunic rounded the corner and threw himself into the fray, nearly sending Frank tumbling and making Ray take an involuntary step backward. He grabbed the ROUS around the middle and attempted to pull it upward--a feat made difficult by the fact that the ROUS was probably half the man's size, at least. This did not appear to bother the man at all.

"Bad Hemmy!" Tug. "I told you--" Tug. "--not to--" Tug. "--jump on people!" Tug, and finally the Rodent of Unusual Size allowed himself to be manhandled off of Mikey's chest. Mikey sat up awkwardly, and Ray and Frank took up defensive positions between Mikey and the ROUS-wrestler while Bob helped him to his feet.

"I'm so, so sorry, man," the newcomer was saying. "Hemmy's usually so good! Did he hurt you?" His eyes were wide and sort of stricken as he looked up at Mikey from the floor, where he was still clutching the ROUS by the neck.

Other than being coated in a thick, slimy layer of rodent saliva (and probably sporting a new bruise or two from the fall to the floor), Mikey was unharmed.

"I'm okay," Mikey shrugged, lifting a hand to push his goo-drenched bangs out of his face. Bob stealthily slid a few drool-avoidant inches to the left.

"Seriously, he knows he isn't supposed to jump on people. Don't you?" He addressed the ROUS, which made a whining noise and looked up at the guy's face as soulfully as a giant rodent could. The guy gave it a tight squeeze and a pat on its rump, then scrambled to his feet with a more-than-usual amount of flailing.

"Are you guys supposed to be up here? I'm pretty sure Patrick told Joe to keep everybody out..." He brushed himself off and looked them over, carefully not lingering on the naked swords in Ray and Frank's hands. He did, however, linger on their faces, with a twinge of recognition in his expression. "Wait. Aren't you-- Oh. Oh, if you're here to like, kill me for defecting or whatever, that is seriously uncool. You could at least wait until after the wedding!" The look he gave Frank was approximately the same one that Hemmy the ROUS had given him just a few moments before, though he skipped the whine.

Frank rolled his eyes. "Pete, I have never been happier to have someone off my ship."

"Oh." Pete's overly-wide mouth turned downward.

So this was Peter, the dastardly Prince of Wilmette, who had made off with Gerard in the dead of-- well, probably it had been mid-afternoon, but that wasn't as dramatic as the dead of night. Mikey wondered if every important figure he would meet would be shorter than he'd imagined them.

About two seconds after that, another, even shorter man wearing a hat with a very tall feather in it appeared from the same corridor, and Pete greeted him with an enthusiastic "Patrick!" Mikey considered this to be a definitive 'yes' answer to his thought.

Behind him came another man, taller and leaner with curly hair (Ray's was still curlier--Mikey may or may not have been keeping score). And behind him came a woman wearing a dark green silk dress, her black hair pulled back off her face in small braids for an almost circlet-like effect. She took one look at the group of them, then said happily,

"Mikey!"

Mikey had to give Gerard some credit--he did make an awfully pretty girl.

"Hey, Gee." Mikey waved, which amounted to wiggling his fingers in Gerard's direction. "We're here to rescue you."

Gerard had just enough time to look both pleased and embarrassed before Frank exclaimed, "That's your brother!?" in a strangled voice and Pete looked at Frank, and at Mikey, then stared at Gerard and said, "What?"

Patrick let out the deep sigh of the very, very put-upon.

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

8.
In which a social experiment goes awry
and events are explained

 

The way Gerard told it, once they'd arranged themselves in a repository of unmatched, gaudily upholstered furniture that Pete proclaimed his personal sitting room, the story happened this way:

~*~

Gerard was organizing the attic, where most of Grandma Elena's old things had been carefully packed away after her death. Really, he was looking for his spare canvases, which he knew he'd put away somewhere.

(It was at this point that Mikey very nearly wanted to strangle him, since his canvases were stored in the pantry and Mikey could have told him that if he'd thought to ask before tearing the house apart.)

But instead of canvases, he discovered a trunk full of Grandma Elena's dresses, the fine ones she'd worn as a young woman in the city before she'd eloped with their grandfather to live on his small farm. Gerard brought the trunk down from the attic and, one by one, pulled the dresses from the trunk and laid them out across his bed. They were mostly silk with some lace and tulle, in dark jewel tones of royal blue and emerald and crimson. They were startlingly beautiful, if a bit old-fashioned, and looking at them, Gerard had an idea.

He washed his hair (this was actually the most startling part of the story, in Mikey's opinion) and started trying on the ones that looked to be about the right size, deciding at last on the crimson gown with black lace accents and a structured bodice that hid his rather obvious lack of breasts. He found a pair of Grandma Elena's Sunday boots -- sturdy enough for walking, but too nice to wear for farm work -- and, costumed to his liking, headed off into town.

It was (he claimed in response to Mikey's eyeroll) an important study of the way their society treated women, and anyway he hadn't meant to run into Pete. But he had.

Pete, along with Lords Patrick and Andrew, was returning from the Thieves' Forest, taking the inland roads that neatly avoided the Fire Swamp, though the detour extended the journey by a day. Patrick and Andy had ridden to the Thieves' Forest, and brought Pete's favorite gelding along with them, but there was no need for them to race back to the capitol. Pete was enjoying the ride and contemplating what he might do next. Staying at the capitol was obviously out, and Thievery was apparently right up there with Piracy on the list of Inappropriate Occupations For The Crown Prince, according to Patrick. Andy still couldn't understand why Pete couldn't be content with "being Crown Prince" as an occupation, given that it was his occupation, but Pete was undeterred.

He was contemplating becoming a roving minstrel -- though Patrick probably wouldn't approve of Minstrelsy either -- which had some possibilities, and so he didn't notice the girl walking down the path ahead of them until they were nearly on top of her. She was going the same direction they were, so Pete couldn't see her face, but her gown looked way too expensive for someone living out in the middle of the farmlands, and her dark hair brushed her shoulders -- far shorter than the styles favored by women in the capitol. She was new and different. Pete liked new and different.

All of this was explained to Gerard after Pete rode up and introduced himself and asked where Gerard was going -- which was, of course, into town to buy some new canvases -- and didn't seem to notice or care that Gerard was a boy in a dress.

That, (Gerard explained as Mikey's eyes were beginning to get tired from all the rolling) was of course the entire point of his social experiment, so he agreed to let Pete give him a ride into town, and on the way Pete decided that instead of Minstrelsy, perhaps he could try being an Artist? And Gerard, who was always happy to encourage people to follow their dreams, had agreed that he could give Pete some basic lessons, sure, and so they ended up traveling to Wilmette Castle instead of into town.

~*~

"I meant to send you a note," Gerard admitted guiltily, after a moment's pause.

Mikey considered the number of times he had nearly been killed while looking for Gerard, then shrugged.

"S'okay, Gee," he said at last, accepting and returning Gerard's hug (this was made somewhat more difficult than usual by the presence of many extra layers of silk and Gerard's bodice, which wouldn't let him bend very well).

"Wait," Frank held up a hand, and every head in the room turned to look at him. "So how did this turn into you getting married?" he asked. Gerard's eyebrows knitted together as he looked at Frank in confusion.

"You're getting married?" he asked in return, looking at Mikey in bewilderment. Pete hugged Hemingway to his chest and looked extremely embarrassed.

"I'm not getting married," Mikey replied, as Frank's reaction time appeared to have been slowed by the amount of energy he was putting into staring at Gerard. "You are."

"No I'm not," Gerard said, still confused, "Pete's the one who's..." He trailed off, looking over at Pete.

Pete cleared his throat. "Um. I was going to ask?"

Lord Patrick groaned and buried his face in his hands, and Frank whistled softly. "Awkward," he muttered in a sing-song voice, and Ray and Bob nodded their agreement with his assessment.

"I think I need to be wearing pants for this," Gerard decided, and no one could fault him for that.

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

9.
In which a plan is hatched
and Prince Peter of Wilmette does not get married

 

"The people are going to expect a wedding," Lord Andrew pointed out, after loaning Gerard some trousers since both Pete and Patrick's were far too short on him.

"I know," Pete whined, though his voice was muffled by Hemmy's thick fur. "I screwed up."

Mikey patted him on the back. It was a pretty lame back-pat, since Mikey wasn't actually sure if he was allowed to pat a crown prince on the back or if they threw you in jail for that. Apparently it was allowed, and it also earned him a toothy, too-wide smile for his efforts. Mikey did his best to smile back.

"I assume you don't actually want to marry him?" Patrick asked the newly-trousered Gerard, who had situated himself on a chaise between Ray and Frank. Gerard blushed a little and looked apologetic.

"Not really? I mean, I'll still give you art lessons if you want..." he offered. Pete seemed to take this in stride.

"Does anyone else want to marry me? You get like, half the kingdom and stuff," Pete waved a hand in the air, though he quickly returned to scratching Hemmy's ears when the ROUS made a grunting noise.

"I don't think so," Ray said tactfully after a moment of contemplative silence. "No offense. I mean, it's nice of you to offer."

Pete shrugged. "It's not a very interesting kingdom," he said, which Mikey privately disagreed with, having been forced to go Adventuring through it.

"If no one is going to marry Pete," Patrick cut in, in an effort to get the conversation back on course, "We need to find another solution. We could just cancel the wedding...?"

Andy shook his head. "We already put all the posters up. Everyone will be pissed off if we cancel it now. And pissed-off villagers means pitchforks and torches and massing at the castle walls and all that. It would take days to convince them all to go home, and then we'd still have to clean up the mess."

"What if you had to cancel?" Bob, who had been quietly observing the proceedings until this point, raised his head and spoke. Everyone turned to look at him. "What if," he continued after a beat, "the 'bride' was, say, kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts?" He raised an eyebrow at Frank, who brightened up as he caught on to the idea.

"That... actually might work," Patrick murmured, adjusting his hat. "We can spread the word around, no-one will expect a wedding anymore..."

"It'd be good for business, actually," Frank remarked. "There's great name-recognition in kidnapping princesses. Or, well, sort-of princesses," he turned his head to grin apologetically at Gerard, who smiled back and waved a hand like, don't worry about it.

"What do you think, Gee?" Mikey asked mildly. It seemed like a good solution, but Gerard was the one who was going to be 'kidnapped' in this scenario. Gerard took his time thinking about it, his chin tilted up and his eyes tracking across the ceiling as if he was expecting it to offer an opinion on the situation. The ceiling did not oblige him.

"I have conditions," Gerard said finally, and every ear in the room perked up to listen. Gerard turned so he was about three-quarters on to Frank, who looked flummoxed by this sudden attention. "It's just... I understand that of course you have to make a living somehow, but ethically I couldn't be part of any raping and pillaging, you know? I won't try to stop you, but I can't take part in it." He looked earnestly at Frank, eyes wide, as if he could get his point across through the power of soulful gazing.

The part of Frank's face that was not covered by a mask turned a rather brighter, reddish shade.

"Um," he coughed, clearing his throat of a lump that seemed to have formed there. "Well, actually, we've been looking to change our business model..." Frank said, with a tinge of hopefulness. "So it might not be a bad thing, I mean, if you had any ideas?" He reddened further at the bright grin Gerard gave him.

"Great," Pete muttered bitterly, scritching Hemmy's ears hard enough that the ROUS shook his head until Pete relented. "Have fun being a pirate."

"Pete," Lord Patrick sighed, "You're the Crown Prince of Wilmette. You can't just run off to be a pirate. I'm sorry," and he actually did sound apologetic about it, Mikey noted, "But you can't. Your parents would kill me. Us," he corrected, gesturing to include Lord Andrew as well.

"I hate being the Crown Prince," Pete sulked. "Crown Princes never get to do anything fun."

"Well..." Ray said after a moment of silence, "Technically speaking..." he trailed off for a moment, until Pete gave him a look like he was on the execution block and Ray was the man who could issue a pardon. "As the Crown Prince, wouldn't it be your duty to, you know, try to rescue your, um. Bride?" He glanced apologetically at Gerard, who didn't seem to notice.

Pete's eyes lit up. "Hey! Yeah!" He looked over at Lord Patrick, who already wore an expression of resignation like it was his uniform.

"You might have to do all kinds of unusual things on your quest," Mikey added, catching on to the general thought process. "Take on disguises, that sort of thing. If you were trying to infiltrate the criminal underworld of the Kingdom." Pete smiled goofily at him, and Mikey couldn't say he minded.

"I guess, technically," Lord Patrick began, but it was clear that Pete was already planning his next escapade already.

"I promise to come and rescue you!" Pete told Gerard excitedly. "You know, eventually."

"No rush," Gerard shrugged and smiled, and Mikey knew he probably already had ten or twelve plans to change the corporate culture of the Revenge rattling around in his brain.

"Great," Lord Andrew said at last, standing and brushing non-existent dust off his trousers. "So that's settled. Are all of you staying for dinner? Because I'll have to tell the cook."

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

10.
In which Mikey makes a decision

 

The problem with the plan, Mikey decided the next morning, was that it didn't really include him. Gerard probably assumed Mikey would be going along on the Revenge, but the thought of getting back on the ship made Mikey a little bit queasy, and he really didn't feel that he was suited to a life of piracy. Not even a life of reformed piracy, which was what Gerard kept calling it.

"I think I'm going to go home," Mikey told Gerard as they prepared to set out, anticipating the surprised and mildly-wounded look Gerard gave him.

"Right now?"

"I don't really like boats," Mikey admitted with a shrug. "And I left Matt taking care of the farm." He knew Matt didn't really mind, but it still seemed sort of rude to run off indefinitely. Mikey had already been gone a long time.

"Oh." Gerard sat down on the edge of the extremely fluffy bed he'd been using while he stayed at the castle. "You're sure you don't want to come?"

Mikey shook his head, and Gerard nodded.

"Okay," he said reluctantly, then, "Wait, you're not traveling home by yourself, are you? Mikey! You'll get killed!"

Gerard appeared to be horrified by this, so Mikey wisely refrained from reminding him that he nearly got killed several times on the way to the castle and had managed to avoid a grisly fate thus far.

"Pete was talking about heading for the Thieves' Forest first," he said instead. "I figured I could ride along. The farm's not too far beyond there."

"Ohhhh," Gerard said knowingly, the corners of his mouth turning up.

"Shut up, Gee," Mikey said.

 

*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*0*0*0*o~o~o*

11.
In which some details are omitted for the sake of time
and appropriateness for the younger reader,
and an Adventure comes to a satisfactory close

 

They wasted no time leaving, which was probably a good thing since the castle had begun to receive messages asking if there wasn't something the Navy could do about the pirate ship docked in the harbor of the capitol? (Not that the pirates had been doing anything particularly nasty--or, indeed, anything at all--but it was starting to make people nervous.) Frank gave Joe a high-five as they made their way out, which Mikey took to mean that he had followed through on his promise to come back and tell Joe everything that had happened.

The presence of Pete (along with Lords Patrick and Andrew, who, as Patrick explained, knew "better than to let Pete go anywhere on his own") among them was sort of suspicious, if they wanted their cover story to hold. But then, the people were expecting Pete's bride to be a bride, not a pale young man chattering earnestly about economic models and the reasons why one would consider thievery and/or piracy as a career option. They were reasonably safe, Mikey thought. And it was nice that he wouldn't be the only one left on the dock when they rowed out to the ship.

~*~

Bob was the one to wisely suggest that Pete ride on a ways, though, when they reached the overgrown path off the main road that led to Miracle Spencer (and Ryan's) hut, to which Pete readily agreed. Mikey wasn't sure he actually wanted to know exactly what had happened there.

Frank rapped on the door with a gloved fist, waiting a few moments before knocking again.

"Maybe they went out?" Gerard suggested, but then a faint moaning sound issued from the interior. Frank scowled.

"Damnit, if they fucked with my crew," he muttered, then shifted his weight and gave the rather flimsy door a swift and brutal kick. It gave way easily enough, and Frank drew his sword, swiftly disappearing into the slightly gloomy interior.

"You guys better stay here for now," Ray suggested, drawing his own sword and following.

As the next sounds they heard were several startled yelps and Frank's cry of, Oh god, my eyes!, Mikey was of the opinion that Ray was correct.

A few moments later, both Ray and Frank re-appeared, and Ray announced (because Frank couldn't seem to stop snickering) that Brendon and Jon had decided to stay with Miracle Spencer and Ryan for the time being, and Frank had given them his blessing. (Frank's 'blessing' seemed to consist mainly of more snickering, and occasional under-his-breath comments about Brendon's flexibility.)

It wasn't until they were nearly at the harbor that Frank recovered enough to suggest, in casual tones, that if Ray and Bob were perhaps interested in gainful employment aboard the Revenge, rather than the quick trip home they'd been promised, it did appear that there were now two vacant places on the ship's roster. It was a shame, too, since Brendon had been in the habit of practicing his guitar nearly every day, which had been excellent (free) entertainment for the crew.

"They're very musical," Frank noted in an off-hand kind of way. Gerard made a mental note of this, adding it into his plans for re-branding. Ray smiled all the way to the harbor.

~*~

"Be sure to write when you get home!" Gerard told Mikey as he released him from a tight goodbye hug. It was technically their third goodbye hug, but Gerard had a tendency to be over-dramatic. Mikey gave him a look, and Gerard flapped his hands as if that was some sort of defense.

"I know, I know. I'm just worried!" he declared, then turned to glare at Pete, who did his best to look innocent. "He'd better get home in one piece!" Gerard threatened. "One alive piece!"

Pete nodded his acquiescence. "Yeah, man, of course."

Mollified, Gerard gave Mikey another hug. Mikey didn't mind.

There were handshakes all around, brief embraces to match a brief acquaintance, though Mikey thought that he would write to Ray and Bob as well as to Gerard, and possibly he should also write up some sort of informative guidelines for Frank detailing how, exactly, one best dealt with his brother. Mikey obviously had the knack for it, but he also had the benefit of many years of practice. (He felt a little bit sorry for Frank's crew.)

And then they were off, piled in the rowboat and slish-slish-slish-ing out to the Revenge. Gerard waved, before they got too far out for it to be clear who was doing the waving, and Mikey waved back. He realized after a beat that Pete was waving, too.

~*~

"So," Pete said, once the Revenge had set sail, "Um. Do you wanna make out or something?" Mikey blinked. Not that he was necessarily opposed, but...

"I'm pretty sure this isn't a Kissing Story," he said after a long pause.

"Oh," said Pete, after a pause of his own. He let a wide grin spread across his face. "You wanna do it anyway?" His eyebrows were not as expressive as Brendon's, but they were expressive enough.

Somewhere behind them, Lord Patrick sighed heavily and contemplated early retirement.

 

The End?