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Siren's Call: A Collection

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Victor Nikiforov was known the world over, despite his name hardly ever uttered in ports or on decks. To speak it was rumored to bring him crashing in, said to call for the white of his sails and pillaging at the hands of his crew.

Often, sailors looking to make a name for themselves for a night claimed to have come upon the silver-haired captain, their whispers fueling his infamy. He was known for his youth, his infallibility. For his ruthlessness toward those who wronged him and his gratitude toward those who aided. Many claimed to have ended their encounter with the pirate richer than when they met him, showing off pieces of eight granted to those who housed and served his crew in port.

It was said that the silver of his hair could be seen before the skull and crossbones flying overhead. Strands like precious metal whipping in the wind, glinting with the beaming sunlight or foreboding with the storms rolling at his ship’s back. Captured off the royal fleet his first year at sea, she could cut through waves like his silver tongue could cut through pride.

Victor always asserted that the sea was like a lover. Scorned, she could bring fight without warning, shreds ships to splinters which she would never surrender from the depths of her vengeful clutches. But understood and respected, she could grant treasures and favorable winds to glide on like parting kisses. The sea was temperamental. She rarely shared her secrets and liked to claim those who discovered them.

“Man overboard!”

Victor heard the cries coming off the sea before he saw the figure tossed in her waves. They pierced through him, weak and empyrean, like music barbing round his heart. Twisting and tugging till he was on the starboard railing, rope burning at his hands as he heaved himself over. The cries came like a song, weaving through him until the ice of the water swept them away.

Victor touched feathers before he touched the body dipping beneath the surface, tangled in netting. The salt of the waves slamming against him stung at his eyes and burned down his throat, but Victor had never permitted the sea to best him. Despite all her aggression, she pushed Victor back to his ship, helping him carry his rescue.

The force of the dinghy crashing onto the surface of the water sent Victor under. Kicking back up, he heaved the limp figure over the side before lifting himself into the boat. He sputtered out sea water as the pulley raised them back out of the rough water.

On deck, the knife strapped into the inside of his boot made quick work of the netting around the motionless body. The threads were strong against Victor’s fingers, silk fraying as he cut through it. Too expensive, too precious to be used by fishermen. Silk nets were found on the decks of ships that feared the myths of the seas. When sold, merchants would brag that it was the only material strong enough to contain the likes of a mermaid, kraken…

“Siren.”

The young man lying unconscious was draped in torn black fabric, crystals like diamonds sparkling off his shoulder and waist. One of his crew made to seize for the gems but Victor slapped hands away. At his hip was strung a lyre, strings broken. The skin near his hands and feet bled color, turning to the shade of night in patterns of feathers, like the dark of his hair and lashes. The feathers Victor swore he had plunged his fingers into in the water were gone, vanished as if they existed only as designs on his skin.

“It can’t be. Did anyone hear it?”

“If it is, it’ll wreck us.”

“Sirens don’t fly so far from land.”

“Where’s its wings?”

Sirens were like gulls, clinging to cliffs onto the jagged edges of which they drew ships. They collected the riches scattered on their rocks, feasted off the flesh of men foolish enough to listen to their songs. Sirens were dangerous, vicious. They sunk ships faster than hurricanes, their nests said to be made from the bones of their victims. Few men pleased Lady Luck enough to be able to escape their bloodied claws.

Sirens were monsters.

The man before Victor was beautiful. Beautiful and barely breathing.

To the protest of his crew, Victor swept the man up into his arms, skin like ice against his own. Pulse weakly beating. “Man your stations!” Victor commanded, “If he came off a ship, they may be near. Be ready to hoist colors!”

In his cabin, Victor quickly stripped the soaked clothing off his rescue’s body, drying him of the sea. If not for injuries marring him, he would have been flawless. If such beauty awaited for him in port, Victor’s love of the sea might have finally found its match. Strong thighs and delicate wrists, with lips still tinted pink despite the chill of his skin. Carefully, Victor tipped the man onto his side and stopped. Frozen, trapped in the vision before him.

On his back were wings. Long, ruffled, bent black feathers inked into his skin. Victor stared at the folded wingtips racing down the length of his spine to rest just above the curve of his buttocks. Red like blood splattered over them, but when Victor touched his fingers to the bright colors, they lifted away clean. The tattoos were unreal, wings as vivid as if they were ready to unfurl straight off his flesh.

Cautiously, Victor wrapped him in thick blankets to warm him, feeling the slow but present beating of his heart. He was still alive. And Victor was captivated.

They came upon no other ships, with nearest landfall at a few day’s distance. Victor silenced the worried murmurs on board, despite the apprehension pooling inside him. No one else had heard the cries that remained nestled deep in him, a haunting echo.

The roughness of the sea settled. Their guest slept, resting in the warmth of Victor’s private quarters, wounds bandaged by Victor’s hands. The ship kept sailing. Speculative whispers of mythical creatures died, attention turning to the gems which had covered his clothes. A nobleman, perhaps. Son of successful foreign merchants. No ordinary sailor would have such wealth sewn into fabric. It was possible that a handsome ransom or reward could be collected for his safe return.

When night took the horizon, Victor descended back into his cabin. Loud rustling alerted him, a sound like the fluttering of sails drawing his attention. His guest was sitting upright in Victor’s bed, startled.

The floor was littered in black feathers, bedsheets torn into strips with smears of drying blood covering the remnants. Marks like sword strikes or claws scarred the walls, writing desk thrown clear across the cabin. A lamp was smashed, oil leaking over broken shards of glass.

Victor’s eyes met ones of melted amber, wide and dark with shock. Quickly, Victor raised his hands, palms flat and fingers spread to show he carried no weapon. “I mean no harm. We found you nearly drowned… are you okay?”

The man did not respond, his eyebrows furrowing as he stared at Victor, clutching at shredded bedding. The tension in his shoulders was sharp, his grip so tight that the black discoloration of his fingers turned nearly white.

Victor made a step forward, cautious. The man drew back, pressing his back to the headboard behind him. Immediately, Victor halted. “You were caught in a net. I pulled you on board. This is my ship.”

As Victor turned to gesture up toward the deck, his hair whipped around his back. He yelped as the very next second, his guest was upon him, grasping onto the tail with strength. Fast as a bullet, Victor spun around, seizing onto wrists only to realize that he had already been let go.

The dark beauty was staring at his own fingers, where he held the few strands of hair he had tugged out of Victor’s scalp. The light of oil lamps glinted off the silver and those enchanting eyes darted back up, trained on Victor’s hair. Without any words between them, Victor understood his voiceless pleading.

Reaching back, Victor pulled undone the ribbon keeping his hair tied, letting it fall free. The other’s gaze followed the motion of the strands in reverence. “I’m not as old as it makes me look.”

Curious fingers played with the strands, twirling them around. He wove small sections into tiny braids before letting them twist loose. The gentle wonder with which his guest explored fascinated Victor as much in response. “Do you like it?”

Victor swore his heartbeat stuttered as pink dusted across the man’s cheeks and the bridge of his nose, preceding a short nod. Delighted, Victor beamed. “You understand me then?”

A second nod, again in silence. Words seemed poised on his full lips, but they did not part to speak.

“What’s your name? I’m Victor.” Hesitation, and then Victor’s hand was taken. A fingertip traced letters into his palm. “Yuuri?”

Yuuri nodded once more.

“Are you hungry, Yuuri?” With quiet confirmation, Victor asked Yuuri to wait, stepping over the feathers scattering the floor. He returned swiftly, reassuring Yuuri with soft words and an offering of hard bread, salted meat, and the ripened flesh of a mango left over from the ship’s last docking.

Yuuri tore into the meat as soon as it was within his reach, as if starved.

While he ate, Victor carefully redressed the wounds on his back, admiring the curve of his shoulders and the tattoos painted there. The red ink had spread and Victor swore the feathers depicted there had changed. The bent, broken ones previously marring the design were gone, as if they had fallen off real wings. Victor studied those on the floor. Damaged. Discarded. Speckled with blood, shed off an injured creature. “How did you end up in that net?”

Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, chewing slowly on the last bit of meat. He made a throwing motion with his hands.

“Someone caught you?”

Another nod.

“And you fought back? …Is that how you damaged your wings?”

Yuuri startled, leaping away. The plate holding the bread and fruit clattered to the floor. Victor made no motion to follow after him.

“I heard your voice, I heard you crying. And look at the floor, I keep no birds on board this ship. Don’t worry, Yuuri, I’ve no desire to fight a siren. You haven’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you.”

Yuuri regarded him with uncertainty, edging forward. He plucked the fruit off the floor, eyes watching Victor as he bit into it. Victor’s lips curled at the corners as the siren preened at the sweet taste, taking in the pink of his tongue as Yuuri licked up the juices spilling over. Sirens were known for the allure of their voices. Yet, even speechless, Yuuri had caught up all of Victor.

“Can you fly?”

Instead of shaking his head, Yuuri glanced around the room. The damage told the story on its own.

“Come here, let me finish looking at your wounds…”

Yuuri did not move. Instead, he motioned with his hands a question.

“Why?” Victor guessed. “Why am I helping?” He chuckled when Yuuri confirmed. “It cannot be bad to win the favor of a siren. That and I am but a man, and you’re beautiful.”

Yuuri responded by retaking his seat next to Victor, facing him directly. Moving calm and deliberate, Victor changed the bandages on Yuuri’s arms and legs, torn from Yuuri’s apparent earlier struggle. Perhaps wrapping a siren previously caught in a net in blankets had not been a brilliant decision.

Yuuri watched Victor’s hands and as Victor finished, he noticed the gaze. Like a port orphan preparing to pickpocket, Yuuri was focused on the jewelry decorating his fingers. “Just like a bird, hmm? Is that why you liked my hair?” Smiling, Victor removed his rings and deposited them into Yuuri’s hands.

Blinking in surprise, Yuuri immediately proceeded to hide them in blankets bunched behind him. Victor laughed. “You can have them… But will you please give one to me real quick? I promise I’ll return it.” Yuuri looked dubious but fished one out, the plainest, handing it back to Victor.

In turn, Victor reached out to take Yuuri’s hand, sliding the ring onto one of his fingers. “If you wear them, they’re harder to lose.”

Yuuri examined the ring on his finger, turning his hand over to see how it glinted in the light before snatching the rest out of the blankets to put them on as well. All but one fit him well, loose on his ring finger. After a moment’s contemplation, Yuuri removed it and replaced it onto Victor’s hand.

“You’ll let me keep this one?” Victor asked, amused at having it returned. “Well, I suppose I cannot ask of a better thank you from a siren.”

The hint of a smile bloomed on Yuuri’s lips and it left Victor breathless.

That night, Victor did not sleep. It took time for Yuuri to settle, curled up on Victor’s bed. Dark eyes watched Victor, studying through long lashes until they finally fluttered shut near dawn.

Yuuri stayed, recovering, in Victor’s cabin. The captain forbid the rest of his crew from entering. Knowledge of a siren on board would only stir trouble.

Victor gave Yuuri new clothing, kept his bandages clean, helped him tend to his wounds until Yuuri stopped bristling in reaction. Slowly, the red splashed over Yuuri’s tattoos subsided, frail inked wings growing fuller. However, it was clear the siren was becoming more restless with each dawn.

Feathers continued to litter the floor, despite Victor ridding his quarters of them each morning and night. More than once, he witnessed Yuuri crushing the shed feathers in frustration. Victor caught fish for Yuuri, tried to distract him with stories of the ship’s voyages and battles. At the week’s end, Yuuri had collected a small horde of precious metals and gems which he always managed to relinquish from Victor without resistance, but his pride at the minor conquests faded quickly.

One evening, Victor offered Yuuri a bottle of rum and laughed when the siren smashed the bottle after burning his tongue on the liquor. Moments later, he came curiously and silently asking for another sip.

When the ship docked in a port friendly to them, Victor’s crew took their days of leave to enjoy the solid ground and spend their recent earnings. Under the cover of night, Victor let Yuuri come onto the deck, watching him cautiously move between the rigging.

Yuuri stood and watched the stars, the wind rustling at his borrowed clothing. When Victor asked if he could fly, Yuuri glanced down over his shoulders and shook his head. A few droplets of red still tainted his back. That night, Victor learned that there could not exist a sound sadder than the sobs of a siren.

From port, Victor brought Yuuri fresh meat and fruits, amused as the siren made meals of them without any preparation. Yuuri gazed out the windows as he ate, watching the gulls that soared outside of them.

The night before the ship’s departure, Victor sat next to Yuuri and cleaned the siren’s hands, receiving a questioning look. “I have something for you.” In Yuuri’s lap, he placed a flat box tied in a silver ribbon.

Yuuri opened it under Victor’s guidance, hesitant until he saw what was folded inside. The siren sprung up, grasping the clothes to him, light dancing in his eyes. Without shame, he dropped the clothes Victor had given him to wear, replacing them with his gift. The mended black fabric draped him beautifully, gems adorning it brighter and more brilliant than before. Yuuri preened as he admired himself, smiling as if he were finally in the comfort of home, back in his own clothes.

Victor knew he was under a siren’s spell. Had been from the moment he heard Yuuri’s cries coming off the sea, but he had not a single thought to escape it. “You’re welcome,” Victor said, not needing words from Yuuri to see his gratitude. “I have one more thing for you, but you must promise me you won’t use it to wreck my ship.”

The surprise which had painted Yuuri’s expression at seeing his clothing turned to shock when Victor produced his golden lyre. Immediately, Yuuri grabbed for it, but Victor held it just out of reach, teasing. “This wasn’t cheap, you know. Getting these fixed. Do you know how difficult it is finding someone trustworthy enough to work on such precious things, let alone someone who will help a wanted pirate?”

In response, Yuuri stuck out his lower lip and pouted.

“Don’t make such an adorable face at me, that isn’t fair.” Victor plucked at the strings, testing them. “I play much better after I drink, but let me try for you now.” Smiling, Victor played Yuuri an old sea song.

Yuuri’s eyes shone despite a few notes gone flat. Victor was equally unfazed, playing and dancing to entertain. Yuuri giggled silently behind his hand at Victor’s showmanship, standing up to try to rescue his instrument only to have Victor twist away to continue his off-key assault.

Yuuri laughed without sound and chased after him, bare feet slapping on wood. Victor snaked an arm around Yuuri’s waist, tugging him close. He spun with Yuuri against him until his song was graciously finished by Yuuri clasping a hand over Victor’s mouth. Victor laughed, kissing at it.

Faint blush on his cheeks, Yuuri snatched away his lyre. He examined the strings, adjusting the tune before he began to play. Pure and ethereal, unlike any melody Victor was familiar with. Victor hardly saw Yuuri’s fingers move as he created music, notes filling the cabin with their magic.

And then Victor heard it. Yuuri’s voice. It pierced through Victor and rendered him immobile.

A siren sat on Victor’s bed, singing sweetly of a silver-haired captain. The myths said that a siren’s call was impossible to resist. But Victor had already been long lost to it.

The song did not cease when Yuuri stopped playing, changing instead into the music that was the sound of Yuuri’s hitched gasp against Victor’s lips. Yuuri wound his fingers through Victor’s hair, twisting silver strands around golden rings, his mouth warm and eager in its response. If there was madness in the kiss, Victor accepted it for it gave him Yuuri, settling hot and wanting in his lap.

Instead of feathers, their clothes covered the floor. Victor could drown in the sound of Yuuri’s whimpers and moans exhaled across his skin. Like symphonies all on their own as Victor’s oil-slicked fingers found the spot inside Yuuri that had him arching, hands clawing at Victor’s arms.

Just like the first time he heard them, Yuuri’s cries enveloped Victor. But this time, they sang in ecstasy, enchanting Victor into wanting to hear only more. And this time, Victor had the blessed vision of a siren shivering above him, his hard cock sheathed by Yuuri’s wondrous body.

Victor memorized the taste of Yuuri’s mouth and skin as the siren rode him. Victor drank in the part of Yuuri’s lips, the flutter of his lashes, the heat of his movements, the music of his voice. Then, Yuuri threw his arms around Victor, burying his face in Victor’s neck as he gasped, and Victor saw them. His wings.

Blacker than night, they unfurled with the strength of a storm’s wind. Spreading, they stretched to the ceiling, as stunning to behold as the rest of Yuuri. Feathers bold and full, like silk they swept around Victor. Yuuri’s wings wrapped around them both as the siren cried out again, clinging onto Victor.

From the tattoos on Yuuri’s hands, Victor felt the blooming touch of feathers and the sting of Yuuri’s grip tightening, leaving marks on his skin. He was caught in the heat between them as Yuuri shuddered under his touch, decorating them in white pearls to contrast the dark of his wings. Victor fell into oblivion with Yuuri, driven by the beauty of Yuuri’s voice and the blissful feel of his body.

Yuuri did not let go as time calmed them. Victor kissed his breaths away until Yuuri curled into him, feathers ruffling happily around them. Victor marveled at Yuuri’s wings, whispering incredulous compliments until Yuuri’s elated pride faded into playful scowling and he folded them away.

When Victor made to move from the bed, the siren tugged him sharply back. Laughing his understanding, Victor settled against Yuuri. “I’m not leaving, I’m just—”

Yuuri huffed an interruption so Victor leaned in, pressing his lips to Yuuri’s forehead and nose, stroking his thumbs over high cheekbones. In turn, Yuuri threaded his fingers through Victor’s hair like he had taken to doing at any opportunity.

At the foot of the bed, Yuuri found the ribbon which had been used to tie his present box. Shuffling around, he sat behind Victor and pulled the long hair back into his hands. Carefully, Yuuri smoothed out the strands, fingers gently combing through. Victor leaned back against Yuuri, who braided his hair and wove the silver ribbon into the plaits. Yuuri tied the end with the last bit of ribbon, pleased with his handiwork. In thanks, Victor kissed Yuuri’s palms, the pink of his lips against the black of Yuuri’s skin. The lamps in Victor’s cabin burned low.

Yuuri fell asleep against Victor’s side, his steady exhales falling back to his usual quiet. As the siren dozed, Victor admired him with newfound reverence. At Yuuri’s feet, Victor carefully folded his mended clothing and set his lyre atop them. There was no more red splattering Yuuri’s back, only the intricate black tattoos of his wings. His wounds had healed. Yuuri was ready to fly.

In the softness of the morning light, the black of Yuuri’s tattoos was stark against his skin, but Yuuri looked like a bird in a cage. He sat with knees pulled to his chest, staring out the ship windows. No gulls flew in their sights, the ship had left their reach.

Having seen his wings’ true form, Victor wondered if it felt like a restraint to Yuuri, to keep them folded away. To be unable to stretch them amongst the wide freedom of the sky. “Yuuri... come here."

The siren took Victor's hand when it was held out to him, following across the cabin and up the steps ascending to the deck. The sun was strong on their faces, the sky cloudless. Victor ordered his crew to stand back, Yuuri bristling beside him at their stares.

Hand in hand, Victor led Yuuri to the bow of the ship, and there, he let Yuuri go. Yuuri's eyes darted toward the ocean, the sky, the horizon. He made a hesitant step forward, ink on his feet ruffling into feathers. Turning back, he looked to Victor, eyes shifting between him and the sea.

"Sirens don't belong on ships, and I can’t keep you like a bird. Just give us a fair head start, if you will."

The smile Yuuri gave rivaled the brightness of the sun. Then, his wings blocked it out entirely, unfurling and spreading past the width of the bow. The strength of them swept wind into the sails and nearly sent Victor stumbling.

Yuuri soared, a happy cry piercing straight through Victor's heart as the siren dipped to skim the water with his fingertips. The shadow of his wings encircled the ship once, and vanished. As suddenly as he had appeared, Yuuri was gone.

The sea was calmer and more silent than Victor had ever known it to be. He ordered the ship turned around, setting sail away from where the siren had flown.

They spent a week on open water, sighting and trailing a supply ship which kept outrunning them. In the evenings, his crew swore they heard singing coming off the waves, but it did not reach Victor’s ears. He found a few of Yuuri’s feathers still scattered around his bed and strung them into the ribbon tying his hair, if nothing more than a message that he had met a siren and lived.

It was on the eighth morning that he awoke to the shouts of his crew, and came onto the deck to a clamor. Off to the starboard side was the ship they had chased. Half submerged with its sails shredded, deck painted red and its crew missing. Atop its crow’s nest perched a single figure, wrapped in darkness.

Victor heard the yells from his men, felt the wood beneath his feet tremor at the heavy drop of weight before him. He had no time to draw his sword or pistol, but he did not need them. “Yuuri?”

The black staining Yuuri’s skin retreated, the feathers blooming off his arms and legs melting into the intricate designs of his tattoos. He reached forward and took Victor’s hands, smiling as he slid all manners of rings onto Victor’s fingers before holding out his own hands, showing off matching sets.

Victor stared, incredulous, before Yuuri tugged on his braid, smile wider when he saw his own feathers woven in. Yuuri gestured toward the side, excitedly showing off his conquest.

“You sunk a ship for me?” A nod in confirmation. Victor laughed. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever done. But, you know it’d be easier for me if it wasn’t already halfway to the bottom of the ocean?”

Yuuri rolled his eyes, the feathers of his wings ruffling. He made to turn, but Victor stopped him, catching his hands and his lips, like Yuuri had caught his heart.

Victor Nikiforov was known the world over, a pirate captain who sailed with a siren at his side.

Chapter Text

“Does he lay eggs?”

Victor’s boot snagged on the wooden deck. Stumbling, he whipped around to look at the powder monkey that addressed him. Young, short, blond and fiesty. Had the makings of a good master gunner, despite the semi-permanent scowl on his face.

“Does he–”

“Lay eggs. He’s a bird. Birds lay eggs.”

“Does he look like a bird?” Victor laughed good-naturedly.

“No, sir.”

“That’s because he isn’t a bird. He does not lay eggs. Understood?”

“If you say so.” The boy looked unconvinced. “He isn’t human either, captain.”

Suddenly, Victor was not so sure himself.

~~~~~~~~

“Chris, do sirens lay eggs?”

The ship’s cook arched an eyebrow. “Are we expecting baby birds? Because that will make for extra mouths to feed, I’ll need to recalculate the rations.”

Victor’s eyes went wide.

“I’m joking. You have nothing to worry about, the males don’t…” Chris paused in consideration. “…As far as I know.”

~~~~~~~~

Victor sat, straight-backed, on the edge of the bed. Behind him, Yuuri forwent a comb, threading his fingers through long silver strands. He dipped down, brushing his lips over Victor’s shoulders as he braided loosely so as not to let them tangle over the course of the night. Every evening, Yuuri waited excitedly to play with and care for Victor’s hair and he was never denied.

“Yuuri, I have a question for you. It’s a little strange, is that fine?”

The answer was another kiss pressed between his shoulder blades as Yuuri continued to fondly braid.

“Do you lay eggs?”

Yuuri’s fingers stilled and after a moment, Victor felt him tremble. He glanced back, seeing Yuuri’s shoulders shake as he laughed silently, his dark eyes sparkling in amused delight.

“Excuse me, you’re the first siren I’ve met. There’s still a lot I don’t know! I’ve heard that sirens sink every ship they meet, yet we’re still sailing.”

Yuuri tugged playfully on Victor’s half-finished braid and gestured for him to turn back, so that he could finish the task at hand. Victor swore that Yuuri was a little rougher and needier than usual that night in their bed.

~~~~~~~~

“You’ll owe me.”

Yuuri tilted his head to the side in inquisition.

“I want a cat for the ship. It’ll keep mice out of the ship’s food stores. Victor keeps promising and forgetting. Make him get me one the next time we dock.”

With a smile and a nod, Yuuri held out his hands. Chris gave him three eggs.

~~~~~~~~

In the morning, Victor awoke and pressed a kiss to a sleeping Yuuri’s forehead. The siren was nestled against him, hands bunched into fists against Victor’s chest. Behind him was dark. It took a moment to process that it was because Yuuri’s wings were out. They were folded against his back, black feather tips reaching down to his ankles. Victor had never seen Yuuri sleep with his wings on display before.

Victor rolled and heard the crack before he felt it. Shells, shattered. In horror, he looked down. From beneath his hip, thick yellow liquid leaked out onto the bedsheets. Victor lifted up and saw the eggs, smashed under his careless weight.

Leaping up, the choked noise he made wasn’t human. He tried to scoop shards of shell and yolk into his hands, dismayed to see it had already begun to seep into the mattress.

Yuuri stirred, lashes fluttering. His dark eyes took in Victor’s panicked expression and he glanced down.

“Yuuri, it’s okay, I can fix it! I didn’t see them, I didn’t realize. Oh, of course, this is like your nest, isn’t it. I didn’t know, I’m so sorry!” Victor cried, desperate. “They-… they weren’t fertilized, Yuuri! We can make more! Just tell me what to do, if you need me to keep them warm or sit on them, gently I mean, I can do it. Whatever you need!”

Yuuri laughed so hard he fell off the bed. A couple feathers poofed up into the air.

Victor did not get the joke, yolk dripping from between his fingers.

~~~~~~~~

Victor sulked at the helm of the ship. A white persian slinked by, wrapping its comically fluffy tail around his leg as it went.

Chapter Text

“Not this one, Yuuri. We need it. And you’re not pouting your way into it this time!”

The siren did exactly that, pushing out his full bottom lip. Pleading shamelessly for what he wanted.

“No, Yuuri. It’s a good ship, it’s going to be worth more than everything on board it.”

Yuuri tilted his head down, gazing up at Victor with his beautiful brown eyes, through the fullness of his eyelashes. Which he batted. Where was he learning all these things?

Victor had to draw in a sharp, short breath, but he held his ground. “If we capture this ship and give it Georgi to captain, we expand our power.”

Yuuri’s expression flashed, turning foul as he scowled. Victor could see the feathers sprouting off his hands and legs, standing on end with his irritation. Huffing, Yuuri shuffled his feet, throwing Victor a glare.

“Do you know how much we lose out on every time you sink a ship? Come on, my angry little bird, they’re wasted on the bottom of the ocean. We didn’t even get half the supplies off the last one!”

That did it. Yuuri’s feathers bristled sharply. The second Victor saw Yuuri’s lips part, he knew the argument was finished. However, Yuuri did not speak, gritting his teeth instead, holding back whatever he had been about to say. He stalked straight over to Victor, jabbing a finger into the pirate’s chest.

Yuuri did not bother to take Victor’s hand, tracing letters straight onto the skin revealed by the slit in the front of his shirt.

Go throw yourself off the ship.

Victor went rigid, meeting the red of Yuuri’s glare. The siren was biting his own lip, restraining the command sitting on the tip of his tongue.

With a sigh, Victor lifted Yuuri’s hand and kissed his knuckles. He then left Yuuri’s side, crossing the deck and jumping to stand atop the shipside railing.

Yuuri’s eyes went wide and he yelped as Victor actually leapt overboard. His wings burst forth, but he was too late to save Victor from hitting the water, dragging a soaked pirate out from under the waves and back on board.

The entire crew blinked over at them, keeping their distance.

Victor spat out half a mouthful of sea water, as Yuuri stared at him, distressed. “For you, lovebird, anything,” Victor coughed.

Yuuri flapped his arms haphazardly, wings mimicking the motion. Downwind, a few members of the crew toppled over from the strength of the gust they generated.

“Okay, okay, how about a compromise? Let me give Georgi the ship. And if he ever does anything stupid with it, you have my permission to sink it. No objections.”

Water dripped steadily from Victor’s clothes. Scoffing, Yuuri relented enough to peck at Victor’s lips, their own personal little sealing of the deal.

Chapter Text

Yuuri wandered the market with wide, cautious eyes. Everyone on board had been itching to spend some of their newly acquired loot, so Victor had directed them to a friendly port.

At first, Yuuri had clung to Victor’s side, skiddish as a cat. But then the stalls of fruits and fabrics drew out his fascination, and Victor had a hard time keeping up.

Victor had wanted to purchase clothes for Yuuri, as his siren’s robes would attract too much attention outside of their ship. Yuuri was far more interested in little trinkets and admiring hand-crafted instruments. He happily listened to the beckons of shop keepers, particularly those who flashed anything that caught the light of the sun or held out small slices of exotic fruits for him to try.

Victor’s coin purse was left significantly lighter. However he also noticed that people simply gave things to Yuuri. He had new bracelets on his wrists which caught the juices spilling from the orange flesh of the fruit he ate, licking his fingertips clean with a smile stretched clear across his face. Victor had purchased neither yet no angry salesman chased after them.

Yuuri seemed delighted, pleased to explore something entirely new to him, and pouted heavily when Victor finally started to tug him away. He followed only after repeated promises that they could return soon and the reminder that Yuuri could always fly there on his own, if he so wished.

They had nearly left the market when Yuuri froze, grabbing onto Victor’s wrist. Victor heard the squawks before he saw the brightly colored feathers of the parrots perched along a stall. Yuuri was there in an instant.

The birds flocked to him, one jumping into his hands as soon as he held them out. The other two shuffled as close as the leather ties around their feet permitted. Yuuri cooed to them and they chattered back, flapping and ruffling their feathers at him. Victor saw the clipped wings when they spread, saw Yuuri’s smile slip as the birds continued to chirp at him.

The look on Yuuri’s face was pure distress when he snatched up Victor’s hand, hastily tracing letters into his palm so quickly Victor barely caught the words. He did not need them to guess what Yuuri wanted, not with the way that Yuuri bristled when grisly-looking man appeared, laugh rough as he asked Yuuri if he liked his birds.

The line of Yuuri’s shoulders went rigid. He took one step forward, dark eyes flashing with the red of his siren temper. Victor had been about to unstring his coin purse, ready to toss the whole thing in exchange when Yuuri’s lips parted.

“Give.”

The word hit Victor’s chest like a cannonball and in that moment he would give Yuuri everything. The clothes off his back, the pistols off his sash, the gold off his fingers. His entire ship and his life, placed neatly into Yuuri’s hands. But the command wasn’t directed at him.

The daze of Yuuri’s voice did not fade. Victor watched as the ties restraining the birds were hastily cut, their owner stumbling away from Yuuri under the power of his glare the moment they were relinquished.

They left the market with three parrots nestling gleefully up against the siren, and Yuuri never having looked prouder.

Chapter Text

“Birdy wanna cracker?”

“Cracker!”

The parrot on Victor’s arm squawked loudly and was promptly rewarded with said cracker. She crunched away, holding the treat in one claw as she chipped off pieces with her beak.

“She’s learned it, Yuuri, look!” Victor said excitedly.

The siren giggled behind his hand.

“Cracker!”

Victor held out another, only to have it snatched away by one of the other birds swooping down to settle on his shoulder, the third landing on a nearby perch.

“Cracker!”

“Cracker!”

“Cracker!”

Victor clasped his hands over his ears as the parrots declared their request.

“Cracker!”

The repeated squawks were deafening.

Yuuri stopped laughing. Victor’s heart-shaped smile dropped off his face entirely, twisting into horror.

“CRACKER!”

“For the love of everyone’s hearing, please teach your children another word,” Chris said, entirely unhelpful as he walked by and shoved more crackers into the parrots’ beaks to shut them up for all of thirty seconds.

Only thirty seconds.


“Grandpa!”

Victor stopped in his tracks and stared at the bird that squawked at him. She sat on her perch and ruffled her feathers, turning her head away in the feigning of innocence. The captain’s eyes narrowed, but the bird remained quiet. Until he looked away.

“Grandpa!”

Again, the parrot turned her head to avoid making eye contact when Victor snapped his attention back.

“You’re not telling me you’ve got a nest with eggs somewhere around here, are you?” Victor questioned, slow and suspicious. Unlike when Yuuri cooed to the birds, there came no response. He was being delibrately cold-shouldered by a parrot.

With a sigh, he turned away, long hair ponytail flipping with the motion.

“Grandpa!”

~~~~~~~

“Baldy!”

Victor glared at the parrots. If he did not know better, he would have thought they were grinning, beaks parted just enough to give the impression. “How is that an acceptable way of talking to your captain?”

“Baldy!”

“I am not. Where’d you learn that?”

The parrots did not give up any names.

“Baldy!”
“Grandpa!”

He did not bother trying to question them further.

~~~~~~~~

“I think someone is teaching the kids to insult me.”

Yuuri nodded, tapping his ear. If he was trying to pass off sympathetic, it did not work. A smile twitched to the corners of his lips.

“You know who it is.” Victor observed. Yuuri’s widening smile betrayed him. “Is it Yurio?”

The siren shook his head, stroking his chin and upper lip in indication of a beard.

“I know it’s not Emil, so… Chris?”

A nod that time.

“Is it because I taught them to say ‘stupid cat’ to his?”

Yuuri shrugged, not appearing like he was particularly devastated by the new nicknames Victor had been bestowed upon by the birds.

“Can you ask them to stop?”

After a moment of consideration, Yuuri held out his hands. Victor placed his own in them, palms up. “What, lovebird, what could you possibly want?“

Yuuri traced his request on Victor’s skin, who laughed immediately. “Really? Okay, if that’s what you want.”

~~~~~~~

Victor walked by the parrots’ perch but they remained quiet. He regarded them with expectation, placing a hand on a cocked hip. “What, nothing to say today?”

“Beautiful! You’re beautiful!” One of them screeched out, the other two promptly joining in.

“Beautiful!”

Victor smirked, touched by Yuuri’s correction.

Below deck, the siren splashed in a bathing tub, gleeful as he sunk a wood-carved toy boat beneath the water’s surface.


Victor narrowed his eyes at the horizon and sighed. Wind filled the sails, pushing the ship steady through the waves. She sat low in the water, loaded heavy with cargo. A siren on board had made the looting almost too easy. A single flash of Yuuri’s wings and the ships they had chased surrendered. Only fools fought sirens.

Yet, a solid two months at sea had drained the crew. Supplies were low and the clouds above weighed themselves with building rain. Victor pushed the pregnant ship toward a port, straining for a glimpse of coastline.

One of the parrots swooped down, colored wings flapping fast. She squawked out in excitement, circling the ship to relay her message to everyone on deck. “Land ho! Land ho!”

Up from the crow’s nest, a crewman shouted down a confirmation.

Victor arched an eyebrow, impressed. About time the birds showed some use. Whoever had taught them–

The parrot landed on Yurio’s shoulder, chattering out, “Thank you, thank you!” as she received a treat. The boy rubbed his fingers over her head and sent her off, glaring when he noticed Victor’s eyes on him.

“What?!” he snapped, shoving his hands in his pockets and stalking off.

Victor laughed. Seemed like everyone was turning into a bird person.

Chapter Text

The portside railing housed an impressive lineup of toy ships. Some painted, carved with intricate designs, real fabric sails on square-rigged masts. Others were more simplistic, wooden blocks in the vague shapes of boats.

They sat side-by-side, like a miniature fleet, facing into the wind. As if ready to set sail on the blue expanse before them.

With a huge smile, Yuuri ran along the deck behind the ships, shoving them overboard one by one. Little splashes sounded as each one hit the waves below.

Yuuri cackled, delighted, wings bold behind him as he leapt into the sea, smashing any ships that survived the plummet to pieces.

Nearby crew members glanced over the side of the ship, watching the gleeful siren splashing in the water. Maniac in his joy with each toy ship he successfully sunk beneath the waves. If it concerned them, they did not let their expressions betray it.

At the helm, the captain grinned, adoring the chime of his siren’s laughter.

Chapter Text

Yuuri squirmed under Victor’s kisses as they tickled his ear. With each sweet brush, Victor dotted the line of small diamond marks along Yuuri’s skin. The roughness of his morning voice melded with the compliments he whispered, of cute and lovely, and everything that had Yuuri’s cheeks flushing redder than the wine Victor had brought on board for them the previous night.

Yuuri bunched his hands against Victor’s chest, giggling silently at how Victor’s lips swept at the sensitive spots. He pushed lightly in protest, felt the joy expanding in his chest as Victor continued with mutters of beautiful and lovebird. A lifetime spent living on the solitude of jagged cliffsides, and now he awoke in the warmth of Victor’s embrace and the fondness of his kisses.

Teeth scrapped playfully over his earlobe, and Yuuri moaned, the exhale soft and hushed. He did not realize he had let it slip his lips until Victor’s laugh rolled across his skin. Bubbling with glee.

“Yuuri, you sprouted.” Victor teased another kiss just below Yuuri’s ear. His lips tickled tiny feathers, blooming from the tattoos he had been tracing.

Cheeks burning hot, Yuuri clasped his hands over his ears, while Victor laughed all the more.

“Oh darling, don’t hide from me,” Victor said, delicate as he pulled Yuuri’s hands away, kissing his fingertips, the inside of his wrist, and up the tattoos twisting up Yuuri’s arms. “That’s the cutest thing in the world, my kisses got you so excited. You know that I adore you, feathers and all.”

Scowling, Yuuri let his feathers bristle, but Victor just beamed in response. Beamed and kissed at Yuuri’s ears again, until the siren’s giggles filled the room with the magic of their delight.

Chapter Text

To a sailor, honest or not, the sea was always a threat. Even on the kindest days, she could be deceptive. Still waters and clear skies never lasted long, hiding storms behind the horizon.

It was Yurio who first spotted the flash of color in the water, sounding the alarm. Scales of red and gold hiding amongst the glittering blue of the sea under a bright summer sun. Glimpses of a tail flirting out from the wash of the waves, never permitting a solid look.

“How many are there?”

“I can’t tell.”

“Is it a school?”

“I think it’s only one.”

“They’re not like sirens, they aren’t solitary.”

“Look, there, see!”

“It’s circling us…”

“Well that’s freaking great. Exactly what we need. What kind is it?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen one with a tail like that before. Usually mermaids–”

Chris had to seize onto the powder monkey to prevent him from plunging into the water, nearly knocked overboard by the expanse of Yuuri’s wings. The siren had sprung off his perch on the crow’s nest with a sharp cry, diving straight into the water below.

In the split moment before he hit the surface, it broke from beneath with the vibrant flash of gold on scarlet fins. The mermaid leapt into the air, colliding with the siren. Webbed hands grasped onto Yuuri’s feathers, dragging him down into the sea.

Neither reappeared. The surface settled.

“Captain!!”

“Yuuri– it grabbed him, he’s gone!”

“I don’t see them!”

Victor came running. He threw off the sash tying his pistols to his hip, ready to leap in after his siren.

The ocean erupted. Droplets of water burst up into the air like diamonds, propelled over the ship with the force of Yuuri’s wings. The siren shot up into the sky, twirling as he flew. His arms were wrapped around the mermaid, waist encircled by its tail.

Yuuri’s forehead was tipped against the mermaid’s, smile split across his face. The sound of combined laughter filled the air, wondrous and uplifting in its power.

Yuuri peaked above the tops of the masts, stilling in his ascent. The two fell back into the water. Yuuri’s wings pushed them across the surface as they rolled in the waves, splashing with abandon. Their chatter barely reached the ship, excited, like that of two friends reunited.

The men on board stared, watching the siren kick up water with his wings, splashing at the mermaid. Who proceeded to grab his shoulders, shoving Yuuri down under the water without any sense of fear. He cackled openly when Yuuri emerged, spitting out sea water with a playful scowl.

“….Your bird’s friends with a freaking mermaid?!” Yurio demanded, spinning to glare at Victor.

“I had no idea,” Victor answered, pouting a bit as he watched Yuuri’s lips move rapidly, able to see it even at a distance but unable to hear the siren’s hushed words.

“How delightful life on board this ship has become,” Chris remarked, leaning forward to try to glimpse more of the mermaid. “He’s quite cute, do you think the tales of them growing legs on land are true?”

“We’re all gonna die,” Yurio muttered. “Drowned by mermaids, eaten by sirens…”

From out on the water, the mermaid shouted out something in shocked delight. His brilliantly colored tail slashed through the waves as he tugged Yuuri back to the ship by the hand, waving enthuastically at Victor. “Hiiiiiiiiii!!!”

Victor blinked, slowly waving back. From down below, Yuuri blushed. The mermaid beside him grinned, sharp white teeth contrasting his dark skin.

“Yep, all dead,” Yurio quipped while Chris and Victor shouted down a greeting.




“So how’d you meet Yuuri?” Victor asked of the mermaid seated on the railing of his ship. Phichit had scaled the side without Yuuri’s assistance, showing off the sharpness of his nails. Which he’d polished casually against his own scales upon planting himself on board.

“Stumbled on his cliff a couple years back,” Phichit chirped back, grinning. The resemblance his teeth bore to a shark’s was even clearer up close. “He was singing all by his lonesome. What a tragedy.”

“It doesn’t affect you then?” Victor said, his eyes on Phichit’s shoulders. The sun shone off his golden markings, but that was not his focus. It was the little white bunny-like creatures crawling over them. “His voice?”

“Nah, merfolk aren’t as weak as humans.” Phichit answered, another one of the cute white things making its way around his cupped hands. “Plus there’s nothing he could offer that I wasn’t already happy with. He tried telling me to go away at first, but it didn’t work.”

Victor could imagine Yuuri attempting to order a strange and shiny mermaid to leave him be, then sulking cutely when it didn’t. He would have had that pout on his lips.

“Never thought I’d find him on a ship of all places,” Phichit laughed in continuation. “He hates ships.”

“He likes this one,” Victor defended. The siren was nearby, aiding his crew to change out the sails.

“Ohhhh, I know. He told me. Said he likes something on the ship in particular.” Phichit’s smirk spoke of traded secrets whispered out on the water. “You know that sirens mate for life, right?”

Victor did his best not to choke on air. “No, he didn’t mention that.”

“Oh. Well, maybe that’s something you need to talk about.” The gaze the mermaid cast was pointed. “Anyway, a pirate, huh? You got a lot of good treasure on board?”

“What kind of treasure does a mermaid like?”

“All kinds. That one’s caught my eye,” Phichit said, placing the creature in his hands on his shoulder with the other two.

Victor followed his eyes to see that they were directed at Chris, who was helping roll up the thick sail fabric to set it away. The cook caught their stares and waved at Phichit.

Phichit waved back with his tail, gold scales sparkling in the sun. “Hey there. Fancy a taste of the sea?”

Chris tripped over the sail and Phichit laughed loudly, clearly pleased with the effect. “What?” he asked, seeing Victor’s surprised and skeptical look. “You might not be the only one with a bit of an inter-species kink.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri sneezed. Feathers poofed up all around him.

The floor was littered with them. A carpet of molted plumage. The siren sat at the center of their bed. Pillows and blankets were bundled around his waist, a makeshift nest of bedding.

Feathers bloomed off all his markings. His arms, his legs, from around his ears. His wings were not their usual sleek and graceful black. Instead, feathers stuck out at every which angle, falling out in patches.

“How’s my scruffy lovebird?” Victor entered the cabin, carrying a tray of fruits. He chuckled as a few more feathers flinted off Yuuri when he glanced over, and waded through the fluff coating the floor.

The siren scrunched his nose, nestling himself down further into the bed.

Victor set the tray aside, placing a cup into Yuuri’s hands. “Chris heated up some wine for you, said it might help keep you warm.”

Yuuri lifted it to his lips, taking a deep drink before freezing and sneezing straight into the cup. Wine speckled his cheeks, glistening off his lips, and the tip of his irritated red nose. He gazed over the rim of the cup through heavy lashes at Victor, eyes pleading for relief.

Laughing, Victor took the cup from Yuuri. He wiped Yuuri’s cheeks clean and kissed a droplet off his nose. “You’re extremely floofy.”

Yuuri glared, ruffling his wings in displeasure at the teasing remark. It resulted in a waterfall of feathers cascading off him, adding to the piles littering the bed and floor. Yuuri sneezed again and the shed feathers exploded up into the air, showering back down around them.

“Are you allergic to yourself?” Victor asked, picking puffs of down off Yuuri’s shoulders and from around them.

I don’t usually molt inside. Yuuri traced onto Victor’s thigh, sniffling. And not this much.

“Why is this time different?” Victor swept the rest of the feathers off the bed and took Yuuri’s hands. He removed feathers that were loose, doing the same with Yuuri’s feet, kissing his ankle. Once finished there, he shifted to sit behind Yuuri.

Carefully, Victor walked his fingers through Yuuri’s feathers, grooming his wings of the molted ones. He could feel Yuuri relax under his touch, his cute little sneezes settling. Victor took his time, gentle as he sorted through. Yuuri hummed in delight, rustling his wings when no more feathers fell off them.

“Yuuri…” Victor frowned, leaning in to examine Yuuri’s wings. From underneath the molting feathers, he glimpsed the tips of new ones peeking out. “You’re not black…” Instead of jet black, the baby feathers shone of midnight blue.

Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, folding in his wings. I… I change colors during a certain time of year.
“Oh? When’s that?” Victor asked curiously.

Rather than write words, Yuuri leaned in, pressing his lips against Victor’s ear. “Mating season.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s wings were bare. His old feathers had molted nearly entirely, steadily replaced by the new gleam of midnight blue. Still fresh and not yet fully formed. It left him looking oddly messy, patches of blue amongst greying black, with sharp contrasts between the spots.

Yuuri had traced a few more days onto Victor’s palm that morning, before disappearing back inside his mass of blankets. Peppered down feathers billowed out after him, driven by the force of another sneeze.

Victor had never expected something as cute as a molting siren. Yuuri had spent a week practically nesting in their bed, devouring any food that Victor brought him, affectionate beyond a fault whenever Victor groomed his wings. In the evenings, he seemed to turn from a bird to an octopus, suctioning himself to Victor’s side with all their limbs entangled.

The crew, concerned for Yuuri’s weakened state and sudden disappearance, had left offerings of hand-carved toy boats outside the cabin. Yuuri chirped happily at each, causing a mess when he proceeded to drown one in a glass of Victor’s rum.

Victor stayed with him as much as he could, for Yuuri whined in complaint whenever he left, writing pleas for Victor to return quickly into the sheets and across his skin. He laid beside Yuuri so that the siren could still play with his hair, braiding a few of his molted feathers into the silver.

“Captain!“ The call was preceded by a hasty knock. Without awaiting a response, Mila came in through the door, concern writ across her face. “Come, quick. I don’t know how we didn’t see them coming but— no, Yuuri, not you. Stay here.”

Victor rose from the bed, leaving Yuuri with a squeeze of the hand to follow his quartermaster to the deck. He had no chance to question her worry, he saw it clear when he stepped out. Beside their ship was another. Flying the colors of the Royal Navy. And Victor recognized the gruff elder man standing at command aboard it.

“Surrender the siren, Vitya! We know you have it on board. Give it up and I let your crew be. This time around.”

Victor’s eyes darted to Mila beside him, seeing her hands hovering over each hip. One over her pistol, the second over her sword. He echoed the movements. “Not without a fight, Gramps!”

"Don’t be a fool, Vitya! You’re gonna risk your ship and your crew for a siren?”

A good question. The answer came with one look round his deck. Not a single pair of eyes had wavered back to Victor in concern. Behind him, a few men climbed slowly up the ropes. The gunners had vanished, positioned below deck to load and aim the cannons if word came. Alongside the ship railing, those that remained had hands poised on weapons.

Georgi came up from behind him. “Victor…”

“Tell Otabek to load the split-shots,” Victor muttered. “And get ready to turn us to the wind.”

Beside him, Mila steadied her stance.

Victor squared his shoulders and smirked. “We’ve been longing for a spot of fun! Do you really think we’ll be scared by the rantings of a senior citizen?”

“That thing is filling your heads with its enchantments! It’ll sink you where you stand.”

“Well then, permit us to move!”

The roar of the yells of his crew sounded overhead as his men swung on ropes, launching themselves over the rails. They flew over the split of the sea between the two ships, tumbling onto the deck of the naval ship with practiced precision. The ring of fired bullets echoed against their sails, sparks flying as cutlasses met swords.

Victor laughed as he saw the brusque displeasure streak through Yakov’s expression. The same as it had always been whenever Victor went against an order or dared question navy protocol years prior. He ran up the side of the ship, grabbing onto a swinging rope to help support his jump. A moment of air and his boots hit polished wood.

His sword hit the hilt of another, and Victor flashed his most brilliant smile at the man he met. “Mickey! Give my regards to your beautiful sister.” He heaved the petty officer off, punctuated by a kick to the chest. Hard enough to send Michele stumbling down the steps at his back.

Victor fired off two of his pistols, relieving another naval officer of his own, before flipping someone overboard with an upward thrust of his shoulder.

His third shot knocked the tricorne hat right off Yakov’s head.

“Miss me, Commodore?” Victor swooped in, slapping his fingers lightly over the shine of Yakov’s head. A chuckle escaped him as he was driven back by the quick lunge of a sword.

“This isn’t a game, Vitya,” Yakov growled, gold laced buttons of his blue frock glinting in the sunlight. “Give me the siren.”

“I don’t have him, he isn’t with us.” Victor dodged each strike of the blade with a sidestep. “How’d you find out anyway?”

“You think you can show up in ports with one in tow and no one will notice? You’re as reckless as always.”

“Didn’t know anyone really knew what one looked like,” Victor countered, keeping his own sword up to block Yakov’s charges, backward steps as nimble as a dancer’s.

“Reckless and careless.” Yakov’s growl was emphasized by a push-in.

Victor’s smile slipped when his heels hit wood, flicker of his eyes showing him backed to a ship wall. “Ahhh… I didn’t want to do this but—” He whistled, loud and piercing through the battle cries of the dueling pirates and navy on board.

A cannon blasted. And wood splintered, bursting and showering the ship as the split-shot tore through the main mast. A second took out the aftmost. Laugh back on his lips, Victor ducked and hooked an ankle through Yakov’s, tripping him forward. He slid his sword up, resting it gentle at the hollow of Yakov’s throat. “I don’t have him.”

“As if I believe you.”

Victor made to shrug, nonchalant. But over Yakov’s shoulder, he glimpsed a flash of white.

Yuuri, stood on deck. Still wrapped in their blankets, keeping his weak wings protected. Even in their distance, Victor could see the wideness of his brown eyes, the feathers scattering around his feet in the doorway leading to their cabin. Victor’s blood ran cold.

The muzzle of a pistol jabbed sharply into the center of Victor’s chest.

"Why don’t you just give it up?” Despite the sword insistent against the skin of his throat, Yakov did not waver. “Keeping a siren on board, it’ll only lead to your doom, Vitya. Is that what you want for your ship? To see it down into Davy Jones’ Locker?”

“I told you, he’s not with us. I don’t keep him caged like some bird, he’s not something for me to give.”

“You forget who taught you how to lie,” Yakov spat, shifting the angle of his weapon so it pointed at Victor’s heart.

“That’s Lilia’s gun, we both know that it isn’t loaded,” Victor said, looking down at the muzzle digging into his chest. However, the glee on his face had fallen off, the strands of hair at the back of his neck standing on end.

“It’s been a while, things might have changed.” Yakov cocked the flintlock.

The clamor of pirates parrying with naval officers faded into stunned silence around him. Because Victor saw Yuuri unfreeze, bewilderment shaken with the resounding click of the spring-loaded hammer that should have been lost to the wind. He saw Yuuri run.

Blanket slipping off his shoulders and trailing behind him as he sprinted for the edge of their ship. His black feathers falling off in waves, bare feet thumping across the wood.

Victor’s sword dropped and he fell back, heart beating harder than the blasts of the cannons. It threatened to run out his throat, pounding a fracture into his ribs, making him choke on his tongue as his eyes seized Yuuri’s. “No! Stop, get inside!”

Yuuri stopped. Blanket and bedsheets shed to the deck, molting wings sinking beside him, unable to lift him into the air. The panicked brown of his eyes locked with the blue of Victor’s. And then Yuuri’s lips parted to speak.

Yakov turned. Following the line of Victor’s vision, pistol barrel whipping around to aim—

The muzzle flashed.

Screaming as the lead shot seared through him, Victor slammed himself into Yakov. The blue of Yakov’s frock stained red as Victor fell against him, holding him back. Out of the line of sight of Yuuri, pinned against the ship wall.

“The siren! Men, it’s—”

Victor drove his sword through Yakov.

At their feet, red dripped and pooled.

Yuuri scrambled forward, struggling to rise on his weak and shedding wings. They stretched, spread uneven, flapping hard at his back.

The tip of Victor’s sword buried into the wood behind Yakov, whose eyes widened in shock. “What has that thing done to you?”

Victor leaned onto the hilt, gritting his teeth at the pain of the bullet blistering through him. “He’s not what you think.”

Yuuri crashed against the railing of Victor’s ship, molted feathers swept up by the wind. Panic contorted his features, and he looked ready to jump. As if will itself would carry him between the warring ships. He clawed himself back up, standing tall.

His black and blue wings thrust out to full span, with enough force to fill the sails and turn the ship.

“Stop!” Yuuri’s scream carried to the horizon. And everything ceased.

Men were paralyzed mid-lunge, the swing of swords and the fire of guns halted in place. The sea itself went still.

“Leave!”

Leave they did. Like wound-up dolls, Victor’s crew returned to their ship as Yakov’s retreated.

Victor left his sword. He left the naval ship and left a trail behind him, across the polished deck, across the boarding plank.

Turned to the wind, his ship pushed forward. Leaving Yakov’s behind, disabled by her shattered masts.

Victor stumbled into Yuuri’s arms. And left them red with blood.

Chapter Text

Victor felt himself heavy in Yuuri’s arms. The ship rushed around them, as men clamored to help one another with their injuries. If any tried to approach them, Yuuri did not permit it. He kept his wings, as bare as they were, folded around them.

Victor’s boots dragged along the deck as he attempted to keep upright, supporting himself against Yuuri. “I apologize, lovebird, I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”

Yuuri scowled, unable to do anything more. Victor was unsteady on the stairs leading into their quarters, toes catching on the steps. He hissed when Yuuri lifted him, carrying him down.

With a single sweep of his wings, Yuuri cleared the floor of his molted feathers. Setting Victor on the edge of the bed, Yuuri kneeled and ripped through Victor’s shirt, dark eyes darting around in panic.

The shot had torn through Victor’s side, blood staining Yuuri’s fingertips as he searched.

“It went through,” Victor muttered, gritting his teeth against the pain. “It’ll be fine, it’s not so bad…”

Yuuri pulled his hands back, palms red. He glanced up at Victor, vision close to swimming. “I’m sorry… I-… I didn’t-…” His voice was hushed, but the words hooked into Victor’s chest and shredded at him deeper than the wound.

The siren fell quiet, helpless.

Emil rushed in and Yuuri allowed him near. Working quick, the doctor splashed alcohol over the wound, ignoring Victor’s shout, and pushed clean sheets into Yuuri’s hands. “Hold it there, put pressure on it. I have to go— Mila’s bad, she might lose her leg. Just try to stop the bleeding.” He left them there, together.

Yuuri’s breath caught in his throat, hitching high and tight. He nodded, keeping the sheet bundled and pressed to Victor’s side until the white turned a bright and shining red.

Victor slid down, falling back against the mattress. Yuuri shifted, staying close, fighting the tears building in his eyes when Victor’s slid shut.

“Heal…” he whispered, command desperate on his tongue. “Heal, heal, heal, heal, heal! Please heal…”

Color continued to seep through the sheets.

Chapter Text

Emil returned with grim expression to stitch Victor’s wound, his rolled up sleeves already turned copper red. When Victor inquired of Mila, Emil frowned and shook his head, muttering a line about having a replacement carved and fitted when they arrived in port.

Victor swore, hitting his fist against the mattress. Yuuri shuffled close, gentle as he traced his question onto Victor’s arm. Sharp sigh followed by a sharp inhale, Victor glanced over at Yuuri, a faltering smile on his lips. “He means that he removed it. Her leg.”

Yuuri’s wings fell, shoulders sinking even further.

“It’s not your fault,” Victor muttered, gritting his teeth as Emil threaded his wound back together. “The dear commodore would have come for us sooner or later, whether or not he was chasing you.”

“You’d think he’d make an exception for family,” Emil said, an attempt to keep the room light despite the dim shrouding over it.

“I think that only applies to blood kin,” Victor replied. “If he comes back for Yuuri, I’ll rip the bottom of his ship out myself.”

“Perhaps, but until then you’re not to move.” Emil tied off the stitch and sat back in admiration of his handiwork. “You’re paler than usual. And that’s saying a lot.” He pushed himself up, wiping his hands.

Yuuri leaned in, examining the cross-stitching over Victor’s ribs. The bleeding had stopped, clotted. Held together by the thread, it looked less threatening than before.

Emil smiled at him. “Sometimes humans can work a bit of their own magic. Your job is to make sure he rests. He lost a lot of blood, it’ll take a while to recover. Maybe you two will get through it at the same time.”

Although the siren did not seem amused, Victor chuckled. “Under doctor’s orders to stay in bed with my lovebird? Maybe getting shot isn’t so bad.”

The depth of Yuuri’s scowl made him laugh harder, until he winced when it pulled at his stitches. Victor let Yuuri fret, tucking blankets and pillows all around him, fluttering like a worried bird.

Yuuri’s molted feathers continued to litter the bed and floor, but he kept them well away until Victor shifted in close. Silver lashes sweeping his cheeks and his shallow breaths rolling over Yuuri’s skin as he rested, cradled in Yuuri’s arms and wings.

The siren did not sleep, watching over Victor until night began to transition into dawn. Yuuri dozed off with his nose buried in Victor’s hair, refusing to let go.

When light flooded the cabin, Yuuri stirred and felt Victor warm against him. As the captain continued to sleep, his forehead tipped against Yuuri’s collar, radiating the start of a fever.

Over the course of the night, the wound had held together. But from around his stitches, red streaks extended.

It had grown swollen.

Infected.

Chapter Text

Yuuri tore across the ship so quickly that the claw tips curling off his feet left scores in the wood. He found the doctor still asleep and had no hesitation in shaking him from it. When Emil’s eyes opened, wide but housing the haze of slumber, the siren forgot his usual caution.

“Wake up! Victor, he’s— Help Victor! Help him, now!”

Emil had no chance to question Yuuri’s panic. His legs swept him from his cot without his explicit intention, whisking him from the crew quarters to Victor’s cabin. Yuuri shouted ‘hurry!’ after him and Emil obeyed, nearly falling over his own disobedient feet.

In their room, Emil leant over a stirring Victor and examined the wound. He pressed lightly on the flesh around the stitches and heard a strained hiss.

“That doesn’t feel good,” Victor muttered, silver lashes fluttering to half mast.

“It doesn’t look good,” Emil replied, his usual upbeat tone low. “I need to open it, Victor…”

“I’ll survive,” Victor said, leaning back on his pillows. His eyes shifted to Yuuri and he smiled, the curve of his full lips missing the strength with which Yuuri had grown so familiar. “Good morning, lovebird.”

Yuuri wanted to scream as Emil ran out, still under the influence of Yuuri’s command. His heart skipped over itself, tripping and crying inside his chest. He watched, kneeling at the edge of the bed, when Emil returned to redress the wound.

The doctor cut away the stitches from the day before, draining out the signs of infection. Victor had set the corner of a cushion between his teeth, eyes screwed shut and jaw clenched. Emil splashed the wound with alcohol and resealed it with new stitches.

From his medicine box, Emil mixed dried roots into a drink that emitted an odor that filled the room with bitterness. Victor swallowed it with nothing more than a grimace and a relieved sigh when the cup was emptied of mouthfuls.

The humor from the previous day was absent when Emil turned to Yuuri. “With the gunshot being where it is, there’s not much more I can do. We just gotta hope he can fight it.”

By afternoon, Victor’s fever raged and the red of the infection spread. His bandages and bedding grew damp with sweat. No matter how many times Yuuri whispered ‘heal’ through choked breaths, it didn’t. Victor’s warm fingers crawled across the bed and wrapped around Yuuri’s, holding on for support. Too warm. Too hot.

“Stay with me, lovebird…”

Yuuri ripped his hand away and fled. He scrambled out, onto the deck, and bolted for the edge of the ship. His wings, molting, still barely formed, beat hard enough to blow the ship off course. He dropped straight down and hit the ocean, screeching through his tears.

Wings straining, feathers shedding, Yuuri forced himself into the air, through the pain, and flew for the horizon. He forgot to command Victor to ‘live.’

Chapter Text

Yuuri lost count of how many times he fell into the ocean. The salt stun at his eyes, at his throat. The frantic pace of his flight burned at his lungs, at his ragged wings. They screamed in pain each time he beat them, fighting the wind and his own weakness.

The black feathers had shed completely, leaving him with half-formed midnight blue. No other siren would be fool enough to fly then, hiding their vulnerable state in reinforced nests from another creature or human who may embolded by the chance the season presented. The chance at a near helpless siren, whose voice they would be smart enough to block.

Yuuri flew past ships, past ports and cities. He did not stop to rest when the sun set and plunged him into the pitch black of a moonless night. He did not even have his voice, tongue numb and vocal chords shredded from his yells and tears, vision blurred when he finally collapsed at the mouth to a peaceful cove. Tucked away amongst the tropical green of overgrown trees and illuminated in the crystal blue of inlet waters sparkling at the break of dawn.

Yuuri’s legs threatened to drop from under him as he stepped heavy across the sand, dragging his heels until his strength gave out and he could only crawl, pleading with himself not to stop.

He saw the twinkle of gems sewn to fabric rushing toward him, felt himself swept up into caring arms.

“Yuuri, baby bird! What happened, why are you here?!”

Yuuri wept, clinging, into the soft fabric being gathered around him. “M-medicine– I need… I need medicine!”

Chapter Text

Bees buzzed around the blossoms of a nearby manuka tree where Yuuri sat, cross-legged, on the floor of his parents’ nest. In his hands he held a cup of tea, wisps of steam coming off the surface. His father had instructed him to drink it before it cooled, the herbs swirling inside meant to help him fill out his wings faster.

Yuuri played with a bowl of greens and nuts set before him, eating only when a pointed glare reminded him that he was meant to be consuming what it contained. Calcium, for his feathers.

“You won’t be able to make it back if you don’t eat.”

Yuuri threw a handful into his mouth and crunched through them, washing them down with the tea. He watched, as his father tended to another siren. Her wings were shredded, in worse condition than Yuuri’s. Yuuri had seen her attempt to spread them earlier, a brilliant gradient of scarlet, under his father’s instructions. Now she managed to lift them through gritted teeth, but when they attempted to unfold, Yuuri saw that they were broken. He looked away, knowing he would not want to be observed in such a state.

His mother shuffled in, clicking her tongue in disapproval. “They’re getting bolder. The humans. Some of them seemed to have figured out a couple tricks. We’ve had a lot more sirens coming by lately, it’s never been this bad. I think they’ve started trying to hunt us.”

“That’s how… that’s what happened to my mate,” Yuuri muttered in reply, hands tightening around the cup. The feathers around his ears twitched, wings rustling. He was keenly aware of the snail-like movement of the shadows, because with each minute they crept closer and with each moment, Victor’s infection would be spreading. And he was simply sitting there, waiting.

“Awful. They should be concentrating on sinking their precious ships with their pride and their arrogance, like they’re meant to.” Hiroko scowled, then softened as she sat herself down next to Yuuri. She placed a jar in front of him, which Yuuri promptly snatched up, holding it tight to his chest. “You should rest more, your wings don’t look ready for flight.”

“I can’t, I have to go, I’m afraid if I don’t…” He had visions of returning to the ship, to a crew angered at the death of their captain. And with Yuuri to blame for it. Of not even being able to see Victor, chased off by grieving pirates who were not frightened of a molting siren.

“We’re not as weak to infections as humans,” Toshiya said, coming back. His wings, a dark blue which matched Hiroko’s, trailed behind him.

“You should bring your mate here when they’re better. We’re so happy to hear you found one. Mari still refuses to. Says she’s not done flying around the world.” Hiroko laughed. “What are their wings like?”

Yuuri thought to the flowing length of Victor’s hair, how it fluttered at the wind which swept over their ship, how it shone the most beautiful in the light of the moon. “Silver…”

“Oh, how gorgeous. You’ll make a good pair.”

Yuuri thought so too, looking down at the golden color in the jar he had been given. Around his fingers, the gold of the rings Victor had given him flared when hit by the rays of the sun. “I-… I have to go.”

Sighing heavy, Hiroko stood and left, coming back a minute later with a satchel. She took the jar of honey from Yuuri and placed it inside, along with a small pouch of powder which Toshiya had pulled from their medicine stores. She draped the satchel around one of Yuuri’s shoulders, tying it snug around his waist so he could fly without fear of losing it. “Fly safe, Yuuri. It’s becoming so that we’re no longer the most feared predator out on the oceans.”

With a short nod, Yuuri unfurled his wings. He could still feel the strain lingering in them. The old black feathers were gone, shed with the desperation of his flight to his parent’s nest, but it meant the new midnight blue was free to grow in in full. He would not be fast or stable, but he could make it. He needed to make it.

A promise to stay cautious given to his parents, Yuuri left. He spread his wings on the beach before the cove, testing their hold. He had to stay low, for fear of falling, but he was steadier than the day before.

Yuuri kept to the coast, more wary of the cities and the ports that he passed. He met no ships until the sun began to sink, painting the sky in colors.

On the horizon was a fleet. With bold white sails and figureheads carved into the forms of warriors. To go around them meant wasting time he did not have.

Yuuri steeled himself and flew straight for them.

Chapter Text

Yuuri ripped through the masts of four ships and sunk the lead before anyone could even process what was happening. He heard the shouts below as he tore through the fleet, unable in those moments to feel the ache in his own wings and lungs, in the bloodied claws which had sprouted from his hands.

When eyes and guns turned on him, Yuuri positioned himself at the center of the crippled fleet and screeched at them to forget him. They did.

Yuuri flew past them, biting on fabric shredded off his own clothes against the agony of the strain spasming through his spine and wings.

He choked back cries of happiness when he finally saw Victor’s ship, just off a port. Yuuri crashed into a sail, unable to stop himself, falling hard onto the deck below.

Pain shot through his shoulder, his hip, but he scrambled up, hastening across on elbows and knees until he found the power to push himself onto his feet.

“Yuuri, wait, don’t–”

Yuuri did not hear the rest of the words shouted after him, bolting for Victor’s cabin. He found his captain, laid in their bed, with blankets folded neatly over his waist. As still as death.

Yuuri’s wings swept paintings off the walls, knocked maps onto the floor, overturned an entire table. He collapsed at the edge of the bed, groping for the satchel his mother had tied around his waist, and dumped the contents onto the mattress at Victor’s side.

He tore off Victor’s bandages, whimpering at the angry red still concentrated around his gunshot wound. Yuuri smeared the gold of the honey across it, layering it thick even as he kept his touch light.

From the nearby stand, Yuuri grabbed the first drink he saw and poured the medicine powder into it, letting it mix with the liquid. He grasped for Victor’s hand, for his wrist, searching. “Please… please, please, live…” A pulse beat under Yuuri’s fingers.

The relief which escaped his lips in a whimper was feeble. Yuuri climbed onto the bed, behind Victor, holding his captain’s feverish body against him. He pushed Victor up to sit and tilted his head back against his shoulder. Careful, Yuuri tipped the drink to his lips, gently prying Victor’s mouth open. It trickled in.

Victor choked, sputtering, but Yuuri held him steady, arm wound low around his waist. Silver lashes fluttered. “Yuuri…”

“Shhh, just drink. Please.”

Victor drank. Bit by bit, until it emptied. And Victor slumped back against Yuuri. “My… my lovebird came back for me…”

“Be quiet and rest.”

“Mmmm, I will… I’d like a welcome home kiss first…”

Victor’s head lolled on Yuuri’s shoulder, tucked into the crook of the siren’s neck.

Yuuri wrapped his wings around them both, kissing Victor’s temple. It was hot against his lips.

The entire time that Victor dozed, Yuuri kept him cradled close, a hand covering Victor’s. Sensitive to the weakness of his pulse, he counted the time that ticked, long, between each beat.

Chapter Text

Yuuri paced the room, footsteps heavy with the ache in his muscles, bottom lip worried red by his teeth. His hands were fisted, nails digging into the meat of his own palms.

Across the room, Emil was henched over Victor’s bedridden form. The ship’s doctor let a damp cloth rest on Victor’s forehead, in hopes of soaking up the heat of his fever.

“Yuuri, come here.”

Yuuri rushed to the bedside, rather helpless in his abilities. Even with the medicine administered the night before, Victor had barely stirred, his skin burning against Yuuri’s when touched. Emil had made a light joke about Yuuri potentially commanding Victor to get better, but the siren had not found it amusing. Because no matter how many times he tried, ordering the medicine to spread through his faster, it did not work.

“Wait here with him. I’m going to grab my medicine chest. If you can make him eat a little, do so.”

When Emil left, the cabin settled into uneasy silence, save for the steadiness of Victor’s breathing. Yuuri sat beside him, at the edge of the bed, his fingers curling around one of Victor’s hands. Still too warm to be comfortable.

A minute passed and the silver of Victor’s lashes fluttered, his thumb stroking over Yuuri’s delicate hold. “Oh… I must still be feverish, because I see an angel beside me…” Victor’s voice was hoarse, but a weak smile twitched to his lips as Yuuri scowled at his words. “No? You didn’t like that?”

Yuuri snatched up the salted meat that Emil had left behind, holding it to Victor’s mouth in lieu of a response. The pirate did not take it, even when Yuuri pushed it closer.

“…Not now, Yuuri.”

As if Yuuri was going to let him refuse. He tore a chunk off with his teeth and chewed it, swooping down with his fingers pinching at Victor’s jaw. Lips pressed together, he pushed the food into Victor’s mouth with his tongue, determined to follow doctor’s orders.

Victor promptly choked, coughing and sputtering it out onto the floor. “Ohhh, Yuuri, noooo, that’s disgusting,” he protested, sticking out his tongue. “You’re making this worse.”

Not amused, Yuuri prodded at the blankets covering Victor’s chest, tracing words into it.

Victor’s expression remained unchanged, unable to keep up with Yuuri’s quick scolding through his fever. When the siren rewrote it slower, Victor chuckled weakly. “I wouldn’t say that, lovebird, I very much enjoy having those parts of you in my mouth.”

Cheeks flushing unfairly pink, Yuuri made to speak, stopping because Emil re-entered the room. Both Victor and Yuuri gave him sheepish looks when Emil eyed the spat out meat on the floor, but he said nothing, rolling his eyes as he handed Yuuri something resembling bark to hold.

The siren examined it curiously.

“It’s supposed to reduce fever,” Victor explained, scrunching his nose in displeasure. “You need to–” He cut himself off as Yuuri bit off a piece, laughing when the siren jerked back, repulsed at the bitter tease flooding his mouth.

“That is not the best way of doing that,” Emil said, taking it back from Yuuri to grind some of the bark with a mortar and pestle.

“I think he’s trying to mama-bird me everything.”

“How sweet.”

Yuuri watched as Emil then mixed the powder into some wine, same as Yuuri had done the night before with his own medicine.

“Help me get him up.”

Yuuri supported Victor’s back, aiding him to sit forward so Emil could tip the cup to his lips without fear of choking. Victor drank, leaning back into Yuuri’s arms when Emil seemed satisfied with the dosage.

“Stay with him. Hopefully the fever breaks soon, if whatever you gave him is good.” Emil instructed Yuuri, setting the medicine aside once finished. “If you’re here, maybe he won’t be so foolish as to try getting out before he’s recovered.”

Nodding, Yuuri laid Victor back down and smiled when Victor turned to rest his head against Yuuri’s lap. Yuuri was happy enough to curl up with his sick captain, giving in to the building strain in his own body.

Victor’s fever did not lessen as quickly as Yuuri hoped. At night, beads of sweat gathered at his hairline and he moaned frail complaints of the heat searing through him into Yuuri’s shoulder.

Chapter Text

At first, Yuuri was beautiful above him. With his mating feathers of midnight blue, colors iridescent in the low lights of the oil-burning lamps. He moved like he had danced for Victor in the privacy of their cabin. Slow and sensual, rocking his hips down against Victor’s.

His siren’s robes were abandoned on the floor, gems glittering from the fabric. Like the sweat trailing lines of light down Yuuri’s chest, down his abdomen, down between his legs, spread wide as he rode Victor.

Victor wanted to lean up, to hold Yuuri in his hands, to kiss at his glistening skin but he couldn’t. Not since Yuuri had commanded him motionless with a whisper. Victor could only watch the shine of Yuuri’s feathers, as they bloomed from his marks and spread and spread and spread with each roll of his hips–

“Ca-caaaw!” Yuuri cried as he came, a bird’s shriek replacing his beautiful moans. The feathers kept spreading, coating his skin entirely. His feet turned to claws, lips morphing into a curved, jagged beak. His eyes glowed yellow, like a bewitched crow’s and there were eggs. Eggs everywhere, littering the bed– the nest. No longer of blankets and pillows, but of branches and patches of fur, all housing tens, hundreds, thousands of bird eggs, with shells a brilliant blue that matched Victor’s eyes in the most impossible way–

“SQUAWK!!”

A bird screeched in his ear and Victor bolted upright, clutching the blankets to his sweat-bathed chest. In the dark of the cabin, he tore his eyes left to right and… Yuuri was sleeping beside him. Normal Yuuri. Not some giant gruesome bird. Yuuri had pushed all the bedding in a protective nest around Victor, whose fever still burned.

Off to the side of the cabin, their parrots squawked again. Shrill and familiar. Victor collapsed back onto the mattress, trying to vanquish the nightmare from his mind. It did not work until Yuuri stirred next to him and cooed, “Sleep.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri awoke to the light of the sun and the care of a delicate touch on his back, grooming through his feathers. The past two days, Yuuri had barely been able to move. Adrenaline burned off, the strain he had put his wings and body through had hit him like canon fire.

Emil had ordered him to bedrest once he saw the break in Yuuri, hardly able to lift a limb yet still laboring to act as a nurse to Victor. Small sachets filled with heated sand were lain across his back to ease the soreness in his muscles, but Yuuri had flung them off in protest. He substituted them for the heat of Victor’s body against his own.

Stubborn, Yuuri had not permitted Emil to change Victor’s bandages nor mix more of the siren medicine he had received. He had fought through his own pain to deliver Victor’s doses, until the red of infection began to recede.

Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, at the caress of lips against it. Victor had sat up in their bed and dipped low to kiss beneath the bruise there, from Yuuri’s fall onto the deck. Soft lips trailed down, dotting along each inch of Yuuri’s bicep before slipping further. Victor’s mouth had Yuuri shivering into the sweetness of dawn, kisses counting down his ribs and the curve of his waist to settle above the second bruise marring Yuuri’s hip.

The siren lifted long strands of silver which cascaded over Victor’s face, palm cupping his forehead. Warm. But naturally so. The fever had broken.

Yuuri launched himself at Victor, bowling him over into piles of their pillows and blankets. Streaks of irritation shot through his spine. Equally so, Victor groaned in displeasure.

“Ahhh, careful, lovebird. My side’s not quite healed yet, I don’t want to go bleeding out on you.”

“Shut up,” Yuuri commanded and followed through by plunging his hands into Victor’s morning messed hair, holding Victor’s tongue silent with his own. He could pour his entire heart out into his kisses with Victor, permit himself to flood with emotion. He had his mate beside him, breathing, smiling, flirting like always, alive.

Yuuri pulled back to see the beauty of Victor’s flushed cheeks, pink seeping down past the sharpness of his collarbone, highlighting the paleness of his skin. Yuuri wanted to paint it all in color. The rush of blood to his own face caused the little feathers around his ears to sprout and quiver.

Victor’s eyes pleaded, his heart-shaped smile like a work of art, a treasure beyond any other that Yuuri greedily hoarded. He relented. “You can speak.”

Instead, Victor drew Yuuri into another kiss, a brushing of petals, the blooming of spring. His fingers curved over the line of Yuuri’s wings, a reminder that his new colors had finally come in full.

“I adore you.” Victor’s words lost themselves on Yuuri’s lips, swallowed by one desperate kiss of response after another.

Yuuri tipped their foreheads together, eyes shut, simply breathing in the closeness between them. The feeling swelled inside him until he felt too small to contain it, threatening to break through his ribs and spill over. Like the fondest infection, spreading into every nerve, every fiber, lighting him up. Dancing through his heart and the glimmer of his wings. Yuuri bubbled in that adoration, in the celebration that he could feel the full beat of Victor’s heart under him, unwavering.

Tears splashed from his cheeks down onto Victor’s, glittering off his skin like diamonds. Victor’s fingers, as gentle as always, swept them away.

Yuuri let himself overflow.

“I love you.”

Chapter Text

“Those were not the expressions I was expecting to see when I came in.” Chris looked far too amused for Victor’s taste.

Beside Victor in bed, the scowl Yuuri wore carved deeper into his features. He laid back, wings folded away, arms crossed over his chest. His ear feathers twitched in visible irritation.

“Thought you two would be celebrating,” Chris said, crossing the cabin to hold out bowls of soup to the captain and siren. Yuuri glared at it as if it had personally offended him.

“Hard to do when everyone keeps popping it to visit,” Victor replied, holding his side with one arm as he leaned forward, gingerly accepting the soup.

“We nearly lost our captain, you should be grateful that they’re so delighted to see you’re recovering. Many crews might welcome the opportunity for a change in leadership,” Chris replied, watching Victor sip at his concoction with a smile.

“According to Yurio, it’d be too annoying to argue it out in a vote. He grumbled something about preferring to bide his time and mutiny the crew,” Victor laughed, shallowly.

“I think the consensus is that we’d elect Mila. She lost a leg without a wink. You get shot once and the world ends.” Chris went to sit on the edge of the bed, only to leap away when Yuuri practically hissed at him. The cook blinked slowly, full lashes emphasizing the movement. “Oh… is this why Kenjirou is sulking outside?”

“He’d been sticking his head in every half an hour with any excuse he could come up with, trying to catch sight of Yuuri’s wings,” Victor explained in monotone. Yuuri gave a curt nod of confirmation. “So Yuuri finally ordered him to stay out.”

“Did you also accidentally order Victor not to touch you and that’s why you’re both sulking?” Chris chuckled, amused, at Yuuri. The siren’s eyes narrowed, glowing with specks of red. Chris instantly held his hands up in surrender. “Just asking. Expected the boat to be rocking by now, since you’re both finally well enough to move.”

Victor went to respond, but he had barely parted his lips when Yuuri sat straight up and exploded. “We could, if everyone would stop coming in here and leave!” His voice, unnaturally amplified, vibrated through the wood and carried all the way onto the deck.

To the crew’s graceful luck, they had just pulled into port.

Chapter Text

The ship was empty, entire crew gone on shore leave, aided in their departure by Yuuri’s echoing command. Irritation fading once he was able to concentrate his attention on Victor, Yuuri nuzzled against Victor’s cheek, leaving a few pecks. He changed Victor’s bandages, pleased to see the gunshot wound had begun healing well. The signs of infection had gone.

Yuuri could not restrain the smile tugging itself across his face when Victor kissed at his palm and smacked his lips at the taste of honey. When Yuuri scolded him with a sharp look, his captain merely dipped in and stole a kiss, daring Yuuri to deny the sweetness. He couldn’t.

Arm looped around Victor’s back in support, Yuuri helped Victor from their bed. Once up, Victor could move more freely, but he did so slowly, taking care of his side. Yuuri aided him onto the deck of their silent ship, carrying some of their bedding with him.

At the bow, Yuuri set up a comfortable little nest of their blankets and pillows for Victor to sit in. He chirped happily when Victor settled, placing another quick peck on his mate’s face. There was no hiding his smile.

Yuuri stepped back, to an area clear of rigging or sails, in perfect view of Victor. He unfurled his wings, each opening in elegance to their full span, unobstructured by the restrictions of their cabin. The midnight blue was iridescent in the sun, dazzling with streaks of red and flecks that glittered with any motion.

Victor stared, mesmerized, as Yuuri displayed his colors with pride. In those moments, he seemed to forget how to speak.

And then, Yuuri started to dance.

Chapter Text

Yuuri pranced across the deck, little tiny steps on the tips of his toes. He thrust his left wing out, then drew it back, only to put it out again and shake it all about. Victor bit his lower lip, hard, trying not to laugh as Yuuri repeated the actions with his right wing.

Each of Yuuri’s dance moves was more ridiculous than the last. At one point, Yuuri had sprouted a tail, feathers as colorful as a peacock’s, which he ruffled in Victor’s face. The siren leapt in itty bitty jumps, flapping his wings, swiping at Victor’s cheek with the tip of his feathers before tip-toeing in a circle while waving his hands in the air like a queen on parade.

Victor clutched onto his side, pain splitting through it as he shook with silent laughter.

Yuuri bent over, folding himself in half with palms flat on the wood below him. Victor might have found the sight of Yuuri’s tush quite appealing if the siren did not immediately proceed to shake his tail feathers with such rapid force that the ship rocked.

Snickers finally escaped Victor when Yuuri squawked and dabbed, wings and all. The captain fell back into the nest of bedding, laughing freely in sheer delight. Yuuri appeared over him, blocking out the sun with his wings, scowling at the reaction.

Victor reached up, caressing Yuuri’s face between his hands, brushing his thumbs along Yuuri’s cheeks to his ear markings. “You’re incredible. I loved it. The most fantastic dance that I’ve ever seen, I couldn’t be happier.”

Yuuri’s scowl cracked and he burst into gleeful giggles, nuzzling into Victor’s hands.

Chapter Text

You really liked it? I just wanted to make you laugh again. Yuuri traced into Victor’s palm, kissing at his own writing when Victor nodded in confirmation.

“Lovebird, I’d love anything you did. You could lay down, nap for a few hours, tell me it’s your mating dance, and I’d sit and watch every second of it,” Victor replied, tone genuine as he reassured his mate. “Instead I got to watch you shake your cute little butt in my face, how could I not love it?”

Yuuri pulled at his bottom lip with his teeth, smiling through it.

“And I didn’t know you have a tail!” Victor gently took hold of Yuuri’s hips, turning his siren to trace his fingertips over thel long feathers which had bloomed from the tattoo at the small of his back, admiring the subtle streaks of pinks and sky blues through the dominant midnight. Yuuri shivered.

I don’t like it. The siren wrote over the back of the hand still on his hip.

“Why don’t you like it? It’s beautiful.” Victor kissed at the skin above his tail.

Yuuri squeaked, clasping his hands over the base of the feathers as he jumped away. The strength of his blush burned his entire face red. He met Victor’s widened eyes and quickly ducked out from under them.

“Sensitive spot?” Victor guessed, Yuuri confirming with the most minimal of nods. The pirate’s smile widened. “I promise only to touch it if you let me.”

Hesitant, Yuuri stepped back in, dropping to his knees in front of Victor. He shuffled close, nearly settling in Victor’s lap, and leaned in. The warm of his breath against Victor’s skin had heat visibly surging through the captain, who grew rigid at Yuuri’s touch.

Yuuri let his lips brush at Victor’s jawline with each word. “Then let me show you my real mating dance…”

Chapter Text

"That wasn’t the real one?” Victor repeated, eyes wide. The heat of Yuuri’s closeness rendered him motionless.

Yuuri laughed without answering, lips skimming Victor’s cheek as he pulled back. He readjusted the blanket nest and cast down a smile. His steps were light across the wood, as if he were skating on air, wings open and sparkling with the sun hitting the flecks on his feathers.

Victor could not take his eyes off Yuuri, off the colors radiating from him, the confidence with which he strut.

Yuuri’s wings furled around him as he struck a pose, back straight, toes pointed, feathers gleaming. He threw a look over his wing, winked and blew a kiss.

Victor felt like dying. Even before Yuuri started to dance, Victor could see the notes floating off him. Music in motion, like–

“Ohmygod, there’s two?!”

Victor and Yuuri snapped their attention to the nearby dock. From behind the port wall, Minami leapt into the air, waving with binoculars in hand, before cupping his hands to his mouth to shout.

“Yuuuuuri, your mating dance was so beautiful! Can I please come on board to grab my sketchbook so I can document it?”

Yuuri’s scowl could have broken a mirror. Victor laughed, more when Yuuri’s feathers ruffled at Minami’s continous jumps of enthusiastic begging.

The laugh was cut off when Yuuri swooped in, grabbed Victor, and flew the two of them off the ship.

Chapter Text

Flying in Yuuri’s arms would never cease to be thrilling and terrifying all at once. Yuuri held him tight and close, grip steady. Victor buried his face into the siren’s collarbone, because looking down would yield a rather undignified yelp.

The sea rushed beneath them, sun on the waves.

The speed at which Yuuri could fly was not one Victor dared to calculate, already well familiar with the knowledge that the siren could outpace the fastest ship with ease. Yuuri had not told him where they were going. Simply plucked Victor up, and headed straight, irritation at being interrupted still set rigid in his jawline.

Victor had long concluded it best not to question his siren. Especially not in mid-flight. Because he knew that Yuuri would not drop him on accident. But, at this point, on purpose… He was not so convinced.

The couple times Victor risked a peek up, Yuuri’s face was set in concentration. Wind swept at his hair and rustled at his ear feathers, turned blue instead of black like the rest. Victor wondered how it was possible that his Yuuri grew more beautiful each time that he looked at him.

When Yuuri landed, he did so with an easy grace. Slowing his flight into a lulled stop, setting Victor’s boots down in sand. For a moment, Victor still felt like he had his sea legs on him. Then, he looked to see where Yuuri had brought them.

A clearing on a small island, surrounded in vivid tropical green and blooming colors of flowers in season. Strides from where Victor stood was a lagoon, with water so clear he could see the white sand on the bottom. Back-dropped by foliage and an overgrown cliff, over the center of which cascaded water. Falling to feed the lagoon below, the splashes echoing.

Victor gaped at the picturesque paradise, whipping around to find Yuuri admiring his reaction. “Did you live here, before?”

Yuuri shook his head, tracing his answer into Victor’s palm. Sometimes, in winter.

“When your nest got too cold?” Victor asked, getting a nod back. “It’s so lovely. Be an even lovelier sight to come upon a beautiful siren bathing here, I think. What a lucky sailor I’d think of myself, even if I was marooned.”

Smiling, the siren touched Victor’s wrist and stepped toward the lagoon. His toes broke the surface, clean water licking up to his ankles. “Then don’t take your eyes off me.”

As if Victor could, especially when the siren dropped his robes.

Chapter Text

Victor could taste joy on the droplets shaking off Yuuri’s wings. Like a bird in a bird bath, his siren played in the crystalline waters. He dipped beneath the surface, feathers ruffling and trembling, strong legs kicking him down to skim the bottom of the lagoon.

Yuuri danced as he bathed, his wings cocooning himself as he twirled underwater. Bubbles spun off him, like a sparkling wine through the ripples that he caused. Yuuri had told Victor not to take his eyes off him. Even without the command, it would have been impossible.

When Yuuri broke the surface, his wings stretched toward the sky. With his hair slicked back by the water, Victor could see every inch of his siren’s face, at peace and contented. Lips parted only just, droplets glistening off them in the subtest smile. The tips of Yuuri’s wings split the water and curved around him as he twisted in his elegant movements, carving the most fleeting of hearts into the surface.

Sun caught on the mist, surrounding Yuuri in a rainbow as he danced for Victor, eyes closed, caught in a music that only he could hear. Victor was captivated by the music of Yuuri’s body, the colors radiating off him. His wings cast hues of blue across his skin, his cheeks in blushed pink, the dark of his markings highlighted gold by the tropical sunlight.

The toe of Victor’s boots were already being lapped at by the water of the lagoon when Yuuri caught his eyes and smiled, so brilliant and beautiful, beckoning like a silent siren’s call. Then Yuuri held out his arms, open and welcoming, and sang to Victor.

There was no resisting. Victor hit the water without a second thought, ready to drown himself in love.

Chapter Text

The water splashed around Victor as he rushed into Yuuri’s arms, catching his siren mid-lyric. His songs were always beautiful, and when he sang to Victor, he so often sang of love. Of invitations to spend eternity together, or as long as it would last for them. As partners, as soulmates, as mates for life.

The soft, hitched exhale which escaped the siren when Victor crashed into him was nearly as sweet. Yuuri’s surprise was drowned out by the water they fell into together. His fingers tangled in Victor’s hair, weaving between strands and the tails of velvet ribbon. Victor’s arms encircled Yuuri’s waist, holding them close as they sunk together to the white sand bottom, kissing through the bubbles spiralling round them.

Yuuri’s wings spread and pushed them back to the surface when they broke for air. They took their breaths off each other’s lips, soaking wet and laughing when droplets slipped into their kisses.

Yuuri shrieked in protest when Victor lifted him up, arms still holding Yuuri’s waist, and spun him around to dip him into another kiss. Yuuri’s hands hastened at Victor’s side, making sure his bandages were still intact and that the stitching beneath had not split. Victor stole his scowl away with a reassurance, hands sliding up to cup Yuuri’s face, brushing away strands of hair left wet and wild.

“What have I ever done in this life to earn a gift as great as you?” Victor whispered, forehead tipped to Yuuri’s.

“Saved me,” Yuuri muttered back, grip curling into the fabric of Victor’s shirt. “Does this mean you accept my mating dance?”

“Lovebird, I had accepted with the first one. It might have actually been my favorite. Can you shake your tail feathers for me like that again?”

Yuuri laughed, pushing Victor playfully away. His wings swiped at the water, splashing Victor with a light spray that formed another rainbow. When his captain responded with waves of his own, Yuuri’s wings swatted so hard he nearly knocked Victor over and had to scramble forward to prevent him toppling.

All it meant was that they both ended up swimming in the lagoon once more, Victor having grabbed onto Yuuri and pulled him down. Exchanged laughter faded into happy murmurs as they made their way back to the shore, to settle, kissing on the sand.

All around them, the island twittered with sound. Birds singing amongst the trees, the waterfall cascading into the lagoon. Behind them, the nearby ocean washed back and forth along the beach. From within it all, there came another voice, from a wall of blooming flowers at the edge of the lagoon. Even and unmistakably layered in siren’s magic. “Why are you playing with the food?”

Chapter Text

Victor was mesmerized by the colors of the siren’s wings. Multi-faceted, like a reflection of the rainbow still shimmering near the waterfalls. Bold reds faded into orange tipped with green, underfeathers toned in blue. Unlike Yuuri, who kept his tail hidden, the siren’s long sky blue feathers swept at the sand. The markings on his arms and legs were also colored, mismatched and with design varying from Yuuri’s. The robes he wore covered his body almost entirely, draping him in a dark grey that did not mute the rest of his striking hues in the slightest.

A macaw, in siren form. Victor could have laughed, if Yuuri were not bristling against him.

“He’s not food!” Yuuri snapped and every fiber in Victor tensed, a dread that was not his own flooding through his veins.

“A gift then? How unusual. Is that customary of northern species?” When the parrot–siren–spoke, his tone remained uniform yet stayed as alluring as a siren’s was naturally. Something unknown inside Victor tugged, drawn to the power in this new voice. It did not pull at him as strongly as Yuuri’s had when he’d first heard it, but neither was it aimed at him in the intention.

Yuuri’s eyes darted back to Victor, saw him leaning in, and the transferred fear doubled. “He’s not a gift, he’s mine.”

If the siren was surprised, he did not show it, handsome features remaining unchanged as he strolled toward them. His wing and tail tips left a trailing pattern in the sand. “Well, from a technical standpoint, your dance was perfect, if not peculiar in incorporating water elements. Another siren would be flattered and surely accept. I must decline, as I am not seeking a mate this season.”

Yuuri’s scowl was unfairly gorgeous, from Victor’s point of view. However, he could not tell if it was the result of misunderstanding or Yuuri’s displeasure of having his dance rejected, even by a siren it was not meant for. “I did not dance for you!”

The siren paused. Dark eyes traveled over Yuuri’s bare figure, studying his mating season wings in mild perplexity. “Then why are you on my island?”

“Your island– this is mine!” Yuuri snapped back, rising to his feet. He showed no sign of shame over being unclothed, wings shuddering to rid them of remaining water droplets in a shower around his feet. His wings seemed to expand, feathered tips stretching out and making his silhouette grow larger.

“I think not, I settled here at the turn of the year. There was no sign of a nest. If another siren had resided here, I would have counted this land abandoned. I rightfully claimed it for my own.”

“I did not abandon it!”

“Do you nest here?”

“No, I nest with–”

“If you do not nest here, it is no longer yours. We do not keep two nests.”

Victor saw Yuuri’s wings drop, his shoulders sagging. Defeated. Yuuri stepped back, his gaze shifting back to Victor. He relented. “Forgive me for intruding on your nest, but I carry no gift to offer in reparation.”

“Then, give me the human.”

Chapter Text

Victor’s eyes went wider, then wider still when he felt his body start to shift of its own accord, drawn to the strange siren. Yuuri thrust out an arm, keeping Victor back when his captain stood. “I said, he is not a gift!”

“You cannot intrude on another’s nest empty-handed. If you have nothing else, give me the human,” the siren repeated, tone steady and unchanged. “It’s been a while since I’ve eaten one, it’ll make a good meal.”

Whatever allure the voice had over Victor snapped. Likewise, Yuuri’s feathers flared back out, doubling in volume. Defensive. Intimidating. “He’s not a gift, he’s not a meal. He’s my mate!”

Finally, the siren’s expression changed, as miniscule as it was. He arched a thick eyebrow and his gaze shifted off Yuuri, direct to Victor. The survey he appeared to conduct was brief, sweeping from Victor’s hair down to his booted legs. Then back to Yuuri and his wings. “You’re in season… If he is your mate, why are you not mating?”

Victor watched how Yuuri’s toes shuffled in the sand, digging deep imprints in clear irritation.

“I’m trying to mate him, but I keep getting stopped! I brought him here to dance and mate in peace. Perhaps it was my unknowing discourtesy to come here, but you have intruded on a mating pair!”

The siren stopped completely. He blinked once and arched the second brow. “You’re serious… You’re going to mate with a human?”

“We’ve already mated.” Yuuri huffed.

A laugh came back, sounding sharp and loud, like one of their parrot’s back on board the ship. “Why would you do that?” the siren inquired, monotone glitching into disbelief. “What have you done to it? Enchanted it, made yourself a little pretty human toy? How odd.”

Victor saw the rage flare off Yuuri, his inked markings bursting into feathers, feet curling into claws, deep brown of his eyes burning red. Before Yuuri could tear the wings off the macaw like he had with the harpies, Victor stepped forward, but he barely had a chance to protest. “We’re–”

“Don’t speak! I shall not be addressed by a human.”

At the siren’s command, Victor’s mouth clamped shut, tongue choking him silent.

Yuuri exploded.

Chapter Text

The force of Yuuri’s wings swept up water and sand, bent the trees lining the lagoon. Yuuri launched across the beach, clawed hand grasping at the siren’s throat. His markings has spread up his arms and legs, snaking in threat up to his shoulders and curling over the curve of his hips. “Release him!”

“You’d choose a human over your own kind?” the siren spat back, choking when Yuuri’s grip tightened. His own wings expanded behind him, red and blue feathers springing forth from his forearms as he tried to push Yuuri off, scrabbling to break the grip on him.

Yuuri did not budge, looming over the other. His feet no longer touched the ground, his wings keeping him in the air and lifting the other siren with him. “Try and take him from me, I will pluck you bare."

"You’ll be ostracized."

"I don’t care.”

The colors of the macaw were far less ridiculous when they appeared to darken with his anger, expression turning grim. “Spare yourself and kill it. In fact, I’ll do it for you. Human, dr–”

Yuuri’s screech pierced the air, cutting at Victor’s ears. The siren was flung, like a rag, only to be grabbed again, seized by his wings. A pulse of wind created by Yuuri sent Victor tumbling to the ground and unable to rise back up under its intensity. In a blink, Yuuri was high amongst the clouds, the other siren dragged behind him. If there was a struggle, Victor could not tell. All he heard was the command that screamed down from the heavens.

“Leave us!”

The vibrant siren dropped from the sky, released from Yuuri’s clutches, plunging straight down. His wings found strength just above the trees, spreading in time to let him glide away in the second before he was impaled upon them. On bent and damaged wings, he fled, colors disappearing into the blue of the sky.

A minute passed, with Yuuri lingering, watching, like a beautiful bird keeping guard overhead. When he dropped back down in front of Victor, his claws were stained red. The feathers on his hands tickled at Victor’s cheek when Yuuri pulled him close, wrapping them both in the protective folds of his wings.

“Yuuri, is the blood–”

“It’s not mine,” Yuuri muttered back, feathers sinking back into his skin, replaced by ink. “But you are.” Before his mate could respond, he claimed Victor’s mouth with his.

Chapter Text

When Victor pulled away, he did so with his hands cupped over Yuuri’s. Wings cocooned tight around them, and Victor did not think to break from Yuuri until they loosened. He let the siren cling, even as Victor cleaned Yuuri’s hands of blood with the hem of his shirt. Yuuri would not be letting Victor out of his protective grasp anytime soon. Victor stayed, until Yuuri started to tremble against him.

“Yuuri… Yuuri, it’s fine. We’re okay.”

“I-… I don’t-…” Yuuri struggled to find words, unable to get them out past his tremoring lips. Victor could see the shock cycloning behind his eyes, the fury in them faded back to soft, frightened brown. “I’m so sorry… You could have– he could have…”

There was still far too much about siren culture of which Victor was not aware. Outside of Yuuri, all his understanding came from stories. Whispered against the wind, boasted by drunk sailors in taverns. Yet so many of them had been disproved simply by Yuuri staying at his side. “How many people can say they’ve had sirens fighting over them? And after witnessing such a breathtaking dance?”

Yuuri buried his face in Victor’s shoulder without answering, yelping a moment later. The bottom of Victor’s shirt was stained pink with siren’s blood, but along his ribs seeped a bright, fresh red. “You’re-… your wound….”

“It’s just a pulled stitch, don’t worry.” Victor assured. “Your wings are a bit too strong for me, lovebird."

Yuuri’s head hung and his wings retracted.

Victor lifted his chin back up. "As lovely as this place is, it isn’t the nest we’ve made together. Let’s fly home?”

“What if…” Yuuri trailed off.

“He comes back? I promise I won’t let anything happen to you. I can definitely scream louder than a parrot if I have to, I’ve had lots of practice.”

Yuuri’s worried lips cracked into a smile and he spread his wings again, sweeping Victor up into his arms, taking care not to nudge against his side.

Throwing his arms around Yuuri’s neck, Victor laughed. “Lovebird, as much as I love seeing you in the nude, perhaps you should redress first?”

Yuuri yelped again, this time clearly out of embarrassment as the markings around his ears produced feathers along with his blush. He nearly dropped Victor in his scramble to grab his robes from the lagoon.

Chapter Text

Yuuri flew slower going back. He was as quiet as he had been on the way to the island, but took more care of Victor, checking on him often. Approaching the port city, he kept low to the water until they reached their ship, and when he landed he set Victor down just outside the captain’s cabin.

Without waiting, Yuuri led them inside and, gently, pushed Victor onto the bed. He stripped off Victor’s shirt and made him sit still as Yuuri tended to his side. Yuuri changed out his wet bandages, ensuring the bleeding had stopped before redressing the wound.

As Yuuri finished, Victor tugged Yuuri to him and kissed at his honey-sweet fingertips. “Yuuri, what that other siren said, about you being ostracized…”

Yuuri simply shrugged and leaned in, pressing his lips over the top of Victor’s head. He nuzzled into the part of his hair and rested his cheek against it.

“I don’t know much about your culture, are you going to be something of an outlaw for fighting with another siren? Chasing them out of their nest?”

Doesn’t matter, sirens are solitary. Yuuri traced along Victor’s collarbone. I only need you.

“You went somewhere though, to get me medicine. Did someone help you?”

Yuuri shook his head after a pause, not moving away.

“…Have you stopped talking to me?” Victor inquired, tilting his head back to gaze up at Yuuri.

Mouth remaining sealed shut, Yuuri wrote his words over Victor’s skin, taking his time as he did. You were drawn to that siren’s voice more than mine. I may not be able to protect you if my commands lose power.

“Lovebird, I’d do everything you told me even without it, you know that.”

Yuuri pulled his lower lip into his mouth, pinching at it with his teeth. He stayed silent.

With a soft sigh, Victor reached up and traced his thumb along the bottom of the siren’s lip. “You don’t have to say anything, if you don’t want to. I’m happy just having you near.”

A small smile graced Yuuri’s face and he nodded. I’m sorry I can’t dance for you again in here.

“We can still dance.” Victor stood, taking one of Yuuri’s hands in his, placing the other on his shoulder. He slid his left arm around Yuuri’s waist and stepped in close. “I don’t have wings to flap or flash for you though, you’ll have to forgive me.”

Yuuri’s smile spread a little further, then more when Victor began to lead them in a slow sway around the cabin.

“I’ll do a proper mating dance for you once I’ve healed all the way,” Victor promised. “Shaking my tail feathers and all.”

Yuuri’s quiet laughter sounded beautiful in the private of their room.

Chapter Text

Victor swept them across the cabin, twirling them into every available inch of space. He hummed the tune of a siren song that Yuuri sang on the days when his happiness spilled over beyond his chirping sounds. Victor spun Yuuri in his arms and tried dipping him low, but the siren pushed back in concern for Victor’s newly changed bandages and the strain it might put on his wound.

So instead Victor tugged Yuuri close, chest to chest, and touched their foreheads together. The bit of height difference between them let him gaze down at Yuuri, smile adoring the fulless of the siren’s lashes when his eyes closed to soak in the feeling of finally being alone and at peace.

Yuuri rested his head on Victor’s shoulder, between the crook of his neck and where his arms were draped over Victor. They continued to sway, until Victor’s humming faded away into lulled quiet. In the gentle harbor waves, they could not feel if the ship swayed with them.

Lifting his face, Yuuri brushed his lips over the curve of Victor’s jaw and backed him up. Leading, dancing steps toward their bed from which Yuuri was distracted when Victor let his head fall to the side, exposing his neck to Yuuri’s wandering mouth.

The back of Victor’s knees bumped the edge of the bed and sent them off-balance, falling onto the unmade bedding together. Yuuri braced himself against the mattress to catch his weight, yet was drawn down onto Victor in the following moment.

“I had something to ask you, before all this started,” Victor murmured, sweeping dark strands of hair out of Yuuri’s face and tucking them behind his ear. They did not stay, falling forward as soon as they were released. It gave Victor an excuse to repeat the gesture and keep his hand cradled against Yuuri’s face.

Yuuri did not need to say anything, Victor knew he was listening.

“I was previously informed that sirens mate for life,” Victor said, his eyes meeting Yuuri’s, holding them as he spoke. “Which would then make me your single and only mate, forever. Is that true?”

Yuuri nodded, lips ghosting the heel of Victor’s palm. He smiled against it.

“I didn’t know… Yuuri, mating for life, most humans… don’t.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri stared down at Victor, expression oddly blank. He pushed back on his elbows, to raise himself off Victor slightly and permit him to watch as he waited for his captain to continue.

“Lots of humans, they don’t find the right mate for them the first time around. We have a few, sometimes many, and some of us never find the person we want to stay with forever. I-… I didn’t either, Yuuri,” Victor explained, thumb stroking along Yuuri’s cheek. “I had a few partners before you, but they weren’t… they did not last long, they were people I met and spent some time with, but they weren’t… They weren’t my mate, not the way you think of it. But you, Yuuri, I can’t imagine being with anyone else now. But I need you to know all of this, I don’t want you thinking something of me that isn’t true. I’ve had other lovers, some of them you might meet at some point, and I need you to understand that humans aren’t the same as sirens. You weren’t my only… but I do want you to be my only from now on.”

Yuuri smiled. And started to laugh. He turned his face into the hand Victor still rested on his cheek and pecked at it repeatedly, kissing at his palm and his fingers, as his laughter continued to rumble, light and amused.

Victor’s eyes went wide and his mouth hung open, in confusion, as Yuuri simply cooed and continued nuzzling into his hand. “What, why are you… I thought you’d–did you know already?”

Yuuri nodded, giggling at Victor’s shock, and wrote into his palm. Phichit told me. Bettas don’t mate for life, he said humans don’t either.

At that, Victor positively scowled and huffed. “I thought you’d be upset!”

Only if you’re telling me you don’t want to stay as my mate.

“Of course not, lovebird! How could I possibly even consider spending the rest of my life with anyone other than you? You’ve ruined me. But I want you to think about this. We’re going to have both humans and sirens hunting after us. A pirate’s life isn’t a safe one, if something happens to me, you’ll be without a mate. You have one chance, are you sure you want to waste it on a human? I’ve already almost died on you twice this week."

Kinda too late to ask. Yuuri nudged a finger into Victor’s chest. Already mated with you.

"Not gonna regret that? You’ll be okay having a mate who isn’t as strong as you? Who might not live as long? A mate without feathers, for the rest of your life?”

Yuuri rolled his shoulders and straightened his spine, his wings blossoming from behind him. Even in the dim of the cabin, they shone and reflected the sunlight peeking in through the windows. Glancing back at them, Yuuri threaded his fingers through his own feathers, until one came loose. Iridescent blue, speckled with light and tipped in the softest pink. He tucked it behind Victor’s ear, as if it were a flower. I’ll just adorn you in mine.

“I’d love that,” Victor replied, smiling back. “I want to tell you… many humans don’t mate for life, but some do. We have something called marriage, where we promise to stay together, till death do us part. Sometimes we exchange rings as a symbol, but you’ve already taken all of mine.” The gold Victor used to wear around his fingers shone on Yuuri’s.

“I know humans aren’t well known for keeping promises, but I’ll make this one to you… I will never love anyone as completely as I love you. Having you, as my mate for life, is more than anything I could ever hope for,” Victor said, taking both of Yuuri’s hands in his own. “And no one, not human, not siren, could take me from your side. I’m yours and only yours, for as long as you’ll have me.”

Yuuri watched the fullness of Victor’s smile, searched the blue depths of his eyes. Then he pulled his fingers out of Victor’s, and seized hold of the silver streaks of his hair, plunging down for a kiss.

Victor met him halfway.

Chapter Text

Victor had the heat of Yuuri above him, the colors of his feathers painting them both in midnight blue, the drive of his gentle force. They clung to each other until the night had come and gone, spent the earliest light of dawn gathered in each other’s embrace, in the protection of Yuuri’s wings. Dancing in the bedsheets like they had danced out of them, singing into each other’s mouths until they were both too exhausted to move and could only fall asleep, still entangled.

Yuuri’s enchanted command had kept the crew off board, leaving them undisturbed. When they woke up, they fed one another breakfast off their fingertips, revelling in the quiet that they could fall back into with their love.

Victor’s lips started low, touching every inked feather, every mark stained into Yuuri’s skin.

He took Yuuri’s ankles into his hands, adoring the contrast between the shades of their skin. His fingertips fluttered up behind Yuuri’s calves as he kissed the soles and arches of Yuuri’s feet, worshipping every part that marked him as a siren.

Victor pushed his tired siren back to the center of the mattress, continuing his caresses upon setting Yuuri down in their nest of bedding. From the jut of Yuuri’s ankle bone, he brushed along the length of Yuuri’s legs until the dark of the tattooed feathers ceased into the peach of his thighs.

From there, Victor took Yuuri’s hands in his. One at a time, he kissed at Yuuri’s palms and fingers, over each ring the siren wore. Then, his mouth traveled over Yuuri’s wrists and forearms, tracing the markings there.

Yuuri chirped his approval when Victor wrapped himself around his siren, laying them side to side. Wings folded away, the tattoos depicting them adorned Yuuri’s back. The colors of the ink had changed with the season, pinks and blues replacing his usual red and black. Almost as alluring as they were in their unhidden form.

Victor kissed between Yuuri’s shoulderblades, from where the wings crested to the feather tips resting just above the curve of his buttocks, and back again.
Yuuri unwound in Victor’s arms, the pace of his heart settling like it only could around his mate. Kisses continued, sweet and giving, over the ridges of Yuuri’s spine, the back of his neck. Up behind his ear and across his jaw, where the markings dotted Yuuri’s face. Victor could feel the stretch of Yuuri’s smile beneath his lips.

“I love your markings so much,” Victor muttered against Yuuri’s ear, kissing at it too. “I love how they spread when you’re angry, how they look against my skin when you touch me. I love how the ones here sprout feathers when you blush.”

As if on cue, little feathers tickled at Victor’s lips, Yuuri’s cheeks burning pink.

“I had an idea… for something I could do, a symbol that would show you as my mate for life.”

The siren twisted at the waist, gazing back at Victor with wide brown eyes. His finger drew a question onto the back of the hand which had settled low on his stomach.

“It’d be a surprise, but I promise that you’ll like it. Or I hope so,” Victor laughed. “I think you’d like it. A way of having a part of you with me, no matter where I am. Is that okay?”

Yuuri turned into Victor completely and nuzzled into his chest, kissing above his heart. He traced his answer over the lingering warmth his lips left there. Please.

Chapter Text

They spent another day together aboard the ship, listening to the whisper of the ocean and the sweetness of each other’s heartbeats.

Before they left, Victor slid gloves onto Yuuri’s hands and dressed him in pants and a loose-fitted long sleeve shirt, despite the cute pout which had been directed at him the entire time. He’d brushed Yuuri’s hair down around his ears and kissed the tip of his nose.

If rumors of sirens were spreading along the shores, they did not need Yuuri’s markings standing out.

In the harbor town, Yuuri released his command and shuffled his feet when they met with members of the crew. Partially because he was not fond of wearing boots and was irritated with them, partially to show his embarrassment as he actually muttered an apology for kicking them off board. Minami pouted more at seeing that all of Yuuri’s marks were covered up, but kept him mouth blessedly shut.

Yuuri abandoned them all the moment he saw a flash of red hair coming down the main street. He rushed to greet Mila, who was walking straight-backed and tall, guided by a dark-haired and olive-skinned girl. She laughed off his deep bows of remorse and lifted up the layers of her skirts, proudly showing off her new leg. It was carved expertly of a lightwood, heeled and patterned with cresting, crashing waves. A few feathers bordered the curve just under her knee. “Don’t worry, Yuuri. Your lover’s footing the bill,” she winked to emphasize her joke, “plus it’s already impressing all the pretty girls in town.”

Yuuri still flittered around her, signing his apologies and pointing at other ships in the harbor, offering to sink them for her. She only laughed harder.

Chris threw an arm around the captain’s shoulder and clasped on, giving it a purposeful squeeze. “So, how was mating season? Worth almost dying for?”

Victor tore his eyes away from Yuuri, smiling as Mila introduced a silent Yuuri to the nurse that was at her side. He met Chris’s eyes straight on and adopted the most serious of expressions.

“I’m going to lay so many eggs.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri still had not gotten used to ports. He had come off the ship with Victor on a few occasions, but it was the first time they had gone into a town by the harbor. The streets buzzed with human activity, and while Yuuri looked upon store fronts with curious wonder, hardly anyone seemed to pay him any mind. If looks lingered for a second longer in admiration of his beauty, he did not notice.

He attached himself to Victor’s side as he was led through the town, arms linked. Before they had separated from the crew, Victor made mention of taking Yuuri somewhere for the afternoon. However, Victor did not stop at any shops, though he did nod at some people who seemed to recognize him. At the edge of the town, Victor had Yuuri wait outside a rather large building, telling him that he would only be several minutes.

He did not lie, Yuuri waited a brief time before he heard Victor’s voice calling out to him. But it did not come from the building Victor had entered. Victor appeared at a short distance, and he was not alone.

Yuuri went rigid. Because Victor was in the air above him, riding atop a horrifying four-legged beast.

Heart-shaped smile gorgeous on his lips, strands of silver hair billowing in the gentle breeze, Victor reached out to Yuuri, offering his hand to the siren. Behind Yuuri, a corsetted woman swooned.

“Jump on, lovebird.”

The beast whinned, throwing its mane.

Yuuri’s feathers poofed up all at once, making him into a giant floof caught up under the fabric of his clothes.

Victor laughed so hard he nearly fell off the horse.

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s dark hair stood up on end, ear feathers quivering out from underneath. The loose fabric of Victor’s shirt, which had replaced his robes, pulled from his frightened fluff. His pants puffed up from where they had been tucked into his boots.

Victor had to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye, as Yuuri stood frozen absolutely solid, not breaking eye contact with the horse.

“Oh, lovebird, are you scared?”

A low growl escaped from Yuuri, gargled from the back of his throat.

“It’s not going to hurt you!”

Yuuri seemed to disagree, glaring hard but remaining immobile. The horse whinnied again. Yuuri’s floof doubled, his clothes straining to contain him.

“Just take my hand.” Victor reached out to Yuuri again, who quickly shook his head rapidly from side to side. His dark eyes focused in on the horse’s hooves, making Victor chuckle. “It’s not going to kick you.”

Yuuri stomped his foot onto the ground.

“It can’t stomp on you if you’re riding on top of it, love,” Victor teased.

The siren continued to look dubious. Reluctantly, he took a step forward. The horse pawed at the ground, as if in challenge. Yuuri leapt back, throwing Victor a pleading gaze. His captain took pity.

Victor swung his leg over the horse and dismounted in one smooth motion, likely causing another individual to faint in the background. “You have to get on. We can’t walk there, it’s too far. And as poofy as you are now, flying might draw a little bit too much attention.” He smoothed down the feathers escaping from under Yuuri’s hair, hiding them.

Yuuri seized his hand and wrote into it furiously. I shall not touch this hell beast!

“It’s a horse, she won’t hurt you.”

Why do we have to take it anywhere?!

“I wanted to show you what a proper restaurant is like.”

What use is this so called restaurant?!

“It’s quite a rare treat for most people. I thought you’d enjoy it. They serve the freshest meat. And are said to have quite the assortment of wonderful fruit desserts. With mangoes.”

Yuuri’s eyes narrowed and he glanced over Victor’s shoulder toward the horse. Fine. But if it bites me, it will become our freshest meat.

Victor laughed and laced his fingers through Yuuri’s. “Just don’t let her hear you say that and you might be fine.” He grabbed Yuuri by the hips and lifted him up onto the back of the horse.

The siren sat stiff, unyielding, never having looked more uncomfortable.

His floof did not recede in the slightest.

Chapter Text

If Yuuri was being rational, he would have known that the hellbeastback ride took hardly an hour. And normally he would have been quite content to wrap himself around Victor for that long, except the steady rocking of the horse was unsettling. Plus he was certain that it kept flicking his legs with its tail on purpose. Yuuri resisted nudging back only out of fear of the size of the teeth he had glimpsed earlier. Victor had said something about it being a herbivore. Yuuri had his doubts.

Yuuri, however, was not being rational. As much as he liked being in one of Victor’s shirts, the pants and boots were uncomfortable. More so than usual, as his poofed feathers had yet to entirely retreat. He relaxed only when they arrived at the border of a different town and Victor lifted him off the horse.

The siren threw a final glare at the horse. The horse ignored him, nudging its nose into Victor’s hand when he patted its face. Yuuri’s feathers threatened to floof up for an entirely different reason.

Yuuri trailed alongside Victor as he led the horse to a stable for caretaking while they explored the town. As soon as it was just the two of them, Yuuri clasped himself onto Victor’s arm, refusing to let go when Victor laughed at him.

“Stay close, lovebird.”

There was no chance of Yuuri not doing that. Before they stepped onto the streets of the town, Victor paused and tugged free the ribbon tying his hair. He wound his long silver locks around his hand and pulled them up into a messy bun at the back of his head, lacing it in place with the ribbon. Strands escaped, falling loose to frame his face. Yuuri felt like the swooning woman from before.

Yuuri noticed that when Victor took to the streets this time around, he kept off to the side where the buildings cast shadows. He did not stop to acknowledge the people they passed, keeping his face turned down and his pace quick.

He paused outside a shop, throwing a few coins to the keeper and grabbing a hat off a display. He hid his hair beneath it and whisked Yuuri off across the street with a wink. “This town isn’t as friendly to wanted pirates.“

Yuuri was too busy being suspicious of the assorted feathers which decorated the new hat to notice. He did not know what bird they belonged to, but if they were going to be gracing Victor’s beautiful head, he would have to replace them with his own.

Immediately.

Chapter Text

The so-called restaurant was not what Yuuri had envisioned. Though, to be fair, Yuuri had no idea what a restaurant was supposed to look like. Victor had said fresh meat. Yuuri had been looking forward to seeing a wide variety of carcasses on display, bright red and appetizing. Or large legs strung up and hanging from the ceiling, like the salted meats Victor would purchase for the crew from the markets, but fresh. It was nothing of the like.

Victor ducked into an imposing building marked with a sign designating it as a tavern, out of which noise flowed like a flooded river. Inside was dim, large banquet room illuminated by oil lamps and candlelit chandeliers. If Victor’s crew got rowdy during evenings of drink and song, Yuuri would have thought the patrons in here were ready to start a war.

The conversations were loud, fueled in their merriment by the scent of alcohol strong over the bar. A pair of musicians played in the corner, their instruments barely carrying over the crowd. Yuuri glimpsed a few women, in stunningly colored dresses that swept the floor. Briefly, he thought Mila might look particularly lovely in one that was emerald green.

Victor led him through the crowd, leaning over the wallside bar to speak in a low voice to the man tending it. Yuuri saw the shine of gold trading hands and followed Victor when they were escorted to a corner table, boothed in and blocked out of view from most of the tavern.

Seated, Victor pulled Yuuri close and fixed his hair, making sure the markings around his ears were properly covered. Yuuri’s eyes were fixed on the hat still on Victor’s head, watching the quiver of the feathers.

His captain noticed and smiled. “You’re right, I should take this off. Not polite for a gentleman to wear a hat indoors.” It got set down at the far end of the table, out of Yuuri’s reach. The siren’s fingers twitched.

“I’m not sure what they’re serving today, but do you have any requests for me to inquire on?”

Yuuri wrote into Victor’s hand.

“No, they do not have horse meat, lovebird. Nice try.”

A young girl came around, her eyes shifting between Victor’s silver hair and Yuuri’s prominent pout. While Victor conversed with her, Yuuri fidgeted with the gloves covering his fingers, removing them under the table. Without proper lighting, his markings would make it look like he was still wearing them. The long sleeves covered up the feather patterns further up. He was tempted to kick off the boots as well. Perhaps walk his bare toes up Victor’s calf in revenge for making him wear them.

Their plates of food arrived not long after, sizeable cuts of meat next to a healthy helping of potatoes. Yuuri’s heart fell past the floor. He pushed the plate away, crinkling his nose.

“What’s wrong, lovebird?”

Yuuri pointed to the surface of the meat.

“Oh, what, because it’s cooked? No, look, here.” Victor leaned in and cut into his steak, revealing the fullness of the red inside. “It’s just seared, you’ll like it.”

Yuuri pushed the plate away further.

Victor laughed at him. “Just try a little piece for me, please?” He held a small portion up to Yuuri’s mouth, blue eyes pleading.

Reluctant, Yuuri accepted and chewed. Slow, letting the flavor soak into his tongue and run down his throat. He swallowed, looking straight into Victor’s eyes.

“Well? Not that bad, right?”

Actions smooth and deliberate Yuuri took Victor’s hand in his own, trailing his touch along the inside of Victor’s wrist before writing into his palm. I hate it.

The siren then dropped Victor’s hand and grabbed the glass of wine which had been brought along with the meat.

That, he downed in one.

Chapter Text

Yuuri had gotten through his fourth glass of wine before Victor was halfway through with his first. But that was fine, because Yuuri finished that off for him as well.

His disdain for the cooked steak had been relatively forgotten by the third glass and he had ripped out the bloody center with his fingers, humming to the tune of the flowing music as he chewed. With Victor’s glass emptied into his mouth, Yuuri let the tension in his muscles loosen.

Yuuri scooted closer to Victor, kicking his boots off under the table. Victor choked on a bite of potato when Yuuri nudged at his ankle with his bare foot, trailing it up the length of his calf.

The siren’s cheeks were flushed pink, the color warm on his skin. It was unavoidable whenever Yuuri drank more than a certain amount, but Victor had always said that he found it beautiful… Yuuri wanted to hear those exact words right about now. He abandoned his shredded dinner in favor of nuzzling against Victor’s jaw line.

“You’re being very affectionate all of the sudden. I take it the wine agrees with you.” Victor laughed, shifting to put a little more distance between them.

That was absolutely not the right thing to do.

Yuuri scowled, nudging hard at Victor’s leg beneath the table.

“We’re in public, lovebird. This isn’t the ship.”

Yuuri motioned toward the front of the tavern, in indication of them leaving. It was noisy in a way that was grating on his ears and head, the loud bustling of an indoor crowd unfamilar to him. The music that played was not nearly enough to soothe him, the meat was not what he expected, and looking around he saw not a single mango in anyone’s possession. His skin itched from the foreign clothing, and from having to fight to contain his feathers in order not to attract attention. He wanted to hear more of the music and flash his wings, show them off again to Victor and shake them in his face before the colors started to fade.

Yuuri glared once more at the hat on the table.

“Okay, okay, shall we leave?”

Victor stood. Yuuri expected to feel a hand on his shoulder, sliding down to the small of his back in order to guide him along. Like from a proper gentleman.

Instead, Victor reached for his hat. Yuuri snatched it away, gripping on. The feathers in it weren’t even that special. White and black, some speckled brown. What a boring bird they must have belonged to. Nothing like his colors. Victor deserved way better. He deserved to have only the most gorgeous of feathers in his hair or his hat.

Victor smiled at him. “Did you want to wear it?”

Yuuri shook his head. He wanted to pluck it.

“You can hold onto it for now, but I’ll need once we get outside. Give me a moment.”

Victor left him, headed toward the bar. Yuuri wondered if he could hide the hat somewhere and pretend he lost it. He looked around, eyes wandering over the crowd of people. He could give it as a gift to one of the pretty girls. Stuff it under the table of a group of rowdy men playing some sort of game. Maybe toss it at the musicians playing in the corner. They seemed lively enough, with their assortment of strings and percussion.

Naturally, Yuuri gravitated toward them. If Victor was going to ignore him in favor of unknown feathers and a hellbeast, Yuuri was going to remind him exactly why it was that Yuuri was the most beautiful bird in town.

Chapter Text

Excited cheers, whistles of encouragement distracted Victor from his quiet conversation with the bar keep. The sounds of the tavern changed quickly, from the drone of liquored conversation to that of lively music chiming out. In front of the musicians, the floor had cleared of people, making room for one individual.

Yuuri was dancing.

Not with the same grace and seduction that he had displayed with his mating dance on the island, surrounded by mist and the scent of tropical blossoms. He danced with the energy of the tavern music, on the sharpness of a fiddle and the beat of a tramborine. His bare feet slapped the floor, keeping time with the jig, hands clapping along. The smile on his face was beauty unparalleled.

And then he wasn’t alone. The allure of Yuuri’s dance had drawn a few patrons to him, overjoyed voices joining in to shout as they linked arms with the siren and skipped to the music. Made figure-eights and swapped partners, all led by Yuuri’s quick movements and the melody of his laugh.

The song ended to the protest of several patrons, a couple coins thrown in request for another. The band immediately started, playing a song as lively as the last. Yuuri caught Victor’s eyes and held out his hand. As if Victor could resist. Before a second had passed, he was at Yuuri’s side.

The siren smiled, grabbing the hat off a nearby table so he could sweep it down as he bowed to Victor, in formal invitation for a dance. He then plopped it onto his own head, seemingly have forgotten of the feathers still adorning it.

Victor whisked Yuuri into his arms the very next moment. Yuuri’s laughter was more melodious than the music. His fingers threaded through Victor’s, eyes sparkling as they made use of the entire dance floor. They skipped to the time of the percussions, twirled one another with the singing of the strings.

While some of the other patrons switched partners, Victor and Yuuri stayed in each other’s arms. They spun and romped, skin flushed, smiles stretched wide. The fine strands of Victor’s hair escaped the loose bun he had tied them into it, messy around his face.

As the music dipped, Yuuri dipped Victor. He pulled the velvet ribbon free, allowing Victor’s hair to cascade as Yuuri ran his fingers through it. Then, on the note of Victor’s laugh, he tugged his captain back up, swinging them around in a whirlwind of shining silver locks.

They danced until their feet began growing numb, muscles burning, lost to everything but the music and the joy radiating between them. Victor’s hands settled low on Yuuri’s waist, lifting him up and twirling them both around.

Yuuri slid down against him, chest to chest, heart beating to heart. His cheeks were flushed an even deeper pink, brown eyes glimmering with love, lips parted and breathing hard with the energy of their dances. He threw his arms around Victor, nuzzling into his collarbone. “Be my mate, Victor.” He pouted, voice sweet and pleading, layered in the wine he had drunk.

“I am your mate, lovebird.” Victor said, cradling Yuuri’s face in his hand, thumb stroking slow over his lower lip. “Right now and forever. I’d sink the world for you.”

Yuuri’s already impossible blush darkened, burning so bright and pleased that the markings around his ears floofed into feathers.

Chapter Text

The music stopped.

A chair scrapped against the wooden floor as it was pushed back, its occupant rising. Victor could feel the eyes on his hair, became vividly aware of the fact that Yuuri no longer wore boots nor gloves. In the dim of the tavern, the sublties of his markings would not be evident, but the conflicting color of his limbs and the rest of his skin would. Not to mention, the little blue feathers now decorating Yuuri’s ears. Victor pushed the hat down lower on Yuuri’s head, hoping they would blend in with the feathers atop it.

“I believe it’s time for our grand finale,” Victor whispered and picked Yuuri up bridal-style, spinning his siren around.

Yuuri’s feet collided with a table and kicked it over, plates and liquor crashing down with it. In the same moment Victor cut through his coin purse and sent gold and silver rolling in every direction.

Chaos erupted.

A shout of “Nikiforov!” was swept away by the clamor for spilled coins and the cries of patrons whose shoes were flooded with beer and wine.

Yuuri clung onto Victor, smiling as his captain skirted between people, jumping out of the way of a woman tripping over her heels as a man slid across the floor, grasping for rogue gold.

The gruff looking individual who had recognized Victor leapt over a table, throwing a punch which Victor easily ducked out from with his dancer’s grace. The man’s fist collided with another patron’s jaw instead, causing Yuuri to laugh in sheer delight. In return, another blow was struck, knocking over a second table and more people, from whose hands dropped gathered coins.

A proper brawl broke out, driven by the band who began to play for the humor of it.

Victor slipped out of the tavern amidst the madness. Outside, dusk had settled, the sun sinking just beneath the horizon.

“Hang on, we’re gonna run for it,” Victor told Yuuri, hitching him up to steady his grip. Yuuri was more than happy to secure his hold as Victor took off down the street, his long legs carrying them quick toward the edge of town through side streets.

A shot rang out behind them, making Victor stop and spin. Two men chased them, weapons drawn.

“Hold, Nikiforov!”

“What, no please?” Victor called back, smiling as the wind fluttered through the loose strands of his hair. “What incentive do I have?”

“The price on your head is worth more alive than dead!”

“How flattering. May I inquire as to how much?”

Yuuri giggled at Victor’s nonchalance, gazing out from his rather comfy spot in Victor’s arms. Victor could not reach his guns or sword while holding Yuuri, so the siren glanced down, seeing if he could grab them for him. Not that he knew how to use one. Yuuri slid a hand between them, groping around Victor’s belt to try to find the guns holstered somewhere along there.

His aim was slightly off, Victor flinching and chuckling as he winked down at Yuuri. “Save that for the bedroom, lovebird.”

Yuuri’s feathers twitched.

“Hand yourself over, Nikiforov, and find out!”

The twinkle in Victor’s eyes was brighter than the emerging stars above. “Hmmm, appealing but I’m afraid that you’re disrupting my date. Such poor manners. Lovebird, will you tell them that they’re disrupting our date and kindly ask them to leave?”

Oh yes. Yuuri could do that. He looked straight at the two men and smiled. “You’re disrupting our date! Leave!”

Just like that, the two went rigid and turned, walking off as if not in control of themselves. The siren and his captain watched them go, until they rounded a corner and disappeared. Victor laughed richly. Yuuri chirped, delighted with his own success.

“Well, that all went much worse and much better than expected. Let’s head home before anyone else comes chasing after.”

Yuuri nodded in agreement, fingertips playing with silver hair which cascaded over Victor’s shoulders. He remained pleased until they arrived outside the stables.

Where Victor had left the hellbeast.

Chapter Text

We can fly! Yuuri protested, his traced letters a little sloppy and certainly less than steady on Victor’s palm.

“Can you walk?” Victor chuckled, his fingers scratching gently over the horse’s nose.

Yuuri was swaying on his feet, just a tad. He was standing as far as he could from the horse while still being able to scrawl to Victor. I danced.

“You did, beautifully. Now how about you ride the horse, beautifully?”

The siren regarded the animal with great suspicion.

“You rode her here, and it was fine. Are you going to let her intimidate a siren like yourself? Or are you gonna master the hellbeast?”

That had Yuuri squaring his shoulders and marching up to the horse. She paid him no mind, waiting.

Yuuri’s first try at mounting was nothing more than a short hop that barely got him off the ground. Victor had to stifle a laugh. His second attempt went a bit better, the third worse than the first. By the sixth he was simply leaning against the horse, hands flat against her side, his eyes closed. Victor was not sure if it was in concentration or exhaustion.

“Shall I help you, lovebird?”

“No! I can master this hellbeast myself!” With an immense show of his strength, Yuuri lifted himself up and over. Almost all the way over, Victor having to grab his arm to keep the siren from tumbling off the other side.

Yuuri sat up tall, back straight, and pointed off into the distance. “Onward, hellbeast!”

Victor laughed so hard he had to clutch at his side, where his stitching stretched and ached. Because Yuuri was seated facing in the direction of the horse’s tail.

The feathers on the hat which remained on his head shivered in the wind.

Chapter Text

“Stupid hellbeast,” Yuuri muttered into the back of Victor’s shoulder. He slouched against his captain as they rode together, arms draped loose around Victor’s waist. The multiple glasses of wine had finally caught up with him. “You don’t… you don’t get to touch his butt. I don’t want his butt on you… That’s-… t-that’s my, my butt… Victor should only be riding me…”

Victor was having a difficult time keeping himself upright. Yuuri’s mutters were hushed into the fabric of his shirt, a few rather unintelligible altogether. Victor wondered if a drunken siren’s commands would still have the same effect as a sober siren’s.

Yuuri’s hands wandered, lazily tracing patterns over Victor’s back. It required a minute of concentration to figure out what Yuuri was doing, his usually precise writing impaired.

Yuuri was drawing wings. From the curve of Victor’s shoulderblades down as far as he could go without sticking his hands down the captain’s pants.

“What are you up to, lovebird?”

Yuuri hummed, the tune lively, an echo of the music at the tavern. He danced his fingers over the vertebrae of Victor’s spine, peeling down the back collar of his shirt. “You said you liked my… my marks. I’m gonna… mark you up.” He started to dot kisses over exposed skin, nipping wherever he pleased. “Gonna show that stupid bird on your head… you’re my mate…”

The earlier suspicion with which Yuuri had regarded the hat clicked. Victor chuckled, glancing over his shoulder. The trihorn had shifted, tilted precariously at the back of Yuuri’s head. The feathers bounced with each step the horse took. Victor considered pointing out to Yuuri that he was the one wearing the hat. His siren, however, remained blissfully unaware.

“My feathers are better. Stupid bird only has… white and grey… how boring.” Yuuri paused in his muffled kisses, tugging on Victor’s shirt. “Victor… Victor, tell that bird… Tell that bird I’m prettier.”

Victor twisted, grabbing the hat off Yuuri’s head and holding it out before him, in view of his siren. “Yuuri is far prettier than you. His plumage is superior in every way.”

“Far superior,” Yuuri mumbled in confirmation. “More than any bird…”

“You’re the most beautiful bird in the world.”

“Mmmm… damn right I am.”

The horse nickered, shaking her mane.

“See, even the horse agrees, Yuuri. You’re the most beautiful bird.”

Yuuri leaned sideways to look toward her face, his eyes wide in amazement. It took a full minute, but then he smiled, as if he had won some sort of victory.

“….Good hellbeast.”

Chapter Text

“Should I even bother asking?” Chris said, rightfully wary as Victor carried Yuuri on board the ship.

“I tried letting him walk. He started taking off his pants,” Victor explained.

Yuuri was curled up happily in Victor’s arms, the hat in his hands. He was plucking the feathers from it, one by one, laughing softly each time that he did. Victor gathered that Yuuri had wanted to do as such from the beginning and let him. A plucked hat was well worth the price of a siren’s smile.

“I doubt many would protest.” Chris chuckled.

“He’s not wearing any undergarments.”

“I wouldn’t protest.”

Yuuri arched in Victor’s arms and slipped a hand beneath his own shirt, eyebrows furrowed in sharp concentration. From it, he pulled a long speckled blue feather, fitting it into the hat. Chirping, he then plopped it onto Victor’s head, mouth split wide in satisfaction.

“Thank you, lovebird.”

“How much did he drink?” Chris asked, watching the siren nuzzle into the cut neckline of Victor’s shirt.

“Clearly more than he should have. Alert the crew, we’re setting sail as soon as I get Yuuri to bed.”

Yuuri perked at the last part. His ear tuffs had yet to retreat, quivering with the blush spreading high on his cheeks.

“Seems like you said something to excite your bird,” Chris pointed out, laughing. “You must be quite the mate, Victor.”

At that, Yuuri snapped his attention to Chris, the depths of his eyes fierce. “He’s the best mate… And I’m gonna mate him. Right now.”

Victor nearly choked on air.

Chris arched an eyebrow. “I thought Emil warned you off strenuous activity, Victor.”

“I’ll be fine. He’s already danced,” Victor said. “And befriended a horse.”

“Meaning?”

By the time they glanced back down at Yuuri, he had fallen asleep. Victor looked at his dozing siren with pure affection.

“I think,” Chris regarded Yuuri with caution, “I might need to reconsider my fondess for mythical creatures.”

“Why? He’s making my life all the more worth living.”

Chapter Text

“Seung-gil, dear!”

Hiroko rushed down the beach, all but catching the brightly-colored siren when he landed. She threw his arm over her shoulders, holding his weight as it threatened to give out from under him. Her eyes darted over his wings, battered, feathers bent and broken, then to the blood streaked across his face, staining the collar of his robes.

“Come on, you can walk, it’s not far.” She led the exhausted siren along into the cove, helping him settle down by the pit of hot coals heating water. From the pot she fished a cloth, wringing it with her bare hands and snapping it twice, hard, to cool it. She moved quickly, wiping the blood off Seung-gil’s cheek and the claw piercings at the sides of his neck. A bruise had begun to form around his throat. She then moved through his wings, fingers darting through to examine the feathers. “Some of these are quite bad. Do you want me to trim them or pull them out?”

“Just pull them,” Seung-gil said, bunching the shoulder of his robes and placing it in his mouth. He gritted his teeth against the fabric as Hiroko plucked the feathers, pain shooting through his nerves as each quill was removed. When she finished, she rushed off, returning to trim the rest into rounded edges.

“What happened, you look like you were attacked by harpies?” Hiroko asked, filing the edges down on the feathers she cut so they would not irritate.

“Not harpies, it was another siren,” Seung-gil muttered, shoving his discarded feathers into the fire pit, watching them smolder and burn. “He intruded on my nest and chased me from it.”

“You fought another siren?”

“I did not fight. I was attacked. I calculated my odds of winning and they were miniscule. I chose to leave.”

“Unprovoked?” The doubt was light in Hiroko’s voice but present. “I know you don’t get on well with others, dear, but–”

“He had a human with him,” Seung-gil said, the statement bitter on his tongue, cutting through the usual steadiness of his tone. “He claimed they were a mated pair.”

Hiroko paused. The cove went quiet, with only the buzzing of the bees and the nearby lull of the tide on the beach holding off silence. At the base of the old manuka tree, another siren with scarlet colors dozed. Her broken wings were outstretched, splinted and healing.

“A siren with a human mate?”

“I did not believe him. The probability of that being true is astronomical. I considered it more likely that he was being manipulated by the human, in some way but I could not determine the cause. I tried to rid him of the human, to help him escape its influence,” Seung-gil explained. “A ship attempted hunting me, before the season. They were unsuccessful. I thought it likely that this siren had not been as fortunate as I.”

“And he attacked you?”

“He did not react as I expected.”

Hiroko rested back on her heels, quietly thoughtful as she brushed the feather trimmings off her hands.

“He was performing a mating dance when I saw him,” Seung-gil added, cautiously retracting his wings toward himself, testing how they felt. “As he was in my nest, I determined it was performed to court me. And that the human was a gift, a custom of you northern sirens.”

“Us northern sirens?” Hiroko asked, expression furrowing.

“His wing pattern resembled yours. Midnight feathers. Speckled blue, in the same spread as your yellow. Tipped in pink. His dance was flawless in technical elements, but I am not seeking a mate. However, if he was dancing for the human…” Seung-gil paused, voice dropping suddenly. “Then I threatened his mate. I attempted to kill his mate. He attacked because I meant to separate a siren from his mate…”

“You couldn’t have known, dear. A siren with a human mate, it’s unheard of.”

“We’re meant to trust other sirens…” Seung-gil spoke with hesitant consideration. “If we cannot trust each other, what do we have?”

“No harm came to them?” Hiroko asked, pushing herself onto her feet.

“No. He protected the human. His mate,” Seung-gil repeated the final portion of his words, a note of disbelief still laced through them. “As any siren would.”

“Well then… If it’s true, then that’s good. Such a peculiar thing.” Hiroko frowned, inspecting Seung-gil’s wings one more time. “Stay here, dear, rest. I’ll get you something for your feathers…” She left the macaw in contemplation, shuffling off toward the medicine stores.

Her mate joined her side, light touch settling on her arm. “Do you think…”

Hiroko shook her head, voice hushed to avoid being overheard. “Tell me those did not sound like Yuuri’s wings to you.”

Toshiya gave her no such assurance.

Chapter Text

The Sunday market was bustling. Victor had lost Yuuri amongst the crowd some ten minutes prior, but he did not bother seeking him out. Markets had become one of Yuuri’s not-so-secret loves whenever they landed in a port and the siren had grown accustomed to navigating them. He had eagerly jumped into a pair of boots as soon as the parrots squawked their calls of land and dressed himself in Victor’s clothes, almost more eager than the crew to get off.

With the turning of the season came typhoons, meaning Victor kept them close to the coast in order to catch protection from the storms. It also meant fewer ships on the water, merchants not wanting to risk their cargo to the temper of the summer sea. Less to pirate meant the days grew longer and rougher, while the supplies on board dwindled.

Victor weaved between stalls and people, picking up some local herbs that he knew Chris would debate on buying with his own coin, supplies and food stores for the crew, medicine powders to restock Emil’s chest. He stopped to look at some beautifully dyed fabrics which he could use to make into robes for Yuuri, but the siren always preferred his own. Not that Victor faulted him, they were as mesmerizing as Yuuri himself.

When the sun hit high noon, Victor found Yuuri kneeling at a stall selling birds. There were fowl in large cages, a few parakeets shuffling around perches, a pen of clucking chickens. Yuuri ignored them all in favor of chirping at a small nest of eggs set out under the warm sun.

“Of course you’d be with the birds. You’re as bad as Minami,” Victor teased, but Yuuri’s attention did not waver even for a millisecond. Chuckling to himself, Victor examined the chickens pecking at feed in the pen before turning to the small elderly lady manning the stall.

A few chickens on board could produce fresh eggs for the crew or serve as a decent meal themselves if food stock ran low. He doubted Yuuri would mind too much, and they would keep the bird nerd happy enough. If Chris complained about the extra work, he could task Yurio with their care. The powder monkey had trained the parrots remarkably well, right under everyone’s noses.

“Yuuri, what do you think about–”

The old merchant lady next to him gasped. Victor would have done the same if he had not grown used to all of Yuuri’s little surprises. Extremely little, this time around.

The nest no longer contained eggs. Only cracked eggs shells scattered around, broken into jagged pieces.

Cupped in Yuuri’s hands were four tiny yellow chicks, peeping excitedly. The smallest wings flapped up at him and they all hopped, beaded black eyes directed at Yuuri in the equivalent of pure adoration.

“Oh dear, I thought those weren’t going to hatch for another day,” the stall keeper said, shuffling toward Yuuri. “Look how healthy they look though. And they’re imprinted on you, it seems, the bitty cheepers.”

Yuuri looked delighted. The chicks continued to peep and he imitated them, peeping back.

“You’d make a good mama bird.”

Laughing at the cuteness before him, Victor scooped one yellow fluff ball up and deposited it atop Yuuri’s head, letting it nest in his hair. Another peep. Yuuri went entirely still to make sure it did not tumble off.

Victor tucked a silver coin too many in the old lady’s hands.

“We’ll take the lot.”

When they got back on board the ship, Yuuri set all four chicks down and shuffled in experiment across the deck. They followed behind him in a single file, peeping all way.

Chapter Text

The low burning lights in the cabin flickered off Victor’s skin and the new colors it hosted. Yuuri’s fingertips hovered over his left pectoral muscle, twitching with desire to touch but restraining. Patience was a trait that came and went with Yuuri, and with the sight Victor presented, he could hardly contain himself.

Victor had drawn Yuuri into their room with a secretive smile, made Yuuri sit on the edge of the bed as he pulled his own shirt over his head.

“What do you think?” Victor asked, gazing down at the shimmering fresh ink of the tattoo. “This way I’ll always have your feathers on me.”

Crossed over Victor’s heart were two feathers, of Yuuri’s ever-beautiful red-tipped black and the speckled midnight blue of mating season. Beneath them, a scroll scripted out an adoring, “Lovebird.”

Yuuri gazed up from the ink with eyes that shone so bright that it made Victor laugh.

“X marks the spot, you know?”

The siren tilted his head, inquisitive.

“To the treasure that my siren holds.” Victor took Yuuri’s hands in his and placed them over the crossed-feather tattoo. “My heart.”

Yuuri flushed so fast and fond that his ear feathers sprung forth, causing Victor to laugh loud enough for the melodious sound to fill the room.

“I take it that you like it then?”

Nodding, Yuuri touched a kiss to the ink of his own feathers imbedded in Victor’s skin, to the “Lovebird” wrapped around his heart. Marking Victor as Yuuri’s mate, for life.

Chapter Text

Minami climbed down from the crow’s nest, sketchbook tucked under his arm and charcoal pencil in his teeth. The second his feet landed on the wooden deck, he reopened his sketchbook and stared, starry-eyed, rendered in motionless awe at whatever image it was he had managed to record.

He collapsed back against the mast, sliding down to the floor, right hand clutching over his own heart. A low continous squeal escaped him, all while he refused to look away.

Naturally, a couple nearby curious crew members gathered to gaze over his shoulder to see what exactly it was he had sketched.

Yurio scoffed and stalked off, grumbling something about the wasting of time. Mila gasped in delight and ruffled Minami’s hair, praising his skills. Chris laughed and called out a warning, “Don’t let Victor see that.”

Minami tore his eyes away from his drawing. “Why no–”

The sketchbook was torn out of his hands by the captain. He flapped his arms and leapt up, jumping in fruitless attempts to get it back. Victor held it well out of reach.

“Are you bothering Yuuri again?”

“I wasn’t, I made sure to be quiet!” Minami protested, already pouting and putting on a display of crocodile tears.

“Didn’t he tell you to stop?” Victor asked, flipping through the pages of the sketchbook. It was filled with multitudes of birds, from all different angles, details of their beaks and their wings, with fully annotated notes of their colors and calls, descriptions of mating dances or other observed behavior. However, the most recent pages were filled with drawings of Yuuri. In flight, in the water, playing the lyre for the crew, stretching his wings after emerging from Victor’s cabin in the morning. Detailed recordings of how his markings spread and how his feathers appeared when in battle, but also filled with many empty lines and question marks added to notes that Minami had not yet confirmed.

“If he told me to stop then I wouldn’t be able to do it!” Minami pointed out, making another attempt to grab back his book.

Victor flipped it to the newest page and stopped.

It was a drawing of Yuuri, curled up asleep in the crow’s nest. The siren had claimed it for himself a few weeks after joining the crew, and lined it with blankets, filled it with trinkets he collected, a few broken toy ships he had gleefully destroyed. Made it into an actual nest, far too grand to belong to a crow. Victor had found him napping inside it on more than one occasion and the sight always warmed his heart.

Except in the sketch Minami had made, Yuuri wasn’t alone. Snuggled next to him were his four fluffy chicks, sleeping under the crook of his chin, against the siren they saw as their mama bird.

Just like Minami had, Victor clutched a hand over his heart. “Oh….”

“I know! It’s adorable, it’s so cute I’m gonna die! Now give it back!”

Victor did give back the book. But not before tearing the page out and pocketing it for himself. When Minami howled in protest, Victor tossed a couple gold coins at him in payment. The deckhand swatted them out of the air, not chasing when they rolled away.

“You can’t, that picture is priceless!”

“And as your captain, I can rightfully claim such a treasure for myself. Thank you, Kenji.”

Sticking out his tongue, Minami tried scaling back up the netting leading to the nest, only for Victor to grab him by the back collar of his shirt and tug him back down.

“What are you gonna do if he wakes up and actually orders you to stop? No more siren sketches….” Victor paused for dramatic effect. “…Ever.”

Minami’s eyes went wide and his voice wavered in uncertainty. “He won’t… wake up?”

“Are you willing to take that chance?” Victor asked, and very loudly and purposefully, cleared his throat.

“You wouldn’t…”

Victor tilted his head back and opened his mouth to call up to his lovebird.

Minami jumped onto him, clamping his hands over it. “Mutiny!”

“That only works if everyone agrees to it!” Victor’s laughter was muffled as he tried to wrestle Minami off him, playfully fighting and giving chase when the boy stole back the sketch.

Their scuffle ended with a chirp, as a confused and awoken siren stared down at them from the nest above.

Chapter Text

“Do mermaids eat humans?” Chris had been holding out on asking the question, he truly had. Thus far, his few chats with Phichit had been feeding the mermaid all the details of Victor and Yuuri’s blossoming love, which Phichit collected in the same way Yuuri hoarded toy ships. With utter delight and a constant craving for more.

Phichit flashed his most dazzling smile, the razor sharp points of his teeth on display. “Oh don’t worry. I’ve gone vegetarian… or pescatarian… well, mostly. On Thursdays. And holidays.”

Chris was not certain of the meaning of approximately half of what Phichit had stated. He nodded anyway. Nothing like a beautiful myth to leave him unable to find his brain. “Do you have a favorite?”

“Anything with colors brighter than mine,” Phichit replied, his tail flicking at the air. The mermaid had perched himself on a railing, a vivid distraction to anyone who walked by. Despite the siren on board, the apprehension toward the mermaid persisted. Chris was the only one brave enough, or foolish enough, to approach. Phichit had seemed pleased to have admiring company. “If we’re talking human food, then I love nothing more than a big meaty sausage. Something juicy to sink my teeth into.”

“I could make that,” Chris said, swallowing down the bit of concern sitting on his tongue. “Next time we dock.”

“I’m sure you could provide just the thing to hit the spot.” Phichit tipped Chris’s chin up with his tail fins, smirk tempting. “You know, there’s more than one way to be a maneater.” With a wink, the mermaid granted a very light fin slap to Chris’ unshaven cheek and dove off the railing, vanishing down into the depths of the ocean.

Chris staggered back a step, gripping his racing heart. He caught Victor’s gaze, the captain observing quietly from nearby. “I’ve never been more terrified and more turned on in my entire life.”

Victor approached, patting him squarely on the shoulder in comradery . “Yeah… Believe me, I know.”

Chapter Text

Atop the figurehead that graced Victor’s ship sat a siren and a mermaid.

Phichit had leapt on board without so much as a warning, climbing up the side of the ship as it sailed. His claws retracted into the brilliant smile he had tossed to blinking members of the crew, along with a cheerful, “Morning!”

Phichit’s gold and scarlet scales glinted in the sun as he flicked his tail, chattering with great enthusiasm. He held something cupped in his hands, showing it off to Yuuri. His sea bunnies crawled slowly over his shoulders, rabbit-ear antennas wiggling.

Yuuri’s hair and feathers rustled in the breeze, wings stretched out and relaxed behind him. A light smile curled the corners of his mouth, followed by a soft blush when Phichit appeared to ask him a question. The mermaid took notice and laughed heartily in response.

Chris was supposed to be clearing his kitchen of rubbish. He had come on deck to scrub out the built up char from several of his pots, yet was finding the task far more strenuous than usual. Each time that Phichit’s fins twitched, the sun sparked off the gold of his scales and markings. Blindingly beautiful. In quite the literal sense.

Chris moved toward the ship railing, making to toss the scrubbings overboard. A flare of reflected light from Phichit’s tail shone into his eyes and a miscalculated step sent him tumbling right over the edge.

He hit the water with a perfectly dignified yell and a splash, sinking beneath the ship. A second splash followed and before Chris had a chance to kick himself to the surface, he was grabbed. The salt of the water stung at his eyes, but through the blur he saw the colors contrasting the blue of the sea.

Phichit had dove in after him and, in a seemingly impossible feat, dragged him up the side of the ship to dump him back on deck. The mermaid shook droplets from his dark hair, smiling deviously at his rescue. “I’m not a dolphin, you know.”

Chris sputtered out a mouthful of water and an equal amount of embarrassment. “I’m sorry?”

“I’ll only save a human once.”

Without awaiting a thanks, Phichit pushed himself gracefully back across the deck, rejoining his siren friend. Yuuri deposited the sea bunnies back onto Phichit’s shoulder.

Chris managed to stare for only a moment, shaking himself free of the daze the mermaid permanently inflicted on him. The pot he had been holding, however, was forever lost to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Chapter Text

Phichit yelled, claws swiping at the air when he was suddenly ripped from the ocean. Water cascaded off his hair and fins, splashing back to the sea below. His tail whipped around, barbs on it flared and ready to damage whatever thing had grabbed him. A feathered hand caught the base of his fluke, stopping the strike.

“I nearly took your face off, warn a fish!” Phichit snapped at Yuuri, heart pounding. He twisted in the siren’s arms to try to wiggle free. “Let me go!”

Yuuri did not listen, wings turning him around and carrying the both of them quickly in direction which he came from. When Phichit flopped and attempted to escape, Yuuri lifted them higher into the air until Phichit yelped about the height.

“You cannot fishnap a mer with no explanation, Yuuri!”

Yuuri smiled but did not answer, holding steady onto his friend until the ship came within sight. He dropped a protesting, struggling mermaid onto the deck without explanation.

Phichit glared for barely a split second, catching sight of what was undoubtedly the reason Yuuri had so unceremoniously abducted him. “Oh. My. Poseidon.”

Victor and Chris were both shirtless, helping to rig the sails. Their muscles strained under the sun, sweat like diamond drops slipping down skin. Phichit spied a long scar hooking the line of the cook’s hip and had an odd urge to lick it.

“Oh. Oh, I can see why you like humans,” Phichit muttered. “Suddenly, I’ve got a thirst the size of the ocean…”

Yuuri’s eyes were trained intensely on his mate, the strength with which he worked and the flutter of his silver hair in the breeze. The few black feathers tied into the velvet ribbon tremored along with it. Involuntarily, Yuuri let out a chirp like a whistle.

With the sails at half-mast, Chris and Victor glanced over the sharp lines of their shoulders, catching the two staring creatures. They smirked at each other and turned back to their task, pulling harder on the rigging. The muscles stretching down their arms and backs to well-cut hiplines flexed in a beautiful symphony of movement.

“Do you think they need help?" Phichit edged forward.

Yuuri braced his hand against Phichit’s chest, holding him back with a shake of his head. The siren and the mermaid sat back, shamelessly enjoying the spectacular view.

Chapter Text

“I was under the impression that mermaids traveled in schools,” Chris said, taking a seat on the deck railing next to a lounging mermaid.

“Some species do,” Phichit replied, his fins spreading to soak up the warmth basking down on them. “Not bettas. Instinctually, we’re not very good with other fish.”

“Why is that?”

“We like to be the center of attention,” Phichit smiled, fanning his tail and arching it over himself in order to nudge playfully at Chris’s knee. “Another betta around is competition. I want your focus on me.”

“Well, humans have an expression. Chasing tail. You’ve made that quite literal for me.”

“And that means?”

“Means that your tail is indeed the center of my attention. And that it’s the only one I’m chasing.”

Phichit grinned, teeth flashing. “How do I know that you’re not just looking to serve up a healthy portion of fish, chef?”

Chris leaned down, fingers slipping under Phichit’s chin to tilt his face up. “That’s not the taste of the sea that I’m interested in at the moment.”

Phichit’s fins flared, his quick wit faltering. A sharp exhale escaped without his permission. “Oh.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri sat behind Phichit, draping fine gold chains around his friend. The gleaming color contrasted with the darkness of the mermaid’s skin, threaded between the sharp-lined markings along his collarabone and shoulders. Yuuri placed a bracelet onto Phichit’s left wrist and sat back, admiring the shiny gifts he had bestowed on his friend.

Phichit turned from side to side, smiling down at himself. “How about one for my tail?”

Yuuri dug into his little collection of treasure and pulled out another chain which he wrapped around the bottom of Phichit’s tail, clipping it in place. The loose portion dangled between his tail fins, pleasing the mermaid greatly if the size of his smile was anything to go by.

“I swear, you’re the luckiest siren ever. Got enough gold to spare now that you’re giving it away.”

Yuuri chuckled, sorting through the rest. He paused on a elegant hair pin, picking it up to examine. The length of it had thin strands twisted to create the patterns of feathers and flowers, faces of which were imbedded with yellow topaz.

“Whatcha gonna do with that?” Phichit asked.

Yuuri glanced around the deck and saw his mark. He beelined for the powder monkey tasked with swabbing the deck, snatching the tied bandana off Yurio’s head.

“Hey, you freaking bird, what are you–”

“Stay still,” Yuuri commanded and Yurio obeyed, permitting the siren to grab handfuls of his blond hair. He kept shouting, however hopelessly, for Yuuri to let him go. The siren did not seem to care the least about the expletive noise.

Yuuri swept up Yurio’s outgrow bangs , twisting them at the back of his head and pinning the strands in place with the hairpin. The gold and topaz was incredibly fitting with the blond. Humming in content, Yuuri nodded and flew back to Phichit, releasing Yurio from the command as he went.

The powder mokey remained paralyzed, reaching back slowly to touch the priceless pin. He felt out the shape and the stones, finally breaking from his shock to round angrily on the siren. “Why’d you do that?!”

Yuuri only smiled, but Phichit waved and shouted back. “Cause he thinks it looks pretty on you!”

Scowling, Yurio spun away and stalked off, abandoning his task. He dropped his face, doing his best to hide the blush betraying him.

Chapter Text

Phichit scrunched his nose as he looked across the deck. He had climbed on board in order to send the afternoon with the siren. Except there would be none of that. Apparently, Yuuri had just returned from a long flight and there was no tearing or tempting him away from his mate.

Victor had Yuuri in his arms, the two twirling each other across the ship, Yuuri’s wings enveloping them both. They danced, foreheads tipped together, like swans reunited. Even at a distance there was no missing the strengths of their smiles. Phichit huffed.

“Not a fan of the lovebirds?”

Phichit saw Chris, who was looking amused at the mermaid’s pout.

“They’re adorable. Are they always like this?”

“No,” Chris replied, settling back against the railing to watch the happy couple along with Phichit. “Sometimes, they’re much worse.”

Phichit followed their movements, observing the few quick pecks that they exchanged before Victor took hold of Yuuri’s face and pulled him in closer. Yuuri raised his wings, shielding them from view with his out-stretched feathers. The mated pair stayed hidden for a while longer.

“How do humans even mate?” Phichit asked suddenly, eyes darting to Chris.

That question seemed to briefly startle the cook. “Ummm… like normal? We have sex. How do mermaids?”

Phichit blinked, expression blank. “Sex?”

Chris gazed down the line of Phichit’s body, eyes settling on his tail. “…Do you lay eggs?”

“I don’t, don’t be ridiculous!” Phichit laughed, waving his hand to dismiss the notion. “Only female bettas do that. I’d just fertilize them and care for the eggs until they hatch.”

“Like a fish…”

“Well, I am a fish. Kinda. So yeah, like a fish. Why, how do you do it?”

“…Like a dolphin.”

Chapter Text

“I have something to show you.”

Shivers always pulsed through Yuuri whenever Victor spoke such words. Yuuri had never had surprises before Victor. A siren’s life was rather predictable. Hunt, survive. Life on a cliffside was lonely, cold. Nothing like the warmth and joy Victor had brought into Yuuri’s life.

“Turn around, okay? You’ll need to wait a bit.”

Yuuri obeyed, sitting with his back to Victor on their bed. He waited, ears perking. He heard rustling, the swish of fabric, the sound of Victor’s guns and sword being set on wood. His mate was undressing. Yuuri smiled, closing his eyes, a hot spark flashing through his veins. He waited, listening to the sound of Victor’s movements, the soft reassurances from Victor to wait just a little longer.

“I’m sorry it took so long for me to show you, but I wanted it to be perfect. Look at me, lovebird.”

Yuuri turned and gasped. Because Victor was golden. A gold sash wound around his waist, securing skirt robes. On his arms and legs were siren markings, patterns of feathers inked in gold. His hair was tied with golden ribbon, but all that was overshadowed by his wings.

Victor had wings. They folded behind his shoulders, tips sweeping the floor. Strong gold feathers, streaked with silver the same soft shade as his hair. Yuuri rushed to him, reaching out to touch the feathers. They brushed like silk against his fingertips. Real. Like the perfect siren markings on his skin.

Yuuri clasped his hands over his mouth in shock. Victor was a siren.

Chapter Text

“Surprise?” Victor chuckled, taking in the intensity with which Yuuri stared. He held out his arms to Yuuri, palms open, displaying his siren markings. “Do you like it?”

Yuuri took hold of Victor’s hands, tracing his fingers up the gold patterns. When he lifted them away, his fingertips came off stained with gold. His face snapped up and he grabbed Victor, spinning him around to examine his wings. Gold ribbons looped from their hilts, winding around his shoulders. Securing them in place.

Realization struck Yuuri and he started to laugh. He glanced down, to the backs of Victor’s legs, looking closely at the markings on his skin. Just beneath his left knee, the ink had smudged.

“Don’t laugh at me, I worked really hard on this!” Victor said, glancing over his shoulder at Yuuri. “And these are heavy!” He pulled on the wing ribbons, shifting their weight up his back.

Yuuri touched the feathers once more, rubbing them between his fingers. They were definitely real siren feathers, the feel of them the same as his own. Victor understood his question before Yuuri asked them.

“They’re yours. Most of them anyway. The ones you molted during mating season. I had them dyed and arranged by a costume maker, someone who makes outfits for balls. They look quite good, don’t they?”

They did. Good enough to fool Yuuri. He ran his fingers down the length of the wings, feeling where the feathers shifted from his own to that of some other bird. Firm and long, from a hawk, another bird of prey. Yuuri smiled and nuzzled his face in between Victor’s shoulder blades, writing a question into his skin.

“Ahhh, well. Actually, I’ve been painting them every day this week waiting for you to come home so I could surprise you. I’m nearly out of the paint,” Victor said, flipping his hands over to look at the markings on his skin. “Minami helped, we did them with the references of your markings from his sketchbook. Did you think they were real?”

Embarrassed to admit so, Yuuri nodded. Victor laughed harder, turning to draw Yuuri into his arms. He kissed Yuuri’s temple and smiled down at him. “I had them done so I could do something for you. Sit down.”

Yuuri sat back on the bed, grinning from ear to ear. More when Victor gathered their blankets and pillows around him, forming a nest just like Yuuri had done for him. It was also when he noticed that the cabin had been rearranged, desk and dresser pushed to the edges, clearing more space in the center.

Victor slide his fingers into the feathers of his wings and when he lifted his arms, they lifted along with them.

Yuuri watched, delighted, as Victor started to prance across the room, little tiny steps on the tips of his toes. A perfect imitation of the first mating dance Yuuri had performed, right down to the booty shaking and the dab.

The siren had never felt more in love.

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s fingers were entwined with Victor’s, fond and warm. Yuuri tailed after the stunning gold of the wings that Victor wore, onto the deck of the ship. The siren giggled when his mate had trouble manuveuring up the stairs due to their bulk, helping push him through. There was a reason Yuuri rarely unfurled his wings inside.

They bloomed from the markings on his back, however, once they were under the darkness of the night sky. Stars twinkled overhead, the moon full. Victor led Yuuri to the bow of the ship and into his arms. The ocean made their music, the waves on the sides of the ship. Their feet set the rhythm, bare on wood. Victor started, but Yuuri led, fondness threatening to burst through his chest as Victor followed him in each step of a siren’s pair mating dance.

Yuuri did not care if some of their steps were misplaced, feet crossing feet, laughing against Victor’s heart-shaped lips. They spun with each other, gold joining black. Yuuri brushed his hand over Victor’s cheek, kissing Victor’s palm when it came up to caress his own.

They danced bathed in moonlight, Yuuri guiding Victor to furl his wings in so that their feathers could entwine, wrapped in a cocoon of color. Yuuri drew Victor into a kiss, chirping out his happiness.

“I’m sorry I can’t fly with you,” Victor muttered onto Yuuri’s lips, his fingers threading Yuuri’s, mixing all their traded rings together.

Yuuri smiled so brilliant he outshone the stars. Throwing Victor’s arms over his shoulders, he pulled himself tight against his mate, spread his wings and flew.

Victor yelped, burying his face into Yuuri’s neck as the siren lifted them into the air. Yuuri flew them around the ship, looping the top of the mast, between the sails and under the figurehead, their toes skimming the surface of the water.

As they dipped low, Victor hooked his ankles around Yuuri’s and released the hold he had on his mate. Yuuri’s arms supported his back, keeping Victor from falling as Victor slipped his fingers into his wings. Yuuri laughed as Victor flapped the made wings, throwing them off balance and nearly sending them plunging into the ocean. The siren raised them up, flying over the deck and up to the crow’s nest.

They settled on its edge, sitting together, wings brushing, positioned like two sirens at the top of the sea. Victor leaned in and caught Yuuri in a kiss, imitating Yuuri’s chirp back to him when Yuuri kissed back.

They fell off the crow’s nest when Yuuri threw himself against Victor in joy, laughing as Yuuri landed them safely in the ship’s netting. Yuuri wrapped them in his wings, nuzzling against Victor, unable to restrain the smile pulling on his cheeks.

“I love you, lovebird.”

Yuuri placed Victor’s hands on his heart, letting Victor feel how fast it beat. “And I, you.”

Chapter Text

“You’re staring again,” Phichit pointed out, smirking at having caught his companion out. “See something you like?”

“Who wouldn’t stare? It’s like admiring a masterpiece. I want to be sure I don’t miss any beautiful detail,” Chris replied, proud of himself when he did not stumble over any words. He had finally stopped becoming tongue-tied around the mermaid and he would not let the opportunity go to waste. Normally he was the one doing the flustering. Phichit was a unique challenge, but Chris had always adored ending up on top of the most difficult ones.

“Didn’t realize humans had such a thing for fins.”

“We’re a very versatile species. Fins, feathers, apparently we’ll go for all of it,” Chris said, winking. “Your fins aren’t the only beautiful thing about you though. You’re stunning head to tail.”

Phichit tipped his head back, exposing the golden lines marking his neck. “Sweet talker.”

“Have you not seen yourself? You can’t possibly deny it.”

“I haven’t.”

Chris started at that. “What?”

“Seen myself. I haven’t. I can see my tail, of course, but I have no idea what the rest of me looks like,” Phichit confessed with a shrug of his shoulders. “I just know that I have beautiful colors. Some bettas will milk sea snails or catch jellyfish so that they can dye themselves with better colors to impress mates, but I’ve never had the need.”

Chris leaned in and traced the line of Phichit’s jaw up to his hairline before drawing back. “Wait here. I’ll show you.” He left the mermaid waiting, rushing down below deck. He returned shortly after, carrying a mirror. He cleaned the surface with his sleeve and then presented it to Phichit, the mermaid reflected in it. “Look.”

The betta went mental. The fins of his tail and along his forearms exploded, flashing to twice their normal size. His gills and ear flaps flared, his sharp teeth bared as he screeched. “No! My territory, back off!” He grabbed the mirror, smashing it to pieces against the ship railing.

Shards fell into the water below, Phichit leaping down after them. He broke the surface with a splash, tail thrashing, and did not reemerge.

Chris sat quietly on the deck, hands still out in the same position as when the mirror had been torn from them. That did not go as expected.

Chapter Text

“Where’s Chris?” Victor inquired upon coming up from the galley. “I can’t find him and he’s supposed to be preparing food. I’m getting complaints from hungry pirates.”

Yuuri waved a hand, indicating toward the ocean. Not far off the port side of the ship floated a dinghy, oars up and out of the water. The single blond figure seated in it was leaning over the edge, tipping it with his weight and precariously close to flipping the whole thing into the sea. If he were privy to the fact, he did not seem to mind.

“So instead of feeding fish to the crew, he’s feeding the fish,” Victor observed, amused.

Chris was serving up portions of cut sausage straight to the razor sharp teeth of a scarlet mermaid. Phichit’s fins dipped in and out of the water, nibbling at the meal he was being treated to from Chris’s fingertips.

When the plate on Chris’s lap was empty, the mermaid flipped beneath the gentle waves with chattered gratitude, tail splashing water at the cook. Phichit did not reappear, his presence replaced by a steady stream of bubbles which gathered around Chris’s dinghy.

“Maybe he didn’t like your cooking!” Victor shouted, catching Chris’s attention.

“Or maybe he’s never been taught the phrase Kiss the Cook,” Chris called back and shifted to the center with a sigh heavy enough it carried back to the deck of the ship.

Victor and Yuuri helped hoist the little boat back on board, the siren giggling when the cook stepped out looking defeated.

“What’s so funny?”

Yuuri cupped a hand around Victor’s ear and whispered into it. The captain’s eyes went wide and he laughed as well, clapping Chris on the shoulder. “Well done, mate.”

Chris threw them both a confused glare. “What, amused that I’m literally chasing tail?!”

“Yuuri says you should look up the reasons bettas blow bubbles.”

As the captain and his siren walked off, linked arm in arm, Chris flapped his own. “Why do bettas blow bubbles?!”

The only response he got was a set of deviously delighted laughs.

Chapter Text

Moonlit shadows wove over the ship, sea water lapping at her sides. They had stilled overnight, drifting a couple miles off port city which would be expecting incoming merchant ships. But not for at least a couple days.

Chris leaned against the starboard railing of the ship, enjoying the quiet of the night. The crew had been fed– Chris had spent the majority of the afternoon fishing off the relatively shallow waters, only to have Yuuri bring in twenty fish for his every one.

He drowned his woe in the glass of wine he had in hand. Not that he actually minded, having a siren on board proved entirely helpful. Even if Yuuri did end up taking a good portion of the catch for himself, flying up to the crow’s nest to eat it fresh and with no preparations. Fine by all means, less for Chris to slave over a hot oven for. He got the sense that Yuuri was not entirely fond of his cooking.

Life on the ship had certainly become more lively with Yuuri’s arrival. Victor was happier. Minami was ecstatic. Yurio had taken to training the parrots all sorts of tricks and words, when he thought no one was looking. Georgi had a new romance to swoon over, in tears less about the anguish of his Anya back in port. And there was the delight of the mermaid who would appear every now and then, winking at Chris and calling Yuuri out for a day playing on the sparkling waves.

Chris had never had such an intense fondness for fish before.

In his free time, he found himself flipping through the few books on ocean lore they had on board, trying to gather some information on mermaids but all that was available was scattered. And Phichit hardly fit into anything he did find.

Words passed around ports said that mermaids were shy creatures, who traveled in schools, that there were some who fell in love with humans and whose affection yielded great rewards. Other tales spoke of warnings, that their appearanes harbored whirlpools. That if cornered, they would drag men to the bottom of the ocean, use their flesh to lure their prey, leave the bones as an offering. Neither of these fit the mermaid who had befriended a siren, bright and mischevious, alway read to flash a smile and his fins.

Chris was left wondering what was true. The glimpses of Phichit’s betta tendencies had left him fascinated. He might have to ask the next time for the mermaid to confirm some of the rumors he saw the colors of Phichit’s tail beneath the water.

He turned, grabbing the bucket of leftover fish scraps he had brought out from the kitchen and tossing it overboard. He poured the remainder of his wine out into the ocean as well, watching both beneath into the darkness of the midnight sea.

The cook closed his eyes, the wine gone from his glass buzzing pleasantly through his tired mind. Rest would suit him well, perhaps bringing dreams of a cute mermaid who never missed the chance to throw a wicked smirk when he noticed Chris staring. How could he not stare? Just another sailor ensnared by a mermaid’s appeal.

From beneath the ship, the sound of the waves briefly shifted. Chris felt the splash of droplets on his skin, succeeded by a petal-like brush against his lips. Lashes fluttering up, he glimpsed a flash of gold disappearing into the ocean. On the railing was left the trace of wet, webbed handprints.

Reaching up, he rubbed at his stubble and the lingering sensation of a kiss on his lips. Clouds wisped past the moon overhead, breeze light on his skin. Dazed, Chris walked back toward the galley, knocking shoulders with Yurio as he descended down the stairs.

“Watch it!” the powder monkey glared.

Chris barely noticed. “I think I was just kissed by a mermaid.”

“I think you need to stop drinking,” Yurio replied and brushed past Chris, who did not have enough mind to consider why the boy was sneaking onto the deck so late at night.

The cook wandered to to his kitchen, hand still on his lips.

Chapter Text

Yurio glanced quick from side to side, checking the dark deck of the ship to ensure no one else had seen him. He slunk, stealthy and quiet, down to the main crew quarters. Anyone not on night duty was asleep. Yurio made sure not to stir them.

The ship swayed gentle in the waves. Yurio used the walls for support, weaving through the corridors to where Otabek was waiting for him.

“Thought you weren’t coming.”

Yurio scowled, throwing back his hair. “Shut up. Let’s do it already.”

“Fine. Get on the bed.”

Yurio flopped down on Otabek’s cot, heart pounding against his ribcage.

Otabek pulled down an oil lamp, turning down the flame till it cast their shadows across the walls. The gunner undid the top few buttons of his shirt, rolling his sleeves up to his elbows. “You really wanna learn how to do this?”

“Would I be here if I didn’t?”

With a short laugh, Otabek shrugged his shoulders and approached Yurio, standing over him. “It’s your choice then. Which do you wanna try first?”

Yurio had not expected to be asked. He had thought Otabek would take the lead and simply show him. All of the sudden, he was not so sure. He knew what he wanted. But it was probably good to save the best for last. “The-… that dog style one?”

Otabek smirked. “Is that what you really want?”

No. It wasn’t. There was no fighting it. Yurio’s anticipation was threatening to break through. “No, okay! You know what I want, so just do it!”

“Shhh, you’ll wake someone up,” Otabek reminded and sat down beside the cot next to Yurio, tapping the blond’s hip to make him shift. He then pulled the lamp in front of them and positioned his hands before it, so that the shadows hit the wall. He curled his ring and middle fingers into his palm, knuckles of his small and forefinger forming ears. His other hand dropped to his elbow, fingers shaping a flickering tail.

The shadow of a cat was cast upon the wall.

“Holy shit!” Yurio shouted, dropping to the floor so he could get a better look at the position Otabek held his arms in. “Do another!”

Otabek hushed Yurio, but changed his hands, twisting the back of one hand into the palm of the other. The cat was replaced by a kitten. As Otabek wiggled his fingers, its mouth opened into a silent mewl.

“Wait, wait, didn’t you say you could do one with whiskers?”

“Yeah. Grab those twigs over there.”

Yurio’s eyes searched and then seized onto them, hurriedly shoving them into Otabek’s hands. The gunner curled his fingers around them, so that the ends stuck out from either side of his fist. The prior cat shadow gained whiskers.

Yurio lost it, kicking his feet in joy. “That’s so fucking cool! Show me, show me!” He had never looked happier when Otabek guided his hands, teaching him how to cast the shadow puppets in the dead of night.

Chapter Text

Yuuri stirred, rolling his shoulders when something scratched against them. He felt the softness of Victor’s lips on his skin, then the same grating roughness. Shifting in discomfort, the sleep-dazed siren flipped over, gazing at his mate. Victor’s face was growing.

Startled, Yuuri shot back an inch, rubbing his eyes. He squinted but his vision did not correct itself. Victor’s face was definitely growing. Gingerly, he inched his fingers forward, touching his mate’s cheek. Usually smooth skin was coarse under his fingertips. He snapped his hand away, as if burned.

Blue eyes still closed, a low chuckle rumbled from Victor’s chest. “Confused?”

Yuuri nodded, needing a moment to realize that Victor could not see it. Carefully, he touched Victor’s chest, where his feather tattoo peeked out from beneath their covers. Quickly, he wrote his question before clutching his hand back against himself.

“I normally shave before you wake up,” Victor said, lashes fluttering up. He lifted his hand, rubbing at his own chin. “But since Chris broke my mirror, I wasn’t able to this morning. You might have to deal with a scruffy pirate until I get a new one.”

Squinting harder, Yuuri cautiously inched forward, examining Victor’s face. Little silver hairs had sprouted from his skin, along his chin and upper lip, traveling up his jawline. Yuuri regarded it with suspicion.

Victor slid in, arms winding around Yuuri’s waist to pull his siren closer. For once Yuuri resisted, tilting his head away when Victor dipped in to kiss at the hollow of his throat and up his neck, the sensation of making him squirm. The day-old growth tickled Yuuri’s ear, prickling at his nerves, and Yuuri shot out of bed.

Victor’s eyes widened in surprise. “What, no good morning kiss?”

“No!” Yuuri shouted in protest, already darting up the stairs to the deck. “Too prickly!"

Chapter Text

Chris bolted upright in his cot, eyes wide, skin freezing, hair dripping wet. He sputtered out water, wiping his face clear. Another bucket of water was thrown over him, ripping him out of sleep completely. Coughing, he hit his own chest, gasping for air.

Above him, a tall shadowy figure loomed.

“Christophe…”

The cook blinked up, eyes adjusting quick to the dark. Victor stood over him, two empty buckets by his boots, another one full in hand.

“What?!” the cook snapped, hands sinking into his soaking wet bedding. “I was sleeping!”

“You broke my mirror, Christophe.” The tone of Victor’s voice was deep, dangerous. Chris knew it well. It was the tone that had earned Victor his infamy, cutthroat when the pirate did not get his way. “I used that mirror to shave. Which I now cannot do. And unfortunately for you, my lovebird now refuses to kiss me. You have made yourself a very unhappy captain.”

“Are you kidding.” Chris swore under his breath, wiping his dripping hair from his face. “That’s what this is for?”

“He slept in the crow’s nest last night, Christophe.”

“Why don’t you ask Emil then?! He can do it!“

"You need to get me a new mirror. Or Emil is going to be giving you a very close shave, by my courtesy.”

“Where do you expect me to get a mirror from?” Chris demanded, gesturing at the ship around them. “We’re in the middle of the ocean!”

“You’ve been using the dinghy a lot lately,” Victor replied casually, taking a step forward. Instinctively, Chris scooted back against the wall. “I suggest you use it again. Because you know what they say about breaking mirrors. Seven years bad luck. And that’s without an angry siren mate around.”

Chris nodded.

The third bucket was dumped over him. The cook did not dare to avoid it.

Chapter Text

“Lovebird, please come down from there!” Victor called up to his siren, who was perched in the crow’s nest.

Yuuri shook his head, the movement minimally visible. His eyes were barely visible from the top of the barrel. The only way Victor could be sure of his refusal was the rotation of the chick that sat on his head. Yuuri had grabbed his chicks when he fled, muttering under his breath about them not being prickly unlike someone.

“Lovebird, come on, it’s grown out a bit, it isn’t so rough.”

Yuuri shook his head again. His chick peeped.

“All right, fine, but I’m coming up there.” Victor leapt onto the netting, starting his ascent. Within moments, he was pelted in bits of broken toy ships and feathers, Yuuri tossing them down to keep his mate from coming up.

“Yuuri!”

“No!”

“Just kiss me and see!”

“No!”

“Chicklet, tell him to come down and kiss me.”

The chick peeped.

Victor paused and stared. “…What’s that mean?”

“No!"

Sighing heavy, Victor jumped down from the netting. His eyes swept the deck and landed on Chris, who froze mid-step in sneaking past. Blue eyes sharpened into slits.

The cook bolted.

Chapter Text

“S-st-…” Yuuri laughed uncontrollably, unable to get out his command. His fingers grasped at Victor’s shoulders, halfway between pushing him away and drawing him closer. The stubble on Victor’s face rubbed against the soft skin of his stomach, making his nerves stand on end. Victor kissed him continously, sloppy and wet and ticklish all at once, Yuuri squirming with joy on his lips.

“Want me to stop, lovebird? Just say so,” Victor teased, not ceasing.

Tears stung at the corners of his eyes as Victor assaulted him without remorse, blowing raspberries into his abdomen. Revenge for Yuuri’s utter refusal to kiss him over the past couple days.

Yuuri kicked his legs weakly under Victor’s weight, wiggling as if trying to escape. He laughed as Victor’s stubble dragged over his hipbones, fingers slipping beneath to lift one of Yuuri’s legs and rub his face into the siren’s sensitive thighs.

Yuuri yelped and shot up, unexpected heat firing through him and making the muscles of his thighs tremble.

“Oh.” Victor noticed. Victor always noticed. “You liked that.”

Victor’s mouth was back on his skin, teasing, but with a whole different goal. He sucked at Yuuri’s skin, traveling up the inside of his thighs until his breath ghosted a part of Yuuri which sparked to life with the warmth blowing against it.

The siren covered his own mouth with his hands, muffling the lewd sound which escaped him. Victor growled between his legs, hand sliding to caress the small of Yuuri’s back. He raised Yuuri off their mattress, making him arch and guiding his legs to fall apart as he buried his face between them.

“How is that, lovebird? Or do you want me to stop?”

Yuuri let a broken whimper answer for him.

Victor smirked and rubbed his cheeks between Yuuri’s, making sure that his mate could feel the prickle of facial hair against his skin.

“Mmmm, I’m going to make you change your mind about this,” Victor muttered, tasting Yuuri as he spoke.

His siren already could not contain his cries for more, clutching at the base of Victor’s braid and pushing his stubbled face in closer.

Chapter Text

Yuuri winced as he slipped into his robes the following morning. His thighs burned red, the irritation from Victor’s rough stubble spreading farther up than he would admit. His cheeks flushed the same hue, each shift of his legs a reminder of how long and deep Victor had gotten inside him with his tongue, while also making him want to screech out with the frustration at the pinpricks smouldering on his skin.

He glared at Victor’s facial hair so intensely that Victor’s expression grew concerned.

“What’s wrong, lovebird?”

Yuuri opened his mouth, then shut it quickly. In that moment Victor was not deserving of being blessed with the music of his voice, however angry. Instead he jabbed a finger into the center of his mate’s chest, scrawling fast and messy.

“Don’t lovebird you?” Victor chuckled once he caught the words. “What did I do?”

The siren seized the bottom of his robes, lifting them to show off the cherry red of his thighs to Victor. He jerked his fingers up, clipping them off Victor’s whiskered chin.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Victor purred, hands sliding between Yuuri’s thighs to pull him closer. “I can kiss them better?”

Yuuri yanked himself away, eyes flaring red. Feathers bristled from his forearms and sprouted around his ankles.

“You weren’t so upset last night,” Victor reminded with a smirk, rubbing at his own face. “You wouldn’t let me stop.”

Pursing his lips together, Yuuri wrote several choice words into Victor’s skin. Most of which he had learned off the blond powder monkey.

“Now don’t say that. Come here, lovebird. I can get some ointment from Emil and rub those better for you..”

More of Yuuri’s feathers shot into existence, from the markings along his ears this time. The siren scowled, upset with his own feathers for betraying him.

Victor laughed and tugged him in. Yuuri angled his face away, refusing any kisses no matter how many times Victor called him lovebird.

Chapter Text

A weight sat on Victor’s chest. The silk of feathers fluttered over his legs, bedsheets rustling beside him. Gentle fingers brushed his face. He opened his eyes to the glint of metal in the dark. Victor went rigid.

Yuuri had his legs straddling Victor, angling his mate’s face up and to the side. Through the night filling the cabin, the razor blade in his hand shone like a beacon.

Victor found himself having a hard time breathing. “Lovebird… Lovebird, what are you doing?”

Yuuri grinned and rubbed his free hand all over Victor’s face. With it, he spread a foam, smearing it over Victor’s cheeks, mouth and throat.

Victor sputtered, glimpsing the small basin of water by Yuuri’s knee. “Ahh, wait, wait, wait! Are you serious?”

The siren’s devious expression remained unchanged and he flipped open the razor.

“Okay, okay, but not in the bed!” Victor could feel his heart beating a solid bruise into his ribcage. “I promise I won’t run, just let me move.”

Yuuri did not shift, head tilted toward one shoulder, considering the proposal. Wordlessly, he shifted back on his heels and moved off Victor. The pirate scrambled off the bed, away from his blade-wielding siren. Yuuri, however, remained perky. He moved the basin of water to Victor’s work desk and pulled out his chair, tapping the seat in invitation.

“Gimme-… gimme one second,” Victor muttered and grabbed a pair of loose sleep slacks, slipping into them. He then went straight for his weapons cabinet, removing from it a bottle of dark rum. One deep gulp in, with the mild added taste of shaving foam, he cleared his throat and returned to Yuuri. “…Do you know what you’re doing?”

Yuuri smiled and patted the chair again. Victor did not feel reassured. He sat. Yuuri tugged his head back by his braid. A whimper might have escaped the pirate.

Timing his breaths slow and steady, Victor shut his eyes and prayed.

The first stroke of the razor against his skin was smooth and gentle. Yuuri kept his head angled and skin pulled taut. His movements did not falter, no pained slice cutting into Victor’s cheek. The swish of the blade being rinsed in the basin and another effortless pass across his skin had Victor lifting a single eyelid.

A sweet smile relaxed Yuuri’s expression. He moved as fluidly as when he danced, hands kind on Victor’s face. Little by little, Yuuri shifted along. The razor blade pulled easily halfway down Victor’s throat, shaving off the growing facial hair. Yuuri guided him through each stroke with his touch, wordless in his concentration. By the time he finished, Victor was watching his every movement, enraptured.

Yuuri rinsed the razor and set it aside, leaning in close to examine Victor’s face. He wiped it clean with a cool towel and swooped in, chirping as he kissed Victor’s expertly shaven face.

In awe, Victor touched his own chin and rubbed up. No knicks, no scraps, no spots missing. Utterly flawless, better than he could have done himself. He stared at Yuuri. “How did you-…”

Emil taught me. Yuuri traced onto Victor’s chest, nuzzling his face against his mate’s newly smooth cheek. Did I do okay?

“Amazing,” Victor muttered back, quiet in his disbelief. His fingers traveled over his face once more, mouth tugging into a smile. “You should do this for me every morning. Preen me.”

Yuuri threw his arms over Victor’s shoulders, chirps as happy as they could be. He pecked kisses all over Victor’s face until his mate could barely support him through the laughter.

“Really, Yuuri, you surprised me… I was ready to bleed for you.”

I practiced on Chris. Just in case. He didn’t get off so easily.

Laughing loudly, Victor kissed him. And kept kissing him till morning came.

Chapter Text

The next time Chris saw the mermaid, all other thought abandoned him. He marched for the shine of scarlet and gold.

“You kissed me!”

Phichit was lying atop the figurehead, forearm over his face to shield his eyes from the sun, tail draped over the edge. The golden markings under the curve of his jaw seemed to pulse. A trick of the light.

Moving with grace and deliberance, Phichit flipped over. He cupped his chin in his hands, smug smile on his lips. “Pardon?”

“The other night. You kissed me.”

“Hmmm, well, I’m afraid that I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The mermaid stretched out his webbed fingers, examining his claws. He blew on him, polishing them against the scales along his forearm. “Sure you weren’t dreaming, chef?”

Chris climbed up the bow of the ship, to where Phichit laid, and stopped. He glanced out onto the ocean with a smirk. “Must have been another mermaid then. Another betta in your territory.”

Phichit scrambled forward, fins floundering. “Take that back!” His tail curled under his torso and he pushed himself upright on it, grasping handfuls of Chris’s shirt. “Is there?! I thought I was the taste of the sea that you wanted!”

Chris laughed, arm snaking around the mermaid’s waist. “Do you admit it then?”

Phichit sucked in his cheeks and huffed. “What, can’t be sure on your own?”

“Only one way to check.”

Phichit’s question was muffled by the kiss he was caught in.

Chapter Text

A dinghy was beached at the edge of the tide. The ship sat on the horizon off the small island Chris had rowed to, to catch an afternoon of privacy.

Phichit laid stretched out across the white sand, adorned in red coral jewelry and the gold that Yuuri had gifted him. They matched his colors splendidly. Phichit had his chin cupped in his palm, tail aimlessly flicking from side to side now that he had been permitted to move it. “Hurry up.”

“You can’t rush beauty.”

“I’m the beauty though.”

“You absolutely are,” Chris replied, continuing to layer color on the canvas before him. He was not quite the practiced artist that Minami was, but he had gotten a few tips from the deckhand in exchange for snacks suitable for birds. If he could say so himself, the result of the portrait that he was painting was rather stunning.

A mermaid on a beach in summer, adorned in well-crafted jewelry, the sun lighting up the golden markings on his skin and shimmering off his scales. After the mirror incident, Chris still wanted to show Phichit how stunning he looked. Phichit was overjoyed at the suggestion of a painting, delighted to pose against a beautiful natural backdrop. Chris would take any excuse he could get to be able to capture an image of the mermaid.

“I’m drying out,” Phichit complained, shifting a hand down to touch the scales fading up his abdomen. They had sunken in, no longer sleek. He had spent too long in the sun, his tail rough and skin parched. “I need to get back in the water soon.”

“Don’t move, darling, I’m nearly finished.”

“No, Chris, I think I really need to get back in the water, look!”

The ship cook set aside his paintbrush and looked where Phichit was gesturing. Between his tail fins, a crack had formed, splitting the scales of his tail. As they watched, another splinter appeared, traveling up the length of Phichit’s tail, scales flecking off. The mermaid shrieked.

“Get me back in the ocean, now!”

Chris knocked over the easel as he rushed to grab Phichit, lifting the mermaid into his arms and sprinting for the water’s edge. He did not make it.

Phichit screamed, clawed nails sinking into Chris’s shoulders. The sun flashed off his scales, making Chris screw his eyes shut lest he be blinded. When he opened them again, Phichit thrashed in his arms, yelling. His tail had split in two, fins withering in until they vanished, plastered like markings against his skin. His skin.

Chris stared.

Phichit continued shouting, but for a different reason altogether, mixing the shouts with laughter. “I’ve got legs!”

He did. Beautiful, shapely legs, with ten wiggling toes. His colors remained, skin stained gold and scarlet in the same patterns as his tail.

“You’ve got legs.”

“I know!” Phichit cried in amazement, kicking them. “And they move!”

“Did you know this happens?!”

“Hell no!” Phichit shook his head wildly from side to side. “We were told to never let ourselves get dry as kids!” He clung on when Chris gingerly set him down in the sand, the cook’s hands supporting his waist. He buckled immediately, needing to be caught and picked back up. The second time he managed to hold his own weight, despite wobbling knees. “Oh. Oh wow. I’ve got legs.”

Chris cleared his throat, eyes directed down Phichit’s body. “…You also have a dick.”

“I have a dick?!?”

Phichit looked down between his new legs and screamed. “How the hell am I supposed to walk?! Is it supposed to be this huge?!”

Chris felt like buckling too.

Chapter Text

Chris came back on board the ship limping. To call his clothes disheveled was an understatement. He was in an utter state of ruin. Fabric in shreds, hair disorderly, a shoe missing off one foot and a sock off the other. His forearms were marred in long red scratches and he shuffled toward Victor, seemingly dazed.

The captain looked upon his cook with curiosity. “Did you fight a war?”

“I have died and lived,” Chris muttered, mouth bruised red. “And I have known the love of a mermaid. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me… I don’t recommend it.”

Chris patted Victor on the shoulder and limped away, dragging his painting behind him.

Victor glanced over the side of his ship, met with the wave of a mermaid. Phichit’s tail slapped in and out of the water. “And how was it for you?”

“Ehhhh, I don’t get Yuuri’s hype,” Phichit called up, shrugging his shoulders. “Couldn’t even squeeze any eggs out of him.”

Chapter Text

Chris whistled a sea shanty as he tossed food scrap overboard. He went to turn away, if not for the sudden bubbling of the sea.

From full across the length of the ship, the waves turned white, then red, sparkles of gold flailing in the angry foam. Tiny tails with the fins of baby bettas thrashed in the water, spanning further and further, until their colors consumed the blue to the extent of the horizon.

Chris backpedaled, tripping over his own feet, as the tiny bettas who looked so much like a cross of him and Phichit began to scale the side of the ship. Their claws scrapped up the wood which groaned under their weight. They came up in wave after wave, climbing over each other, others falling back into the water in streams.

Over the railing, they spilled by the thousands. They flopped all over the deck with their tails and fins, the gills at the sides of their necks flaring. They all screeched, miniscule black eyes trained on Chris. Nails of the claws dug into the deck as they drug themselves toward him.

Chris scrambled back, kicking as his ankles were seized by countless webbed claws, the baby bettas overtaking him, their razor sharp teeth and nails sinking into his skin. High-pitched shrieks of “You’re not our dad!” filled his ears as he was covered completely in the bettas and their lashing tails.

Chris yelled as he tumbled out of his bed, torn from the vivid nightmare, terrifying visions of gold and scarlet scales burned into his retinas. He gasped, sweat dripping from his brow, and screwed his eyes shut as his heartbeat drummed.

“…I shouldn’t have made so many egg jokes to Victor,” he muttered to himself, shuddering.

Chapter Text

Minami sat cross-legged at the bow of the ship, sketchbook open in his lap. The palm of his hand pushed up his cheek, elbow balanced on his knee. His charcoal pencil rested at the center of the binding, the open pages blank. He huffed out a sigh, brows knitted together as he watched the ship’s parrots preening their vivid feathers atop the figurehead.

“Wish I could be that colorful…” he muttered to himself, glancing down at his plainclothes. “Would be nice. Siren’s are so lucky, getting to change colors every year…”

From up in the crow’s nest, Yuuri stretched his wings and took off, red-tipped wings catching the sunlight.

When his shadow passed over Minami, the deckhand tipped his head up and watched Yuuri until the siren disappeared beyond the horizon. Shoulders slack, Minami shut his sketchbook and shuffled off. Might as well make himself useful.


Yuuri returned the next morning and did not head staight for Victor’s captain quarters. He landed right in front of the deckhand, much to Minami’s surprise and delight. Which only tripled when Yuuri grabbed his wrist and pulled him down into the ship’s galley.

Chris arched an eyebrow when Yuuri pointed to the oven and a pot, indicating that he wanted to use them. Yet, he complied without questioning, putting water on for Yuuri. The siren dumped out a mound of entangled roots from his carry pouch, sorting through them to pick out the thinnest ones.

Once the water boiled, Yuuri splashed handfuls of the plant into the pot, not flinching unlike Chris and Minami who leapt back. He nodded to himself, grabbing the rest of the roots before leaving.

Chris and Minami blinked at each other in confusion, glancing into the pot.

“What is it?”

“Don’t know, never seen it before,” Chris said, plucking one out. He blew it cool and nibbled on the tip, before promptly spitting it out. “I don’t think that’s for eating."

Yuuri returned, scowling. He smacked the plant out of Chris’s hand, putting it back into the pot. The roots he had taken with him were gone, replaced by a vial of white powder from Emil’s medicine chest.

The water boiled down, softening the roots inside. Once satisfied, Yuuri emptied out the remaining water and smashed the plant into a bright red paste, into which he mixed Emil’s powder. He then snatched up one of Chris’s clean kitchen towels, ignoring the cook’s mild protest.

Yuuri pushed Minami into a chair, threading his fingers through the boy’s blond bangs. He lifted a large chunk, placing the towel atop his head under the separated locks. The siren scooped a large dallop of the red paste and smeared it over Minami’s head, rubbing it into the strands until fully saturated. Yuuri chirped as he folded over the towel and patted it down, happy with himself.

Keep it covered till evening.

"Ummmm, okay?” Minami squeaked, breathless to be getting so much attention from the siren. If Yuuri told him to go walk the plank, he would do it. Keeping a towel on his head for a day, especially one blessed by Yuuri’s touch, barely seemed like a hardship.

Neither him nor Chris could quite figure out what had happened, even after Yuuri left, smiling.

Minami fidgeted with the towel all day, making sure to keep it secured until the sun set and Yuuri reappeared. Quite unceremoniously, the siren ripped off the towel and dumped a bucket of water over Minami’s head. The deckhand could not even gasp his surprise as Yuuri rubbed his hair dry in rough quick motions, then spun him round to look down into another bucket.

Reflected in the water, Minami saw himself, with bangs colored a stark red like the feathers of their macaws. His eyes went wider than cannonballs.

Just like a parrot. Yuuri wrote into his back.

Minami died of happiness.

Chapter Text

At the center of Victor’s desk was a single pebble. Rough and round. Speckled black. He glanced around, turning side to side, in case he missed something. It was the size of one of his knuckles, not nearly large enough to be a proper paperweight. With a curious click of his tongue, he moved it to the edge of the desk and dismissed it.

Perhaps it was Yuuri’s.


The following day the pebble was gone.

Another one replaced it. Larger. Oddly-polished. Victor looked at it a bit longer. The colors were of warm brown tones, matching the inside of his cabin. He set it aside too.


One manifested in the pocket of Victor’s breeches. Having no use for it, he tossed it overboard.


A small collection of rocks appeared. All rather pretty, gleaming when the sunlight caught their edges. Victor wondered when Yuuri had started a new hobby and swept them all up, putting them into Yuuri’s treasure box.


Rocks appeared on his pillow. Weighing dead center. Purposefully placed. Victor knew because there were none on Yuuri’s, none scattering the floor, none spilling down onto the mattress. One of Yuuri’s feathers was tucked in, some sort of signal. Victor did not understand it.

And he could not ask, because his siren was missing from the ship. Irritated and perhaps a bit drunk on rum, Victor dumped them all onto the floor and collapsed in the bed.

Normally he would have tugged Yuuri’s pillow to him and embraced it, catching the lingering smell of his mate on the fabric. This time he resisted.

But only for a minute.


He woke up with Yuuri sitting next to him, eyes swimming. Victor shot up, scanning Yuuri for injuries, for anything that might be wrong. He spotted nothing. “Lovebird? What happened?”

Sniffling, Yuuri waved his hand toward the assortment of rocks and pebbles on the floor. They had scattered further apart during the night, with the rocking of the ship. You don’t like them? He traced his question into the sheets instead of Victor’s palm.

“What, they’re rocks, why would I-…” The glistening in Yuuri’s eyes thickened. “Oh. Did you get them for me?”

Lips pursed together into the thinnest line imaginable, Yuuri lifted his head high and shook it. Victor did not have a chance to stop him or ask him to wait. The siren rushed off, leaving his captain behind. Who heard a couple shouts and the loud thunder of Yuuri’s wings taking off with angered force coming from the deck above.

Well then. He had definitely missed something.


“Yuuri’s been bringing me rocks.”

Minami’s red-dyed head shot up, eyes growing wide. “Rocks?”

“Yes. He’s left some on my desk and in my pockets and last night on my pillow.”

Minami snatched up his sketchbook, flipping quickly to a page details siren habits. Under a long list, he added, ‘pebble gifting!!’

Victor watched him, blank. “Great, so what does that mean?”

“What’d you do with them? Can I see them? How big are they? How many? When did he start?”

Victor sighed at the fact that his question went utterly ignored. Meanwhile, Minami was practically sparkling.

“I don’t know, I threw some out–”

“WHAT.”

Victor winced at the volume. He did not get a chance here either, because Minami scaled him, jumping up and seizing onto his collar. “You threw them away?!”

“They’re rocks!”

“They’re his gifts to you! They are tokens of his affection! Certain species of birds present them as a gift to their mate, before mating or during nest building, or sometimes just like humans do– to say, 'hey I saw this pretty thing and it reminded me of you!’ AND YOU THREW THEM AWAY?!?!!”

Oh. Well then. How was he supposed to know that. “Not all of them? There’s a bunch on the floor still…”

Minami yelled and abandoned his idiot captain, sprinting off. No doubt to try to sneak a few of the rocks for himself.

Victor let him.


Yuuri’s wings were sore. His lungs burned. His bones ached. His fingers fumbled with the drawstring of his carry pouch when he landed, worn and tired.

Victor ran up to him, but Yuuri kept his head down, concentrating.

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri pulled out the rock he had brought. It was jagged and rough, the sharp edges cutting at his skin. He could not understand why humans would supposedly want such an ugly rock, the size of his fist, unlike all the cute polished pebbles he had found for Victor prior.

He shoved it into Victor’s hands. “Is that good enough for you?!”

Victor stared down at the rock. A few crew members glanced in their direction, all eyes trained on the rock. Then Victor’s lips curled up into the heart-shaped smile that Yuuri so adored. The one that could make Yuuri melt in seconds. And he did. Melted into a warm, bubbling puddle when Victor kissed him firm and deep. “This is perfect. I’m sorry about all the other ones.”

A tiny chirp slipped from Yuuri. Except then Victor disappeared with the rock and when he returned, it was gone from his hands.

“It’s in a safe spot, I promise, lovebird.”

Yuuri’s eyes narrowed. He remained suspicious.

Chapter Text

Minami paced back and forth, wringing his hands together. He dipped them in and out of his pockets, bottom lip bitten to the point of splitting in his nervousness. The fact that no one was paying attention to his obvious strife made it that much worse. He thumbed the rock in his pocket and finally yelled out in frustration. “I can’t take it anymore!”

The deckhand marched up to where the captain stood, next to his navigator at the wheel of the ship. When Minami stormed up and thrust out a rock, Victor raised an eyebrow.

“I stole it, okay! I admit it! I took it cause you said you threw them away so I didn’t think you’d miss it, but it was a gift to you from Yuuri and it’s not mine, it’s not right for me to take something that a siren gave his mate, but I just wanted to have one of his rocks, okay, like, just one, plus it might be something very special, I don’t know, but you should appreciate his gifts even if it isn’t, but I know stealing is bad so just take it from me and punish me, okay, I deserve it, I’m not a good researcher for doing this, and stop looking at me like that!” Minami huffed hard enough the breath blew up his colored bangs.

Victor tapped his lips with his forefinger and hummed. He reached out, not for the rock, and ruffled Minami’s hair. The deckhand swatted his hand away.

“Take it and spare me my misery!”

Victor did. Plucked up the rock and walked away, not giving his deckhand a single word.

Minami did not know if he was more relieved or terrified by it.

Chapter Text

“I apologize for not understanding that the rocks you left were gifts for me.”

Yuuri frittered. He had formed a nest around himself, looping the blankets into a perfect circle with their pillows as cornered reinforcements. A couple articles of Victor’s clothing had been dumped onto the floor, a velvet ribbon tailing off the edge of the bed. Presumably, Yuuri had used them for his nest at first and then decided that he did not want Victor’s belongings contaminating it.

“I thought they were yours. And I got annoyed that you were gone and apparently only coming home to leave rocks everywhere, because I missed you. But I should have waited and asked you.”

Yuuri kicked his feet out from under the blankets, toes pointed accusingly in Victor’s direction.

“Can I join you in that nest of yours so we can talk?”

The cabin was quiet. Yuuri’s chicks would be sleeping in the galley, next to the warmth of Chris’s stove. Minami had woven them a basket, which Yuuri had lined with his own down feathers. The unpredictability of the summer storms brought cold chills on sudden winds and Yuuri wanted his chicks safe inside. The parrots would be circling their masts, scanning the sea for merchant ships sitting low in the water, heavy with rich cargo. Yuuri had briefly considered joining them, taking his own frustration out on the belly of a foreign ship. It had been a while since he had sung humans dead.

Yuuri pushed his heels against his bedding fortress and made an opening for Victor. I apologize for assuming you knew what I was doing.

The disconnect between their culture and their habits was not always easy to pinpoint. Victor had thought Yuuri had picked up a new hobby. Yuuri had thought Victor was rejecting his gifts. Victor had gotten frustrated that Yuuri spent so long away collecting rocks. Yuuri had gotten frustrated that Victor did not seem to like any of them. Rather amusing, in a way.

“I’ll ask next time. Or you come tell me,” Victor said, tugging on the blankets and reforming Yuuri’s makeshift nest. “And I’ll be sure to appreciate your gifts, no matter what they are. Because they’re from you. And that’s all I need.”

You always do nice things for me. Wanted to do something for you. Yuuri traced into the mattress.

“You did, lovebird. And I’m just an idiot. Look what Kenji threw at me.”

One of the larger rocks that Yuuri had collected was set before him. It was not one of the prettier ones. Dimpled and rough, only selected out of Yuuri’s desperate search to find something that Victor might end up liking.

“Apparently he stole it. Cause he understood what you were doing and wanted to have one of your gifts for himself. I think I’m going to have to start taking formal lectures on siren knowledge from that boy.”

Smile cracking on his lips, Yuuri prodded at that rock. He did not blame Victor for rejecting it. It was quite ugly.

“Next time we get into a port, I’m going to have this polished so it’s as nice as all the other ones you gave me. Because I should value all the ones that you gave me, not just the last one.”

Brows furrowing, Yuuri looked to Victor.

The gentleness in Victor’s eyes was warmer than the peak of summer, and melted right into good-natured laughter. “Wait, you don’t know what you brought me?”

Yuuri shook his head.

“Really?” The depth of Victor’s laughter filled the room. “Why do you think I locked it away? How did you even find it–… Yuuri, it’s a gem stone. It’ll need to be cut and polished, but one that size could buy us an entire fleet of ships. And I’d let you sink them all. Because that’s what you’d deserve.”

Yuuri ducked his head and buried himself under Victor’s chin. Luck or not, he had found a gift for Victor. He had never seen gem stones which were not polished, but if it was good enough for Victor, Yuuri could not be happier.

“Does that mean that my lovebird forgives my ignorance?"

Yuuri kissed above Victor’s heart in response, chirping with laughter when Victor tackled him into the nest. His fingers got tangled in Victor’s hair, biting his lower lip to muffle his giggles as Victor smothered his face in affectionate kisses.

His foot made contact with the stolen rock next to them, knocking it off the bed and onto the floor with a dull thud. Victor stopped and glanced over with stitched curiosity.

Picking up the rock, Victor rapped it against the frame of the bed. ”…This is hollow.“

Gemstone? Yuuri tried, leaning over to examine it. It looked nothing like that other one, currently hidden within the locked drawers of Victor’s personal cabinet.

"No, not this one…”

Victor turned it over, slowly, until he found a chip from its fall. Beneath the rugged exterior, a vein of rich blue glistened.

“Do you know what this is?”

Yuuri shook his head.

“I think we need to check the rest of your rocks, lovebird. Because it seems you’ve got a talent for finding ones that are quite special.”

Chapter Text

“The pirate ducks under the swinging sword, with steps light like feathers! His cutlass sparks against the blade as he spins and drives his own straight through the heart of his foe. The air fills with the mist of blood, smell metallic over the burn of gun powder. Red drips from his brow, over the scar carved into his cheek. ‘Board the ship!’ he yells, voice gruff with the smoke of canonfire, and launches himself over the rail–”

“–and falls straight into the ocean because the author forgot to write the ships in close enough together to make it across.”

Guang Hong’s twirling step came down over the edge of the table on which he was prancing in imitation of the narrative. With a short shout, he tumbled off, the book in his hand flying up into the air.

Somehow, Leo caught them both before they hit the ground. “I told you that you were gonna fall off.”

“That’s cause you ruined the climax of the scene and distracted me!” Guang Hong protested, hands planted against his friend’s chest. The muscles under Leo’s coal smudged shirt were firm and Guang Hong tried really, really hard not to pay attention to that. Honestly. He did. He leapt up, snatching the book from Leo. “You gotta use your imagination, ok? While Captain Silverlock was fighting the Admiral, the ships moved closer together!”

“You do realize that Captain Silverlock is supposed to be the villian, right?” Leo laughed, moving back to the furnace. He adjusted the thick gloves on his hands and checked the metal forging inside the bright hot coal, humming to himself.

“Yeah, so?” Guang Hong asked, jumping back up on the table. He straightened his vest and cleared his throat, flipping the book back to the proper page. “He’s super cool. Look, listen– 'and launches himself over the rail. Man after man falls under his sword. The deck of the naval ship is slick with blood but the pirate’s boots never slip. He leaves smeared prints in his wake, until the pistols on his waist are fired dry and his cutlass is rusty with the fluids of his enemy’.”

“Gross,” Leo supplied, adjusting the position of his forging metal in the furnace and pushing it further into the coals. “And that’s the fastest rust I’ve ever heard of. Wonder where Captain Silverlock is getting his weapons, they’re obviously not of good quality.”

“Leo,” Guang Hong whined. “Let yourself get lost in the adventure!”

“I’d find it easier if his cutlass wasn’t ready to fall apart after a single battle.”

Guang Hong dropped onto the surface of the table, sitting cross-legged with the book spread open over one of his calves. He watched as Leo pulled steel which would eventually form a sword from the furnace, setting it on an anvil. From the tool belt at his waist, the blacksmith apprentice took a hammer which sparked against the yellow metal with the force of his strikes.

The pounding was mimicked by Guang Hong’s heart. He tried not to pay too much attention to the flex of Leo’s muscles. Really. He did. “You’d make me good weapons if I became a pirate, right?”

Leo laughed, the rich sound alive between the clang of metal on metal. “Ji, why would you become a pirate?”

“For adventure!” Guang Hong huffed, pout heavy on his lips. “I do nothing all day but read and study! It’s so boring…”

“Even when you’re here?”

“No! You know I love coming here…”

Leo smiled, warmer than the heat of the furnace. “If you became a pirate, I’d make the absolute best weapons for you. Free of charge. In return for all the good you’ve already done me.”

“Yes!” Guang Hong pumped a fist in the air. “Pirate Ji, sailing the seven seas, amassing treasure and the fear of men!”

“As long as you remember to bring your ship close enough to the Admiral’s to board from the gunwale.”

Chapter Text

“Captain, the sail!”

Victor snapped around and swore when he saw it. The edge of the storm sail thrashed viciously, the line tethering it snapped. “Hold her steady!” The sky raged above, near black with the swirling of hurricane clouds.

Wood strained beneath his feet. Victor clutched onto the starboard railing as he staggered his way down the deck, keeping low as the ship lurched forward. The icy spray of the sea showered over him, stinging at his eyes and biting his skin.

As the ship dropped with crash of the wave beneath, Victor leapt across, seizing onto the rope whipping in the harsh storm winds. The muscles in his arms screamed as he fought the power of the elements, rope burning his palms as he heaved himself up, quickly rethreading the sail. A moment later and one of the deckhands slammed against his side, yelling as he grabbed at the rope to help secure it.

The swell of the waves rose over the height of their masts, but the wind caught the storm sail, sending them over before it crested.

All around them, the ocean stormed, rain cutting like daggers across his skin. Behind the helm, Victor could see Mila attempting to keep the ship steady, driving them over the top of the waves. They climbed slow and dropped fast, at the mercy of the sea’s violent temper.

Victor heard the thunder before he could attempt to maneuver back to the wheel. The dark sky was void of the flash of lightening, but the thunder kept sounding, booming over the bow of the ship. It struck straight through his chest, the vibrations clamoring through his ribcage and Victor knew what it was before he saw them.

“Harpies!”

His warning was mute against roar of the storm, the thunder of their wings. The wind filling the sails went still, the ship’s momentum ceasing. A wave crashed against them the same moment that they descended, piercing through the black of the storm clouds. A murder of harpies, circling the ship like the swirl of the hurricane.

Their screeches flooded the ship, ear-splitting. Half-human, half-birds, and unlike the allure born by sirens, they were repulsive. Legs of a vulture, arms absent for wings. The stench of their feathers fouled the air, warning of the death they brought with them.

The first struck his shoulder and sent him reeling, falling fast to the deck. Victor rolled before it could grab him, its claws smashing into the wood beside his head. His pistol was drawn and fired into its chest without aim, harpy’s harsh shriek exploding with a spray of feathers and blood.

The second seized onto his arm, bared teeth flashing in his eyes in the moment before he ducked his head. The knife strapped on the inside of his boot was in his palm as its nails sunk into his flesh, the sea-soaked fabric of his clothing staining red. Victor yelled as he sliced through its claw, pitching forward to slam the creature against mast rigging, sword driven through its heart.

At the helm, he glimpsed Mila firing on more, one arm attempting to keep the ship steady from the pounding of the waves. At the stern, a harpy hurled one of his crewmen off the side of the ship, body limp like a rag and lost to the sea. Victor shouted, the second pistol off his sash useless as the shot missed, hardly clipping a bloodied wing.

The harpy’s angry screech ripped at his ears, its force making him stumble. Another wave sent him off balance, tripping into the grip of the harpy swooping in.

Victor threw up his arms to protect himself, but he never collided with it. Right before his eyes, the harpy’s face twisted with a scream, spine arching as Yuuri tore the wings off its back. The siren’s eyes were as red as the splash of blood coating his claws, dripping as he tossed the harpy aside.

Yuuri’s wings were full and bold, spread grand in battle. His skin was stained near completely black, feathers bristling from his arms and legs.

Three more harpies fell to his hands as easily as if they had been gulls, others fleeing when they glimpsed the siren. Yuuri’s wings cut through the air, through the harpies still spiraling above the ship, before his voice pierced through the deafening roar of the storm.

Time itself seemed to stand still, the wind dead, waves calmed until the moment in which Yuuri’s cry disbursed. Fierce faces contoured, the harpies’ eyes settled on the siren as the thunderous beat of the wings bore down.

Yuuri spoke no command, spreading his wingspan over the center of the ship. The harpies scattered.

Then the sea slammed against the ship and Yuuri’s arm wrapped around Victor before he could be thrown into it, holding him tight to the siren’s side as he flew. Victor buried himself into Yuuri and the silk of feathers all around him.

Yuuri set Victor back behind the helm, wings encircling him in a brief embrace. Victor did not miss the brush of Yuuri’s hand through his hair, lips catching against the side of his face. The siren was gone again in the second that followed, leaving Victor to fight the fading of the storm with two words whispered sweet to his captain.

“Stay safe.”

Chapter Text

The heat of the furnance filled the forge as Leo worked. With a grunt, he struck at lengthening metal, sparks cascading around his feet. Sweat built on his brow and he blinked it from his eyes when it dripped, shaking his hair from his face. Damp strands stuck to his skin.

Not far off, but far off enough to be safe, Guang Hong slumped against a work table. He had his textbooks before him, notes filled with neat characters in at least three different languages. His head was nestled atop his crossed forearms, light brown of his bangs falling into his angelic face. He had dozed off studying, lulled by the warmth of the forge and the steady rhythmic beat of Leo’s smithwork.

Leo quenched the red-hot blade in oil, leaning back when it caught fire. A quick exchanged dip between the bath of water and back again, the metal cooled enough to set. Leo tested the hardness and examined its form before setting it aside. Tomorrow he would temper the steel and grind the blade, then present it to his mentor. His last few swords had not been strong enough and shattered upon striking.

Removing his gloves and pushing his hair back, Leo walked over to where Guang Hong slept and smiled. His friend had fallen asleep muttering something about enjoying the view. But Leo had had his back to Guang Hong and not made out the words in full.

He glanced over Guang Hong’s notes, flipping through the pages. Languages, physics, various philasophies from wise men across the ocean. On the back pages of his notebooks, however, Guang Hong always scribbled pictures from the adventure books he favored. Pirates fighting on high seas. Beautiful mythical creatures which only existed in fantasy. As good as Guang Hong was with languages, his art was not quite at the same level. Leo chuckled at the sparring stick figures on the page and then returned the book to where Guang Hong had left it.

Fetching a thin blanket, Leo covered Guang Hong’s shoulders in it and pressed his lips to the top of Guang Hong’s sweet smelling hair. “Sleep well, Ji. I hope you dream of adventure.”

Chapter Text

The gun powder stores were low. The bullet and cannonfire stores were low. A vast portion of the food on board had gone off, water-logged in a flood from the rough storm and the damage caused by harpies. Hands were still bleeding from the quick patch jobs to the leaks that had split with the thrashing. Summer meant the storms were just going to get worse, and Victor knew that neither his ship nor his crew would be able to take it without a heavy toll.

He stood, staring at empty powder kegs in their storage rooms, rubbing his chin in contemplation.

“Do you want to turn back?” Mila asked beside him. “If Yuuri flies ahead–”

“It’s too far and we’ll have the wind against us if we turn.”

“Then what?”

“We’re close to a port…”

“Not that one, Victor.”

“We don’t have another one.”

Despite her new leg, Mila walked light. Her grace had not been lost with the limb. Yet now, she dragged her heel across the floor, producing the sharp screech of wood on wood. “Don’t be an idiot.”

“We’ll take it for a vote then.”

Victor’s feathered ponytail whipped around him as he turned quick. Frown deepset on her brows and her lips, Mila followed him up to the deck of the ship, where Victor called for the crew to assemble.

“We’re not in good condition. We need to find a port, soon. We can turn around and take our chance with the storms, or we keep going and hit land within two days. You all know where we are, you know what time of year this is and the risks we face either way. So, I want hear voices. Those in favor of turning back?”

A few hands were raised, including that of the quartermaster’s.

“All in favor of heading for the coast ahead?”

At first there was no movement. Then Chris put his hand up and more followed, one by one. Mila clicked her tongue behind Victor.

Victor’s expression stayed cold, no joy behind his victory. “To the coast it is. We shall try to approach her quietly. But if that fails, I want everyone prepared for a raid. Understood?”

A chorus of aye’s sounded.

Yuuri pulled on Emil’s sleeve, tilting his head to one side.

The doctor’s frown could not be more somber. “There’s a stronghold on the coast. A sister city to the capital. There’s an artillery there Victor probably means to raid.”

Yuuri looked toward his captain, who was arguing with Mila under their breaths. The rest of the crew did not seem happy either.

“There’s a festival is held in the city every year at midsummer. We’re going to hit the middle of it. Now normally I’m all for a good party, but the problem is that the Queen’s never missed it.” Emil continued, voice low so that only Yuuri could hear him. “And the day before Victor abandoned the navy… She’d personally knighted him.”

Chapter Text

The only reason that Guang Hong was not skipping down the street was the basket in his arms weighed heavy. The summer sky was bright and blue. Colored decorations for the upcoming festival were strung across shops and street lamps. The whole city was in good spirits, carrying the mood through Guang Hong.

Guang Hong bounced on the balls of his feet when he arrived at the forge, checking his pocketwatch. A minute to half past noon. He straightened his vest, a rich black with intricate pink threaded flowers that sparkled a little if he turned in the sun just right. No particular reason for him to have picked out some of his best day clothes, none at all. It was probably too fancy. He should have worn something plainer. Leo was gonna tease him for it.

“Are you going somewhere special?”

Guang Hong squeaked, jumping to attention.

From behind him, Leo laughed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t! I was just- surprised!” Guang Hong replied, noticing that his voice was a little louder than it needed to be. “And yes, I am! I’m going to take my best friend on a picnic, unless you have a problem with that.”

“None at all. I would have tried to find something better if I knew we were dressing up.”

“I’m not… This is normal,” Guang Hong protested, clutching the basket to himself.

“You look very good normal then,” Leo responded, holding out a hand in offer. “Would you like me to carry that?”

“No,” Guang Hong said, cheeks pinker than before. Leo looked very good normal too, missing his usual leathered gloves and apron. Guang Hong noticed that his clothing had been well-washed and pressed, no patterned burns of spitting oil down his breeches or coal smudges around his sleeves. He still had them rolled up. Not that Guang Hong liked that or anything. Leo just had nice forearms. That was an indisputable fact. “March!”

With a smile that was far too nice, Leo marched. They walked through the city streets together, toward the harbor and the hill that overlooked it. On days with good weather, Guang Hong liked to climb it and watch the ships. Fishermen coming back from their mornings with their catch. Merchants unloading fine goods from across the ocean. Naval ships stopping to resupply before resuming their patrol.

They found a flat spot under the shade of a banyan tree, where Leo laid out a blanket he had brought from the forge. Guang Hong unpacked the picnic basket, unloading precisely cut sandwiches and small porcelain containers of steamed vegetables and sliced fruits.

“You always bring too much,” Leo said as Guang Hong set out two different types of miniature savoy tarts, arranging it all in a manner fit for an oil painting.

“I only bring as much as I can carry,” Guang Hong answered, grabbing two halves of a sandwich and giving one to Leo. “Eat, I’m hungry!” He dug in first, knowing that Leo never started before him.

When Guang Hong had first started visiting Leo at the forge, he noticed that the afternoon often came and went without Leo stopping in his training to eat. Since then Guang Hong tried to go by everyday, with his books and an extra lunch packed for Leo.

The soles of their feet pointed out to the ocean, the surface of the water sparkling under the sun. From their spot, Guang Hong could see men working on the deck of a large merchant ship, preparing it for a journey. From his studies, Guang Hong could name every part of the ship, despite never having been allowed to step on one. Huffing, he bit hard into his sandwich.

“Look, that cloud looks like one of your textbooks.” Leo pointed toward the sky at a cloud passing over them.

Guang Hong stuck out his tongue. “Why would you ruin the mood?”

“Okay, one of your adventure books.”

“Way better.”

Chuckling, Leo dusted off his hands and set them behind his hips, leaning back to gaze at the sky. “Are you still reading about that silver pirate?”

“Yes! His crew just took out a kraken!”

“I thought that was supposed to be impossible.”

“Yeah, but they lured it up the side of the ship and fired the cannons right as it was passing over them.”

“Would the great Pirate Ji use the same strategy?”

“Hmmm,” Guang Hong paused, closing his eyes as he visualized the scene. “Oh, I know! I’d throw a barrel of gunpowder into its mouth and fire a shot to make it explode!”

“What if you didn’t hit the barrel or it didn’t ignite?”

“It’s my adventure book. Of course it’s going to ignite. Instant roast octopus!”

Leo laughed so hard that his hands slipped, falling onto his elbow. “That’s one way to keep up a healthy diet at sea. The crew of the Pirate Ji. So feared they eat kraken for breakfast.”

“And lunch.”

“It could last a while.”

Grinning ear to ear, Guang Hong clapped his hands. “Oh! Oh, I made something for you! Here, I made it all by myself!”

From inside the basket, he pulled out a small cake. It was encased in a porcelain cup, whipped frosting swiped across the surface. A design decorated the top of the cream, the resulting effort of Guang Hong’s hard work. He had nearly bitten through his tongue creating the cake, having had it pinched between his teeth in concentration.

“Is that a… goat?” Leo asked hesitantly, guessing at the animal that Guang Hong had drawn on.

“No, it’s a lion! For you, cause you’re Leo. There’s the ears and the mane and the whiskers and–… it does look kind of like a goat.”

Leo took it nonetheless, leaning over to grab a silver spoon. “It still looks delicious. You made this all by yourself?”

“I followed a recipe one of the kitchen staff gave me,” Guang Hong stated proudly. It was a miracle he had been allowed back in, as the last time he had used the stove it was for an experiment and had nearly resulted in an estate fire. Nothing was permanently damaged. Other than his pride. “How is it?”

The spoon cut into the cake smoothly. Guang Hong tipped in close enough he was breathing down Leo’s shoulder, watching with wide eyes. It may have been possible that a quiet ‘yesss’ slipped out when the sponge came out fully baked and fluffy. His gaze was trained like a hawk on Leo’s mouth, nerves tingling in anticipation as the cake melted on Leo’s tongue.

Leo coughed. His other hand flew to his mouth, holding it shut, eyes scrunching shut as he struggled to swallow. “Ji, oh my god, are you trying to kill me?”

“What?!”

In disbelief, Guang Hong seized the cup and spooned out some of the cake, scarfing it down. The second it touched his tastebuds, Guang Hong flailed and spit it right back out. Coughing, he grabbed the bottle of drink he had brought, washing down the taste with several mouthfuls. He handed it over as soon as he no longer felt like gagging.

Leo accepted the drink with gratitude, washing out his mouth.

“How did–… what…. why?!”

“I think you might have accidentally mixed up the sugar with the salt.”

Oh. Well. That would certainly explain the assault on the senses. Guang Hong whined, pouting heavily.

His laughing friend laid back on the blanket, resting his head on his hands, and nudged Guang Hong playfully with his knee. “Don’t worry. You’ll get it next time.”

“But now we don’t have a dessert.”

“You’re sweet enough for me.”

Guang Hong blushed so hard and got so distracted, he nearly took another bite of the cake.

Chapter Text

“I want you to learn, okay?” Victor had his arms around Yuuri. On the railing were set a collection of toy boats, carved to the size of a palm. Yuuri had his head tilted back against Victor’s shoulders, brown eyes sweet in their questioning curiousity. “In the chance that there comes a time when you can’t show off your power but still need to protect yourself. It can’t hurt to know how.”

Yuuri nodded. Victor smiled and curled Yuuri’s fingers around the handle of the pistol he had given to his siren.

“It’s simple, okay? Make sure you have the handle firm against the heel of your palm. You can use both hands to hold it when you’re starting off.” Victor lifted up Yuuri’s other hand and showed him how to position it. He spoke softly, lips at Yuuri’s ear. “Keep that finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Now use your thumb to pull back the cock– don’t giggle, lovebird, if you do well I’ll let you thumb a different cock later.”

Heat radiated off Yuuri’s cheeks, but his concentration showed in the fact that the marks on his face did not bloom feathers. He followed Victor’s instructions, cocking the pistol. It clicked into place, releasing the safety lock.

“Now, this particular model tends to pull left, so aim a bit right of your target. Line up your sights, and–” Victor guided Yuuri’s finger over the trigger and pressed it inwards. The cocking mechanism snapped forward, striking the flint and igniting the powder they had loaded together. The gun fired in Yuuri’s hand, the siren shouting in surprise.

The rightmost boat exploded.

Delight spread across Yuuri’s face and he chirped excitedly, glancing back at Victor.

“Yeah, I thought you’d like that,” Victor chuckled and took the pistol back, returning it to holster on his waist sash. He placed a second loaded pistol in Yuuri’s hands. “All right, try on your own just like I showed you.”

Nodding, Yuuri raised the gun and aimed. His hand trembled slightly and, without warning, he squeezed the trigger. The pistol fired, shot echoing off the sails, smell of burned gun powder flooding the air. Yuuri stumbled, the recoil sending him back a step. The three remaining toy boats remained unscathed.

“Did you just shoot that with your eyes closed?!”

From the sky over the rail, a seagull plummeted into the ocean.

Very carefully, Victor removed the smoking pistol from Yuuri’s hands. “Let’s, umm… let’s get all the parrots inside before we continue, shall we? …And maybe the crew too.”

Chapter Text

Guang Hong bit into a cushion, teeth grating at the fabric. The party his parents had thrown for him was nowhere close to dying down, voices and music echoing through the estate halls. The oil in the lamps had been replaced by their servants prior to the gathering, but Guang Hong could see that it had already burned low.

The entire day had been spent with people fretting over him. Guang Hong had lost count how many times he had his hair ruffled by people much taller than him, by extended family visiting from neighboring cities, by the friends of friends of friends of his parents.

There was a table groaning under the weight of the gifts that had been brought for him. They would be filled with clothing made of expensive fabrics, texts for his studies, perhaps scripts in languages that he had yet been exposed to. The previous year, an uncle had brought him one as such and stayed with his family for weeks, each day prodding Guang Hong for an interpretation. When he had finally managed to translate enough of it, a sort of instructional for gaining access to an ancient temple, the script had been snatched away with delighted exclamation and his uncle had disappeared. He had not returned this year and no letters had arrived with news regarding his voyage. Guang Hong could not say that he had mourned.

Guang Hong had snuck off after the second round of desserts. No one was really paying attention anyway. He had lit the candles in his room and buried himself within the final pages of his book. Perhaps his life was not meant for the kind of adventure portrayed in its page, of duels with pirates, encounters with mythical beasts, the heartache of a love left on the shores. At the very least, he could lose himself in the fantasy of it, until the last page turned.

Something hit his window. Guang Hong looked up in time to see a pebble knock against the glass. Then another. He sat up and unlocked it, sliding the window up. He had to duck when yet another pebble flew by, going over his head into his room.

“Sorry!”

“Leo!” Guang Hong smiled, leaning out the window. “How did you get in?”

“There is a possibility that I climbed a fence that was put up to prevent people from climbing over it.”

“You’re going to be in so much trouble if you get caught,” Guang Hong laughed, completely forgetting about finishing the last lines of his book.

“Well so are you. But I had a gift to bring a celebrating friend.” Leo held up a present, wrapped in a simple white cloth. The corners had been twisted into a bow on top.

“Wait, I’ve always wanted to do this.” Guang Hong raised the glass of his window fully open and latched it in place before clambering out. He heard Leo’s call of concern but shushed him, glancing down to plan his route. There was no ladder or vines snaking up the side of the house to help him down. Guang Hong turned and gripped the ledge, lowering himself down until he was hanging from the window by his fingertips. A three floor drop probably would not be good for his ankles.

“Ji, are you mad?!”

“You gotta catch me!”

Guang Hong strained to look over his shoulder, seeing an extremely worried Leo below him.

“You’re smarter than this, pull yourself up and get back inside!”

“Nope! Don’t have the upper body strength. I trust you!” With that, Guang Hong let go.

And fell straight down into Leo’s arms.

It still hurt a bit, his dropping weight sent them both to the ground, rolling in the grass.

Guang Hong laughed, clutching onto a rib bruised by the hard contact with the pad of Leo’s wrist while Leo rubbed at his hip. “That was amazing!”

“Please never do that again,” Leo groaned, hitting Guang Hong lightly with the wrapped gift. “You’re my best friend but I’m not going to be hung cause you couldn’t use the stairs like a normal person.”

Ignoring the jab, Guang Hong eagerly undid the bow of his present. The fabric unfurled to reveal a book and a small blade, sheathed in leather. His eyes went wide like coals.

“I noticed you were almost done with the other one… And that, well, I made that. Thought the pirate Ji should have his own knife. For whittling. Or for when you go fishing. Please don’t stab anyone with it.”

Guang Hong threw his arms around Leo with so much force he knocked them both onto the ground again.

“These are the best gifts ever!”

“I’m pretty sure you got way better things today.”

“No way. These are from you. Nothing could be better.” Guang Hong looked back to his house. All the windows on the first floor were lit up from the party still going on inside. “I wish you could come in.”

“And force me to be bored to death with you?” Leo teased, pulling them both up onto their feet. “Flattered as I am to be invited to the Ji Residence, I must kindly decline. Come by tomorrow if you can.”

Guang Hong nodded, holding his gifts to his chest as he muttered goodbye. Leo ruffled his hair, giving a promise to be careful sneaking back out. Guang Hong watched him go, already missing the feel of Leo’s hand in his hair.

Chapter Text

Yuuri had seen the crew prepare for battles before. They usually went into it with grins and soulful laughter, singing songs to keep the rhythm as they worked to prep the ship. Loading the cannons and rolling barrels of gun powder into position. Swabbing the decks clean to ensure firm footholds. Hoistening pirate colors high into the sky, with a blood red flag strung at the ready. Chasing the tails of fleeing ships with their captain at the helm, silver streaming around him as the wind filled their sails and their hearts with the eager anticipation of an adventure.

There was no glee on board that day. Guns were loaded and swords were sharpened, but it was done with solemn spirit. There was not a single smile amongst the pirates, no notes sung out to echo in the thick fabric of their sails.

When Victor called out to Yuuri, he called out to him by name.

“Yuuri!”

Victor took him down to their cabin and pressed his lips to the top of Yuuri’s hair, sweeping the coarse black down to cover the markings around his ears. He took Yuuri’s hands and slowly removed each of his rings, kissing the siren’s knuckles as he went. Yuuri let him, watching silently as Victor removed his own and dropped them in a pile together with Yuuri’s. Victor took off the gold clips in his ears and dressed them both down. Plainsclothes and plain dressed, without a hint of grandure or any of the riches that they had collected.

“Will you braid my hair for me? I’ll need it hidden.”

Victor still asked, even though there was not a chance in the world that Yuuri would say no. Having the silk of Victor’s hair between his fingers was a gift of which Yuuri would never tire. He took his time, brushing out the strands long and slow, until they glistened under light of the burning oil. He sectioned off the pieces, threading them between his fingers, gentle as he worked. Victor’s hair always smelled like the sea. The salt of the breeze, the rush of the water. Yuuri could bury himself in it and never let go.

Yuuri did Victor’s hair differently from the usual single braid that his captain slept with. He brought the strands from the sides of Victor’s face together to join at the back of his head, braiding and winding together. When Yuuri went for his little collection of gold pins to keep it set, Victor shook his head. “Just the copper ones, lovebird. I don’t need to be drawing any attention to myself this time around.”

Yuuri used the copper ones. Tucked them into the thickly wound braids and secured any loose strands in place, admiring his own handiwork. Victor was beautiful. Victor was always beautiful. Even with the sad smile on his lips when he kissed Yuuri in gratitude. He wanted to wipe it away, taking hold of Victor’s face and pushing up on his cheeks with his thumbs to draw up a better one.

Victor chuckled into Yuuri’s palm. “You’re so sweet…” The long silver of his lashes swept up, the melancholy blue of his eyes pouring into Yuuri’s. “When we go out into that city, I need you to listen to me, all right? This is not somewhere friendly to pirates. Not to sirens either. I wouldn’t have come here if I thought we had any other choice. I’m known in this city and I’m wanted. And I don’t want the same for you. I know you want to come with me, but if you do, I don’t want to take any chances of anyone there finding out what you are. I don’t want you taken away from me. So stay close to me. But if we get separated or if something happens, I need to you to come back to the ship. Protect her and the crew. Do you understand?”

Yuuri hesitated.

“Yuuri, please.”

He nodded. Nodded and took Victor’s hands, kissing the centers of his palms.

Victor smiled. “Good. Well, get ready. It’s been a while since this crew has had a good adventure.” With that, Victor left him, tucking his braided hair under the rim of a hat as he disappeared up the stairs.

Yuuri remained sitting on their bed a while longer, watching the sun sink on the horizon out the cabin windows. Lower and lower as the ship grew closer and closer to shore.

Dread sat heavy in the siren’s belly.

Chapter Text

The door leading to the back of the forge slammed open. Instantly, Leo stood at attention, expecting a royal inspection or the sharp vigilant eyes of his mentor.

What he saw instead was a mousy head of hair and the cutest cheeks puffed out like an angry hamster. Guang Hong stormed across the room– as well as he could for someone of his stature– and threw his carry bag onto the work table. Books spilled out from it, skidding across wood and onto the floor. Guang Hong kicked one for good measure.

“Hello to you too, sunshine,” Leo smiled, walking over to pick up the fallen books. He dusted them off and replaced them on the table. “Another fight?”

“They said I’m not allowed to come here anymore!” Guang Hong said, voice loud and breaking. He was biting the inside of his cheeks, shoulders stiff, the rims of his eyes red and puffy like he had been crying. “They said that I should be focusing on my studies and not wasting my time being friends with someone– someone that’s…”

“Below your class?” Leo guessed.

“You’re not, okay! That’s so stupid!” Guang Hong quieted the moment he heard his voice echo through the rafters. “And I come here to study, I’m way beyond their stupid curriculum, and who cares if sometimes my clothes are a little messy after I come here, it’s not like we can’t afford it!”

“Ji, you should listen to your parents…”

“No! I always listen. I do everything they say, and I can’t have anything for myself, not even the one friend that I want instead of those stupid socialites that only talk about whatever dumb fashion has come across the borders or gossip they heard from around the royals, and I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!” Guang Hong knocked the same books back off the table, tears welling up in his eyes. “You’re the only good thing I have in my life.”

“You know that’s not true–”

“That’s what it feels like though!” Wet drops rolled down his cheeks and dripped off his chin. When Leo stepped closer and lifted his arms, Guang Hong rushed straight into them, burying himself. He rubbed his face into Leo’s chest, not caring if the streaks of coal on it smudged across his skin. “I don’t want to stay there anymore.”

“What are you gonna do then? Run off and become a pirate?” Leo teased, holding Guang Hong close.

“…I told them I was going to the library to study.”

“You never go to the library to study. You always come here.”

“They don’t need to know that,” Guang Hong muttered.

“You brought your books though.”

“This is my library.”

Leo laughed, smiling when he felt Guang Hong’s lips mimic the expression. “Your secret library?”

“Why not?”

“Never said it couldn’t be. You’re not doing a very good job of hiding it though,” Leo said, tilting up Guang Hong’s face so he could point at the black smudges on his white collar.

Guang Hong squeaked and broke off, rushing for a rag and the water bucket.

Leo smiled and followed after to go help him before he made the stain permanent. Like he always did.

Chapter Text

The ship reached the coast with nightfall. They did not dock in a harbor, navigating away from the city lights shining on the shore. The anchor hit the water under the cover of a cove, dinghies lowered to take the crew to land in stealth. Voices stayed hushed as they rowed, all clad in the dark of funeral colors.

Yuuri’s eyes stayed on the ship, on the red, white, and blue flag flying centermast. The Queen’s flag, he had been informed. A pirate ship in disguise. He didn’t like it.

Their little boats were tied to the docks with loose knots, at the mouth of the harbor. They crept, keeping low with steps silenced on the balls of their feet. One by one, pirates made their way along the wooden expanse of the docks, pausing at the sight of a uniformed patrol.

A silent hand motion from Victor and Minami scurried forward, quick as a rat. Yuuri watched, tense, as the boy went straight for the men. He expected Minami to pull out the knife slotted into a hidden sheath beneath his shirt and jump on them from behind like he would often jump on Victor.

Instead, Minami straightened and yelled.

“Please, help! My sister, she fell into the water. She can’t swim, please!” His panicked voice was laced with crocodile tears.

A smile passed over Victor’s lips as Minami rushed the patrol to the far end of the docks. Yuuri hung back with Victor, the rest of the crew splitting up and disappearing to pursue their assignments. Supplies, weapons, the possibility of a new recruit or two.

Victor squeezed Yuuri’s hand once and then let go, guiding him toward the heart of the city. As he walked, Victor kept his head down and shrunk to the walls of buildings, staying concealed in the shadows of the night. The streets were narrower than Yuuri was used to seeing and soon it was no longer packed dirt beneath his feet, but stone. Houses stood close together and despite the dark, people lingered.

As their path began to widen, Yuuri heard the distant notes of music winding around cobbled corners. Voices carried on the unfamiliar song, more vivid as they grew closer. Footsteps echoed, patterned and rhythmic. Laughter rang out with the chime of celebration.

The streets opened into a square. Yuuri stopped.

Tall oil lamps burned bright, colored glass illuminating the festival in full swing, bathing the joyous crowd in flickering rainbows. Decorative flags fluttered overhead, swept up with the gust of festivities. The sweet smell of baked breads and roasted meat filled the air, but that was not what caught Yuuri’s attention.

The clothing of the men and women at the center of the square was richly dyed. Tyrian purples and indigo blues, reds deeper than the petals of newly bloomed roses. They wore costumes adorned in gems, crystals which twinkled in the burning light. Gold flashed, silver jingled. Faces were obstructed in beautifully crafted masks, decorated in feathers and the sparkle of diamond powder. They laughed and chattered, toasting drinks in their merriment.

Yuuri took it all in with stars in his eyes. It was grander than the nights spent playing instruments and singing on the ship, more extravagent than that tavern Victor had taken him to in mating season.

Lured by the dance, the music and the glint of gold, Yuuri stepped into the light.

Chapter Text

“Come on, they had already started playing music when I went by!”

“If you want to go to the festival, you can go on ahead. I have to finish here first.” Leo’s work had ended with nightfall but the duty of cleaning the forge remained. Tools had to be tended to and set away in their proper places, the ash cleared from the furnace, the floors swept. The woodstock was low, Leo would have to replenish at sun up. Guang Hong liked stopping by and watching him chop wood, for a reason Leo suspected but never had the courage to confirm.

“I wanna go with you though,” Guang Hong complained from his spot atop the work table, kicking his dingling legs.

“I thought you weren’t meant to be associating with me any longer. What if someone notices?” Leo asked, keeping his focus on his tasks. For the most part. The temptation of Guang Hong’s smile was too sweet to resist for long.

“You’re my friend. It’s not like this is some sort of forbidden romance.”

“You’re right. Less risks to be had.” Leo glanced in Guang Hong’s direction, but Guang Hong seemed to be elsewhere, his head down and his bangs concealing his face. Leo returned to his work, their conversation settling.

When Guang Hong first started stopping by the forge, he had offered to help Leo with his tasks. Leo had refused, for multiple reasons, but Guang Hong had insisted and attempted to aid him regardless. Mishandling of the forge tools in his rushed haste had resulted in a burn scar on the side of Guang Hong’s right wrist. Guang Hong was not allowed to approach the furnace or handle any of the tools after that.

By the time Leo completed his duties, more than an hour had passed and Guang Hong had started nodding off. Leo stirred him with a light touch.

Guang Hong shot up straight with excitement. “Ready?!”

“Yes. If you’re fine with me going in these clothes.”

“I don’t care, let’s go!” Guang Hong jumped off the table and grabbed Leo’s wrist, pulling him along. “Someone said that there’s a patissier visiting from the capital, you know that one who came by two years ago. They’re so amazing, I want to get a few of their cakes!”

“A few?”

“All of them!”

Chuckling, Leo allowed himself to be aggressively tugged across the forge. Guang Hong had been looking forward to the midsummer festival for months and Leo was not about to deny him. He would buy all the cakes for Guang Hong himself, even if it emptied his wallet.

When they reached the door, it slammed open. Guang Hong squeaked in surprise, ducking behind Leo for concealment. Leo was met with a brilliant, practiced smile and well-tailored clothing resembling that of a naval uniform.

“Behold! You have been graced with the presence of her royal majesty’s most valuable and most decorated privateer! Make way, for it is–”

“Oh no.” Leo heard Guang Hong mumble behind him.

“–JJ Time!”

Chapter Text

Victor grabbed Yuuri’s wrist, quickly tugging him back into the shadows. Yuuri spun into him, hands bundled into fists against Victor’s chest. The siren met Victor’s eyes before glancing over his shoulder and back again, gazing up at Victor through the thickness of his lashes.

The brim of Victor’s hat was tipped down to keep his face hidden, his expression caught in a conflict as he looked at Yuuri, at the path he had been leading them toward, then at the festivities before them. The music and laughter washed over the silence between them. Yuuri’s fingers curled in a bit tighter.

“I do suppose it is unfair of me to bring you to such a scene and not permit you to look around,” Victor conceded. “But Yuuri, I can’t go out there. There may be people here who could recognize me.”

Frowning souring his mouth, Yuuri looked back onto the crowds of people. The jewels of their costumes and accessories flirted with the light. Yuuri broke off from Victor, approaching a couple who had settled on a nearby bench to rest.

“Sell me your masks.”

Obediently, the couple unlaced the ribbons tying back their masks and handed them to the siren without question. Yuuri dropped a couple coins into their hands, muttering a thanks and an order to pay no more attention to him before returning to his mate. He held out one of the masks to Victor.

It was two-toned in white and gold, with the pattern of glittering roses above the sharpness of his blue eyes. Yuuri helped him tie it snugly in place, tucking escaping strands of silver hair away at the same time.

Victor chuckled when he secured Yuuri’s. “Of course you went for feathers.” The mask the siren had taken for himself was painted black and red, with dyed feathers fanning off the edges. “We can’t stay though. One song. And then we leave, understood?”

Yuuri nodded with so much enthusiasm the mask nearly slipped off his nose. He readjusted it immediately, dark eyes shifting toward the festival.

“You’re going to get me killed one day, lovebird.” Victor smiled, taking Yuuri’s hand in his.

Yuuri swooped in, chirping gratitude softly against Victor’s ear. And then he led his masked partner out to dance.

Chapter Text

“I wish for it to be engraved with my insignia, and as I understand this to be a haste request, I shall reward you handsomely!”

Guang Hong sat huddled up on the bench of the work table, his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms hugging them close. His attempts to duck out of JJ’s line of view had gone entirely unsuccessfully, with the privateer explaining a loud greeting of “Master Guang Hong, how delightful!” puncuated by a sweeping bow.

They had made acquintance a year back, at one of the parties hosted by Guang Hong’s parents. Guang Hong had been rather excited to hear that in attendance would be a privateer of the royal navy, coveting a chance to hear stories of swashbuckling pirates on the high sea. However, he had instead been met with a lot of JJ this and JJ that, and while JJ did have stories they tended to focus on… JJ.

“It should read, along the blade, the word ‘Style,’ so that those who fall to it shall always know how it was they were slain. They shall bear my mark on them, from the mortuary to Judgment’s Gate.”

“Are you carving Js into your victims?” Guang Hong muttered, words muffled by his knees and the weight of his pout. Leo had accepted the request, despite the late hour, after JJ had waved off the notion of waiting till morning to let a proper professional engrave it for him. The apprentice worked diligintly and quietly, only responding to feedback and guidance.

JJ rounded on Guang Hong, whisking around to clap his hands over the boy’s shoulders. “What a brilliant idea! Alas, they are not victims. They are criminals or else enemies to Her Royal Majesty, of whom I have been granted the right to dispose.”

Standing straight, JJ laid a hand over his heart and the royal decorations sewn into his jacket above. “However, let us be gracious for Her Majesty’s visit onto this city, for with her presence we could not be safer. There’s a patrol on every path to enter and more at the harbor! The artillery has been fully stocked, the lookout stations reinforced, and what more, you have JJ himself at your service. Not a bandit nor pirate could enter this city now and escape unbeheaded.”

Guang Hong thought that a pirate might be at least more courteous and rob the forge after he and Leo had departed for the festival. Rather than trap them in it with depends for work despite the clearly late hour and the lack of lit lamps inside.

Leo’s tools clinked against the metal of the privateer’s sword, carving the pattern into it little by little. Guang Hong puffed out his cheeks and cursed the crown for disrupting what could have been his chance to dance with Leo. As friends.

“A pirate raid would be more fun than this,” he grumbled and sank even lower.

JJ just grinned brighter as his sword was engraved with his overlapping initials.

Chapter Text

One of Yuuri’s palms was flat against Victor’s. They stepped in time with one another, to the rhythm set by the music. Yuuri recognized the dance as one Victor had taught him, during slow days on the deck of the ship. To think they had been more free to move there than they were on land, where the feet of others fell all around them.

They followed the dance, palm to palm, in a half-circle around one another before twirling round and switching hands like the rest of the couples. Victor smiled from under his golden mask, making Yuuri flutter with fondness more than the music.

The melodic notes dipped momentarily, and Yuuri was taken away from Victor by the change of partners. He bowed his head in response to the masked girl who nodded at him in greeting, taking care not to trod on the sweeping skirts of her dress. Yuuri admired the speckled pink crystals imbedded in vines around the eyes of her mask, wondering if he could demand a few more masks simply to try them all on Victor.

Another dip and Yuuri found himself with yet another partner. The dance was simple and repetitive, but the music was light on the warmth of the summer night, carrying the spirits of the festival go-ers. Yuuri could easily glide on it, dancing with partner after partner until he was spun back to Victor.

This time when they joined hands, Yuuri laced their fingers together and led them through the finishing steps on the lilt of the wind instruments. Victor’s unfaltering smile set the pace in Yuuri’s heart, drowning out the speech from the nearby stage which had followed the music.

Victor closed the distance between them, squeezing Yuuri’s hand. The song was over, and Yuuri had agreed to go. He nodded, ready to be led by his captain.

There was a cheer from the crowd, starting low and escalating in a roar. Victor’s fingers tightened around Yuuri’s, tugging as he nodded in indication toward the edge of the square. Yuuri tapped his thumb against Victor’s hand, turning to leave.

Something burst in between them, breaking them apart. Yuuri heard shouts, laughter, his eyes jumping to find Victor and landing on–

A grotesque, malformed horse lept around Yuuri, neighing with the raucous rasp of a human. Its long, stitched nose jutted toward him and then the hellbeast reared, kicking up with wood-carved hooves. “Welcome to the festival!” the horse bellowed to him, laughter coming from deep in its soft belly.

Yuuri screamed, his feathers and wings all exploding forth.

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s wings knocked people off their feet, sending women falling into the layered fabrics of their skirts and men stumbling over the heels of their polished shoes. Confusion spread, chatter rippling through to those further from Yuuri. His hands jerked up, making sure his mask was still tied tightly around his face. Alongside the decorative feathers, he could feel his own sprouted from the markings at his ears. Murmurs bloomed all around Yuuri.

“Wings, look at them!”

“Those feathers!”

“They’re so real.”

“Where did they come from?”

“It’s a costume!” A voice pierced through the milling crowd.

Steeling himself in the face of the horse, Yuuri nodded in weak confirmation. If there was life beyond the dull, painted eyes of the horse bearing down on him, Yuuri could not tell. Muscles in his back spasmed, wings twitching, ready to take flight at the slightest sign of panic. Oxygen hitched in his lungs, his heart stopped, his brain working overtime, jumping, racing. Victor, he needed to get Victor, he needed to find Victor, Victor, Victor–

The crowd erupted with applause. Whistles, shouts, exclamations all rang in Yuuri’s ears. Someone clapped him on the back with enough force that Yuuri stumbled, his heartrate suddenly that of a jack rabbit’s. There were hands on his wings, stroking his feathers, adoring cooes and compliments showered all around him.

“Oh they’re beautiful.”

“Who made these?”

“Are they spring-loaded?”

“What bird are these from?”

“Pardon, I would like to see too.”

“Look at his hands, the attention to detail!”

“Absolutely marvelous!”

Desperately, Yuuri scanned the crowd, looking for the glint of gold in that mask Victor had worn but there were so many of them that were similar. Yuuri had no glimpse of silver hair to guide him. He caught words ready to fly off his tongue, a call for his mate, a command for the humans clamoring around him to stop stroking his wings. Yuuri jerked his shoulder away from a stranger’s hand, only for someone else to grasp his wrist and tug him through the crowd.

Yuuri had a breath of relief, except the person who had caught him wasn’t Victor. He found himself being pulled up wooden stairs, away from the reach of curious fingers, a step above the shouts echoing after him.

The siren stood, bathed in the colored lights of the burning laterns, in the center of the stage. In front of the whole festival crowd, with his wings on display.

Chapter Text

Wave after wave of people swept around Victor, pushing past him, vying for a decent look of the winged man. Victor’s shouts were drowned out by the rest of the voices. He slipped between as best as he could to try to get close to Yuuri, but there were tens of others attempting the same. The sudden appearance of Yuuri’s wings was an understandable attraction, people immediately drawn to the spectacle.

Victor could not get past, hand jerking up to keep his hat from being knocked off his head by the clamor. He could see the curve of Yuuri’s wings amid the crowd, could see how the siren tried to twist away from those reaching out to touch him. Victor ducked under the arm of a well-dressed woman, his elbow digging purposefully into a gentleman’s side so he could dodge in front of him as well.

One, two, perhaps three more lines of individuals separated him from Yuuri. And not an inch of space between any of them. The fingers of strangers stroked over the black of Yuuri’s feathers, which twitched, receding. As Yuuri jerked his head from side to side, Victor caught the panic behind the siren’s mask, his wild search for his lost mate.

“Yuuri!” Victor’s call was lost, hopeless. Gritting his teeth, Victor trod on the toes of a woman, his knee nudging hard into the back of that of another, clearing his way. Almost. “Yuuri!” Straining to reach, his fingers nearly closed in around Yuuri’s wrist. Someone knocked into him, sending him off-balance. His fingers closed around air. Swearing under his breath, Victor scanned for Yuuri again and saw him, being pulled away.

A small pistol was tucked into the waistline of Victor’s trousers. His hand flew to it, thumb on the cock of the flintlock. A quick distraction, before–

Yuuri was on stage. Under the black outline of his feathered mask, his skin was pale with fright. Victor pushed through to the front as quickly as he could, checking his guns and the blade hidden in his boot in case they were about to become necessary.

It had taken Yuuri long enough to get used to the narrow spaces and the amount of people on the ship. To be roughed and felt up by a crowd, then displayed like a show horse… Victor was expecting to see blood.

“Ladies and gentlemen, looks like we have our first entrant to the contest! What a superb costume it is, those wings!” A dark-haired man in a mask and costume resembling a turtle stood beside Yuuri, waving toward the siren. “They move, don’t they, did I see them move before?”

Victor’s lungs seized in his chest, watching as Yuuri’s lips trembled, the siren’s fingers shaking as they wound around the hem of his shirt. Yuuri looked more scared than the day Victor had found him, his eyes darting around the crowd.

“Come on boy, do they move, show us.” The festival host prompted, edging closer to Yuuri.

Biting the inside of his cheeks, Victor tipped his hat back enough to let a sliver of silver show. Yuuri’s gaze snapped to him.

I’m here, lovebird. Victor mouthed silently. Stay calm.

The bristling of Yuuri’s feathers settled. Victor hid his hair once more.

Slowly, Yuuri raised his wings, but their movements were not fluid. They jerked up inch by inch, as if being pulled by strings. Victor felt his pulse quiet. Yuuri was pretending they weren’t real wings, imitating the movements of the ones Victor had made to surprise him.

The crowd oohed and ahhed nevertheless.

“Wonderful, simply wonderful! Are they on some sort of spring mechanism?”

Yuuri looked away, staring at Victor, caught in a moment of uncertainty. Victor gave a short, single nod. Yuuri gave one too.

“Did you make them yourself?”

Hesitant, Yuuri nodded again.

“Are they heavy?”

That time, Yuuri nodded enthusiastically. Victor had to stifle a laugh.

“Did they take long to make?”

Yuuri shook his head, his thumb and forefinger crooked to indicate a short period. Then, after a short moment’s pause, he flattened out his palm and rocked it. The crowd laughed. A smile cracked on Yuuri’s lips.

“Good, good. All right, then, do we have any other entrants willing to challenge this marvelous creation?”

The crowd shifted, making room for individuals to excuse themselves through. Victor saw Yuuri visibly stiffen when the pantomime horse clambored up the stairs, the siren side-stepping to shift further away from it. A woman with a hand-stitched dress of peacock feathers ascended, bestowing onto Yuuri a short glare of combined jealousy and admiration.

Each of the contestants stepped to the front of the stage, showing off their costumes or performing a short routine to draw out laughter. The pantomime horse fell over, splitting into two parts with red confetti tossed into the air. Yuuri both gasped and seemed to enjoy that bit, visibly more relaxed once he understood it was simply two men in costume.

Midway through, a man in torn striped clothing stumbled up, waving around an empty jug labeled, “Rum.” He had a stuffed parrot on his shoulder, an eyepatch askew, and a fake peg-leg which he kept nearly tripping out of. The spectators chuckled as he swung and dropped a wooden sword, playing off as a drunkard and slurring lines about the most feared on the open seas. That was until he stopped entirely, spotting someone in naval uniform in the crowd and sprinting off with a comical squeal of terror.

Yuuri huffed as people laughed, his feathers ruffled. Victor read his lips muttering a quiet critique about bad pirate impressions.

The success of each individual was judged by the strength of applause from the crowd, narrowing down entrant by entrant until only Yuuri and the woman remained. She lifted her head high and buried her silk-gloved hands into the folds of her skirt. Raising the back of it, she spread the fabric into the grand display mimicking a peacock’s tail. A challenge to a show of feathers.

The siren’s wings unfurled, gliding along the surface of the stage until they extended to their full length. His feathers fanned out, the subtle iridescence in the black shimmering under the glow of the oil lamps. Yuuri raised them overhead, surrounding himself in a halo of his wings. He was breathtaking.

Victor’s heart sank. Because the competitive glint in Yuuri’s eyes was unmistakeable. Victor grabbed onto the top of his hat, holding firmly onto it. Yuuri’s wings beat down once, sending hats flying and dress skirts fluttering. Victor had ducked his head and steadied his stance, but several of those next to him fell over from the strength of the gust generated.

People picked themselves up and helped their companions. And stared, stunned.

Silence.

Yuuri gazed back out at the astounded crowd, looking ready to shrink away. The festival host took a hesitant step toward him and Yuuri caught Victor’s gaze again, instantly straightening when he saw that his mate remained unshaken. He curled one wing into himself, dipping into a sweeping bow.

The applause was thunderous, supplemented by yells and whistles, shouts demanding for him to do it once more.

Recovered from the momentary shock, the host laughed and motioned for the noise to settle, speaking over it. “I think we have our winner, ladies and gentleman! What an unparalleled display, you really must show us how you did that, come here, come here, up to the front with you, we need to show the people your–”

“Stop!” A single, commanding voice cut through the drone.

The hairs at the nape of Victor’s neck stood on end. Cautiously, tentatively, he glanced over his shoulder.

On the balcony of the stately building at the rear of the square, the imposing figure of a woman stood tall. Even in the shadows of the night, her beautiful features were prominent. Sharp cheekbones and cutting green eyes. She carried poise on the high collar of her yellow gown, straight-backed and majestic. Set around the tightly-wound bun of her dark hair, gems glinted on a golden crown.

“Stop, I wish to see his face. Remove your mask.”

Before the host could round on Yuuri, a shot fired from the crowd. One of the lamps burning at the corner of the stage exploded, bursting into flame as the oil spilled from it. Fire licked down the stage and flooded into the square.

The festival descended into chaos.

Chapter Text

The wood of the stage was quickly engulfed in flames, musicians and contest entrants leaping off to flee. Yuuri’s eyes went wide with panic when Victor leapt on instead, grabbing his siren by the hand.

“Run!”

Yuuri ran, folding his wings away, the rest of his feathers retreating. The fast pace of Victor’s strides took them through the winding city streets. Commotion spread as the clanging of a church bell echoed over the city, alerting of the smoke and the flickering light of fire building at the central plaza.

Victor pulled them into an alleyway, halting them with a motion for Yuuri to stay quiet. Yuuri did, his heart pounding like a drum, swallowing back his panting breaths as Victor gazed around a building corner. Men in uniform ran past them, carrying rifles, swords swinging at their hips. Victor waited until they were gone to turn back to Yuuri. “Well, so much for doing things quietly.”

Yuuri hung his head in regret, aware that his rash decisions were the sole cause. Victor’s fingers tipped his face back up the very next second. “Don’t look so down, I said it was high time for an adventure. And I could never regret a chance at another dance with you…”

Yuuri could hear it. The ‘but’ sitting on his captain’s tongue.

“Lovebird… I need you to go back to the ship.”

The siren quickly shook his head, ready to argue. He knew he had agreed to listen, to obey the request if it came, but leaving now would mean abandoning Victor in a city that might be hunting him, in which he was already wanted.

“Yuuri, you promised. People saw you, Lilia– the Queen, you heard her. Her men are going to be ensuring that she’s safe first but if she thought for a second your wings weren’t a costume, they’ll be coming after you as soon as that fire is out. They can’t do that if you’re not here. Go back the ship, keep it safe for me.”

Yuuri said nothing, his lips pursed together, eyes darting to the street beside them.

“Please, Yuuri. I know this city well, I know where to hide and how to keep myself from being discovered. They aren’t going to be looking for me now, they’ll be looking for you. I don’t want there to be any chance for them to find you. And if you’re on the ship, I’ll have you there to go back to. What could be a better motivator for me to stay safe than to be able to be back in your wings?”

Lower lip bitten red with worry, Yuuri slowly nodded. He took Victor’s hands in his, tracing the outlines of the rings missing from his fingers. In the moonlight peeking from between the clouds, Yuuri could see strands of silver hair spilling down to frame Victor’s face. Yuuri reached up to tuck them away once more and found his own face being drawn in by a gentle touch.

Victor lifted the mask Yuuri wore and settled it above the siren’s messed bangs, his own still in place as he leaned in. The golden mask brushed cool against the bridge of Yuuri’s nose, but Victor’s lips were warm. Sweet and gentle, they moved against his, a goodbye in the night.

Whimpering, Yuuri curled his fingers into the loose silver silk of Victor’s hair. His heart beat like it did in flight, rapid in his chest, sailing for Victor. Yuuri kissed him as if it were their last, pouring his love into Victor’s mouth, clinging because letting go meant it would end.

When Victor pulled back, Yuuri held back the cry of protest threatening to slip off his tongue. Instead, he corrected Victor’s mask and hid his hair, stroking a lingering caress across his half-concealed cheek. “Come back to me safely,” he ordered, treasuring the smile that pulled at Victor’s lips.

“I promise,” Victor replied, kissing Yuuri’s knuckles before taking a single step back. “Keep the crew from harm.”

“I promise,” Yuuri said. He stepped back too, his fingers slipping from Victor’s. Step by step, they grew apart, until Victor finally turned and disappeared into the night.

Chapter Text

The heel of Guang Hong’s palm pushed up his cheek and pout as he waited less than patiently. It was possible that his toe of his polished shoes had continously scribbled “Leave JJ” in at least five different foreign languages into the floor of the forge. He did not bother erasing the last one until Leo cast him a pointed glare.

Wiping the fine shreds of metal from the blade and polishing it quickly, Leo returned the sword to JJ. “If it pleases you, sir.”

JJ appeared delighted, inspecting the engraving etched above the hilt and the edge newly finessed by grinding it on stone. “JJ Style! It’s wonderful, how can I thank you?”

“Your satisfaction in my work is enough,” Leo replied, removing his gloves and wiping his hands on his apron.

“You could pay him,” Guang Hong piped from his spot, arching an eyebrow in JJ’s direction. “Plus a tip for keeping him overtime.”

“But of course! As promised.” Sheathing his sword, JJ placed several coins into Leo’s hands, curling his fingers around them. “Make sure you keep a few of those for yourself.”

“This is too much,” Leo protested, frowning down at the payment, more than thrice the normal rate that his mentor would have charged.

“Nonsense! Appreciation of work done well will hardly empty my pockets, but it can line yours. That’s JJ Style after all.” The privateer winked, laughing at himself. “And Master Guang Hong is correct, I did keep you late. Count it as payment for your courtesy. Now, am I correct in assuming you were headed for the festival?”

“Trying,” Guang Hong cut into Leo’s polite nod. He checked his pocket watch, frown cutting deeper. “It’ll be nearly over soon. We’ll have missed the costumes.”

“I’ll keep you no longer then, but escort you there. Arriving with me at your sides shall certainly extend the festivities!”

Guang Hong appeared ready to voice a protest of sorts, but Leo stepped in first. “We would appreciate the company. May we proceed?”

“Onward, then, to celebrate!” JJ exclaimed, turning toward the door. Leo had latched and locked it, in order to ensure no more visitors unexpectedly arrived. Except that even before JJ had reached it, the handle jiggled.

The three went quiet. Soft clicks echoed from the door, followed by the unmistakable sound of the lock being turned open. A thin metal wire appeared in the crack between the door and the frame, sliding up until it hit the wooden latch. With a quick jerk, the latch flipped up and the door swung open.

They all stared at the tall figure who stood in the doorway, clad in dark clothing which would have blended into the night behind him if not for the shine of his golden mask. Between his teeth, he pinched a couple of bent hairpins. Eyes landing on the men in the forge, he smiled handsomely. “Oh. Didn’t expect anyone to be here.” As he spoke, a breeze flirted with strands of fallen silver hair. “Pardon my manners, gentlemen, but this is a raid.”

Chapter Text

Guang Hong and Leo stared, at a loss.

Beside them, JJ swiftly drew his sword, the newly sharpened metal of it scrapping against the mouth of the sheath. “Surrender, in the name of the crown!”

Victor laughed, shaking his head. “But I’ve only just arrived.” He stepped in, light on his feet as he kicked the forge door shut behind him. “I don’t wish to threaten anyone. Simply collect a few items and depart.” He held his palms out flat, showing that he held no weapon as he approached. "If you permit me, it’ll be a much friendlier encounter for us all.“

"And take advantage of this business, I think not!” JJ defended, the tip of his sword pointed high, at the level of Victor’s throat. With a swift jerk upwards, he flipped off Victor’s hat. It fell to the floor, exposing the silver hair beneath.

Guang Hong’s breath hitched on a sharp intake, hands flying to his mouth to quiet his excited squeak.

“I’d recognize you anywhere, Nikiforov!” JJ declared, chest puffed out with the pride of his discovery. “Finally, my chance has come again.”

Victor blinked, not fazed by the branishing of JJ’s swords, his expression more confused than anything. “Have we met?”

“You stole my ship, a summer ago!”

“I steal a lot of ships.”

“She was the grandest of her kind, my Isabella! I have been chasing after her since, what did you do with her?”

Victor tapped his lips with a finger, in consideration. A stolen ship, a year prior. Would have been around the time that Yuuri had had his ship destruction streak, before the crew had started carving toy ones to sate his instincts. “Ohhh, I don’t carry good news. It was the locker for her, I’m afraid.”

“Vile pirate!” JJ lunged at Victor, slashing at air as Victor side-stepped gracefully and pulled out his own sword, metal clashing with metal.

Behind the two dueling men, Leo was trying to keep Guang Hong from hyperventilating.

Chapter Text

Sword parried on sword. JJ lunged in with each strike, intent on driving the pirate into a corner, and Victor let him. He stepped toe to heel, smile ever present on his lips, as if there were nothing he could be enjoying more.

When Victor’s boots hit the wall, the privateer gave a triumphant shout. Victor ducked and spun out from under him without blinking, a swift kick to JJ’s back sending his opponent stumbling. “You’ve already lost to me once apparently, why not give in now and save yourself the humiliation of being forgettable a second time?”

JJ straightened and retook his fighting stance. “I’ll never surrender to a traitor.”

“Alleged,” Victor corrected, deflecting a jab with the hilt of his sword.

“I keep the warrant for your arrest in a frame on my desk,” JJ replied, words biting between the clang of weapons.

“A pity you don’t have it on you now.”

“I know your crimes by heart.” Step, block. “ Desertion. Larceny. Incitement.” Thrust, parry. “Kidnapping. Bribery. Murder. Piracy.”

Victor laughed. The blade of his sword scraped down the length of JJ’s until it struck the guard. With a quick rotation of his wrist, he disarmed the privateer. Smirking, he let his own sword dangle lightly off his fingers. “Are those in order of offense?”

Eyes darting around them, JJ spotted and grabbed another blade off the wall. He bounced it in his hand, adjusting to its weight. “Petty treason,” JJ continued his accusations, re-engaging in their duel.

“Petty? That don’t sound like me.”

“On a few counts. Petty treason. Followed by numerous counts of treason, and high treason.”

“Ahhh, that’s better. What would you classify the sinking of ships as? By proxy. I didn’t actually sink her, my darling lovebird had that privilege.”

Teeth grated in his anger, JJ shouted as he leapt at Victor, branishing his sword with hard strike after strike, driving the pirate back through brute strength. Victor’s heel struck a step, briefly throwing off his balance.

Twisting an arm around, JJ swiped upwards on one of Victor’s easy blocks, blade tip clipping Victor’s loosening braids.

Silver strands fluttered slowly to the floor, along with a cut black feather which had been woven into them.

Victor stopped, gazing after them. JJ stilled, watching as the pirate sighed and lifted a hand. Tugging free the ribbon tying his mask in place, Victor removed it and tossed it to one of the boys observing the fight. “Hold onto that for me, will you?”

Guang Hong clutched it tightly to his chest, nodding rapidly enough that he could have been a wind-up toy.

Changing the position of his feet to adopt the proper stance he had been taught in the navy, Victor cast the privateer a smile. “En garde, Jean Jack.”

Chapter Text

Guang Hong watched with bated breath, golden mask tightly secure in his hands, as the pirate struck blow after blow. Feet steady on the cobbled floor of the forge, he moved with the grace of ease and the power of confidence. JJ could barely fend off his strikes, stumbling backwards over his own feet in his feeble attempts to keep sharp steel from cutting him to ribbons.

Back to the furnace, JJ shouted and threw himself forward. Both of his hands gripped his sword as he swung down, a last ditch effort to overpower the pirate and gain back his advantage. The deflection looked effortless, strike meeting hilt, stopped in its path with barely a tremor.

A kick centered to the privateer’s chest sent him reeling, sword knocked from his hand by expert disarmenment. Guang Hong fanned himself with the mask.

“I warned you.” The pirate’s tone no longer danced with playfulness, charm lost with his black feather. JJ scrambled to regain his footing, only to have it swept out from under him. “You chose to become a nuisance.”

A short scream echoed through the rafters when a knife produced for the inside of the pirate’s boot sunk through JJ’s foot and into the cracks in the floor, immobolizing him. Blood trickled from his shoe, forming miniature streams between the cobbled stone.

Guang Hong went rigid, breath absent from his lungs when Leo quickly rose and snatched one of his self-made blades from the nearby stock. Latching onto his friend’s wrist, Guang Hong held him back. “Don’t be an idiot!”

“I have to help!”

“What, you think you’re gonna do better than JJ?!” Guang Hong squeaked, knuckles white. “You can’t fight him, that’s Silverlock!”

“Silverlock is fictional, Ji!” Leo jerked his arm away, running across to where the pirate had JJ pinned under his boot, sword at his throat. “Avast, pirate!”

Guang Hong’s pulse seized as Leo skidded to a halt, a pistol aimed at the blacksmith’s heart.

“I said I didn’t want to threaten anyone. Move out of the way.” The ice in the pirate’s voice was as cold as the blue of his eyes.

“They’re civilians, Nikiforov, let them–” JJ was struck hard with the butt of a sword. He crumpled, unconscious.

Attention was turned back to Leo. “All I need is a few swords and knives, and I will leave. I prefer to do so before what’s-his-name here wakes up. Hand them over and there will be no more trouble.”

Leo stood his ground, shaking his head. “I can’t let you do that. You’ll fight me first.”

Wordless, the pirate cocked his pistol.

Chapter Text

The pirate held the tip of his sword at JJ’s jugular. Guang Hong was not JJ’s biggest fan. Some fifteen minutes prior, he would have cheered the idea of JJ getting his head cut off, if it would have gotten him to stop needlessly flapping his mouth. However, now, with JJ bleeding out onto the forge floor and the threat of death pointed sharply at him, Guang Hong found a shred of sympathy for the obnoxious privateer tucked somewhere far far far far… far back inside him.

“Move out of the way,” the pirate repeated, as Guang Hong’s heart ran its second marathon, falling over itself in his chest.

“A pistol is cheating,” Leo accused, grip steady on the hilt of his sword. “Fight me proper.”

“You want a proper fight? Don’t challenge a pirate.” Soot collected at the base of the furnace was kicked into Leo’s face, blinding him. His sword clattered to the ground, knocked out by a boot heel colliding with his wrist bone.

Leo swiped his hand across his face, clearing his eyes, and lunged toward the pirate. Guang Hong saw his finger go to the trigger.

“No, wait!”

Guang Hong threw himself between the two of them, hands up and shaking. He faced the pirate, all of the sudden aware of the distinct height difference. The pirate was at least a full head taller than him and, ohhh, even more attractive close up. His hair was like a beacon in the dim of the forge. Guang Hong didn’t know why but he had always pictured Silverlock as far more gruff, with scars across his face, weren’t there supposed to scars on his face, how was his skin so pristine?

In Guang Hong’s imagination, when confronted with such a dire scenario, he always stood straight-backed with his chin up. Unwavering in his resolve to be the hero. Or the anti-hero. In either regard, the hero of the moment. It was possible that he had had a daydream or two of impressing Leo by swooping in on a line to save him from the jaws of a rabid siren. Steady and cool, like the main characters in an adventure. “I-, I’ve read books about you!” His voice quivered and cracked.

The pirate’s finger twitched off the trigger. The gun did not fire. The seconds of silence between them were deafening.

“I’ve read about you, you’re Silverlock!” Guang Hong reasserted, clearing his throat.

“Ji, it’s not about him,” Leo hissed behind him, but Guang Hong did not himself be distracted.

“I read about how you took on the whole navy with just one ship and made it out without so much as a scratch! And about how you killed a kraken, it was so cool, even though I would have done it kinda differently, but I mean, the way you did it totally worked! And about when you seduced that mermaid. Actually, I was curious to know because the book didn’t really explain it well, do they grow legs when they’re out of the water or do they have to be on land, because being on a ship isn’t really on land so that would mean they couldn’t have legs and if that’s the case, how did you even do any loving with it, cause, you know, the whole tail thing and all, or is a whole different type of anatomy, because that would make way more sense with the–”

Leo jabbed him in the back of the knee, breaking his rambling. “He’s not Silverlock!”

“Yes, he is, look at him!” Guang Hong replied, glancing quick over his shoulder to make sure that Leo was ok. “You’re Silverlock, right?” he asked, turning back.

“That’s not a name I’ve heard used for me before,” the pirate answered, his eyes flickering between the three men. “It’s not a bad one though, as far as pirate names go.”

Guang Hong had a hard time muffling the excited whine at the back of his throat. He cleared it again, regaining himself. “Take what you want.”

“Ji, no, don’t–”

“Let him, Leo!” Guang Hong snapped, his shoes planting firmer and his posture straightening. “If we let you take the weapons, will you let us go?”

“That was my request.”

“And JJ?”

Silverlock’s frown cracked at the corners, and he shrugged. “Him? If you want to deal with him, I’m fine with letting him become your problem. He’s not going to be running after me anytime soon.”

Guang Hong took a step back, keeping Leo shielded behind him. “Hurry up then.”

It was probably not the best time for Guang Hong to think about the fact that Silverlock had a very nice smile, but it was an undeniable fact and one that he would be adding into his imagination the next time he reread his favorite books. Which, due to present circumstances, would need to be very, very soon.

Silverlock kept them both at gun point as he side-stepped his way to the weapon’s stock, tying knives and daggers into the sash around his waist and adding a few swords to his own after a quick inspection of their quality. He stocked up on what he wanted, his focus unbroken, not permitting the two boys an inch of leeway that might permit them to get a jump on him.

Once finished, he made his way to the door and holstered his pistol, sweeping his hat up from the floor. “He’ll come to in another minute or two, if he isn’t dead,” he said, nodding his head in JJ’s direction. “Put pressure on his foot or he could bleed out, especially if he tries to struggle his way out of it.”

Guang Hong nodded, arm holding Leo back, in case his friend foolishly tried to prevent the pirate from leaving.

“Oh, and feel free to keep the mask.” With a flourish of his hat and a wink to Guang Hong, Silverlock was out the door– just as a troop of uniformed soldiers strode by.

Chapter Text

Silverlock raised his hands, empty and open, above his head in easy surrender. Rifles encircled him, and even Guang Hong could tell there was not a centimeter of room for escape.

“That’s the pirate Nikiforov!”

Guang Hong felt his hair stand on end as he heard Leo’s voice call out from inside the forge, glancing back to see his friend helping up an awoken JJ. The privateer had a towel wrapped tight around his foot to stop the bleeding, knife removed. He hobbled toward the door, supported by the blacksmith’s apprentice.

“Restrain him!”

The pirate was grabbed by multiple soldiers and he did not fight, allowing his arms to be tied behind his back. Guang Hong watched it all, fingers curled into the doorway, as Silverlock was roughly searched and had his weapons stripped away.

The clamor around the arrest doubled when members of the royal guard arrived and saw the pirate.

“Nikiforov?”

“Is that really him?”

“Doubtless, Michele used to serve with him and confirmed. He’s already gone to notify the Queen.”

“The fire at the festival was caused by a pistol, if he tried to assassinate her–”

“Give me more credit than that.” The pirate’s tone was light once more, cutting through the overlapping exchanges of the soldiers and guards. “How bad of a shot do you think I am? I’ve no interest in harming my dear Lilia.”

“Insolence! Take him away and gag him while you’re at it. Her Majesty will be content to know we’ve identified the perpetrator.”

Several spectators had collected to observe the commotion, whispers spreading about the arrest of a pirate, his name repeated on hushed lips. Guang Hong’s attention, however, was drawn to the corner of the street, where a boy close to his age seemed just as gripped by the sight of Silverlock. His hair was strange, streaked with unnatural red. His eyes darted between the pirate and the soldiers in a concern that seemed oddly misplaced.

The troop marched their capture away, in the direction of the prison at the base of the city. The blond boy turned and sprinted, heading toward the shore.

Guang Hong’s foot hovered above the step leading out of the forge.

“Ji!” Leo grabbed him. “Come on, we need to get you home.” JJ was gone, escorted by some soldiers to seek medical care for his wound and damaged pride.

Guang Hong did not want to go home. “If he was looking for supplies, it means he might have a ship nearby! In the harbor. This is our chance!”

“What do you mean– you’re not serious?” Leo’s voice overflowed with disbelief. “Did you not see any of that, he’s a pirate! He tried to rob us, you watched him nearly kill a man!”

“He didn’t though! He let us go. If he’s got a crew here, then maybe I can–”

“You want to join them?! Ji, this isn’t a book, this is real. Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?!”

“Yes, okay! I’m tired of people questioning what I do or don’t know! I know a lot, Leo! I’ve spent my whole life knowing things, I want to do them! Did you see him back there, it was amazing, I want to do that, I want to be like that!”

“If you getting on that ship, you’re gonna be a criminal!” Leo protested, holding Guang Hong’s hand strong in his. “You’re never be able to come back to the life you have here.”

“I don’t want to come back to the life I have here! You know I hate it, Leo, you know that. I want to live a proper one, that hasn’t been dictated to me! This is my chance, this is what I’ve been waiting for!” Guang Hong would not be able to count how rapidly his heart beat if he tried. Above them, the moon had sunk in the night sky, the illuminated clouds mixed with black smoke. It would set and up would come the sun, rising over the harbor that might house a ship, an adventure, Guang Hong’s chance at a taste of freedom. “Leo, come on… come with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Ji.”

Leo’s eyes were dark. His fingers were laced into Guang Hong’s, warm, comforting, touch like a solid rock that Guang Hong had always clung to for support. There was a tightening in Guang Hong’s throat, a bitterness that built pressure behind his eyes and made him blink it away before it could spill over. Swallowing a breath that threatened to choke him, Guang Hong slid his heel back across the doorframe step and dropped onto the street.

“Ji…” Leo did not let go, holding on.

“Leo, just come with me. We always talk about adventure, right? This could be it.”

“You’re the one who talks about adventure. My adventure’s here. It’s always been right here, with you.”

“This is different, this is real!” Guang Hong replied, pulling on Leo’s hand. “A real one!”

Leo shook his head. “Don’t be stupid, you’re not a pirate.”

“I could be!”

“You’re not though.”

Guang Hong’s hand slipped from Leo’s. His friend lurched forward, grabbing on again to hold him back. Their eyes met in the dim of the night, in the spreading quiet, each pleading with the other.

Biting his lower lip, Guang Hong jumped onto Leo and hugged him tight, face buried in his shirt that still bore the lingering scent of smoldering coal. But before Leo could wrap his arms around, Guang Hong tore himself away.

He turned and ran, straight for the harbor.

Chapter Text

The moon’s light wilted in the night sky as Yuuri waited, his feet curled over the edge of the ship’s figurehead. The crew on board had worked throughout the night to patch the ship of the damages she had sustained from the harpy attack and the storm they had brought. As dawn neared, those who had gone into the city returned, rowing the dinghies back.

Otabek and Yurio heaved barrels of gunpowder on board, helped by others who had secured shots for the cannons. New lengths of rope were laid out, along with spare canvas to patch the sails. Chris brought with him food, tossing a mango in Yuuri’s direction but the siren set it aside.

Nearly everyone had returned, speaking softly as they worked to ready the ship for seafaring once more. Victor, however, had not.

The same dread as before swirled in Yuuri’s belly. He fidgeted, eyes trained on the coastline, plucking at the feathers sprouted around his wrists. The darkness of night had faded, its ink turning from black to navy blue. Stars twinkled out. The tide came in high. An aching chirp died in Yuuri’s throat when he glimpsed a boat approaching.

Yuuri stood fast and tall, craning forward to catch a glimpse of silver. His wings rustled behind him, itching to spread and fly straight for it. He needed his mate back safely in his arms.

Except there was no silver abroad the dinghy. Minami stood at the center, waving his arms and shouting, his voice skipping across the waves only to dampen before it reached the ship. Members of the crew came to the railing, to see what the commotion was about.

Minami cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled at the top of his lungs. It carried.

“Victor’s been caught! The Queen’s men arrested him! They think he tried to assassinate her!”

Everyone stiffened.

“They took him to the prison! I passed the gallows, they had men stationed there. I think– I think they might be preparing for an execution!”

Yuuri’s pounding heart skidded to a halt.

The sun had just peeked over the horizon.

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s bare feet slipped as he scrambled starboard, toward land. He heard shouts behind him, warnings. He did not listen to them. Wings shot from his back before he reached the rails, shreading through ropes and netting of the rigging. The force of his lift-off had the masts groaning, tips of his feathers cutting at the water below. He spun and skimmed across the surface, robes sprayed wet by the waves.

He nearly missed the harbor, wings twisting to turn him at breakneck speed. He couldn’t quite pull up out of it in time, careening into the side of navy ship just off the docks. Yuuri’s claws ripped through its belly, tearing wood to shreds it as if it were paper. His siren’s screech pierced the air, anguished and calling, and his wings took out the mast of another ship as he regained his direction.

Yuuri tore through the city. His wings swept early-risers off their feet, smashing through the support beams of buildings when he could not move away quick enough. His focus was straight ahead, searching for the building where Victor was being held. He would tear it apart brick by brick.

Yuuri saw the colors of uniforms, the same as when the naval ship had come to threaten Victor. The men clad in them carried rifles in their arms, swords on their hips. They stood at attention before a square, at the center of which were gallows. Nooses looped from the frame.

Yuuri saw red. It splattered off his claws and across his wings, streaking the ground in his wake. The men who were not within reach of his grasp, he reached with his voice, ordering them dead of their own weapons.

When he reached the foothold of the prison, Yuuri tore the door off its hinges. And came face to face with the top of a bicorne and the double-breasted blue of a naval uniform.

Yuuri lunged for the throat, blood-stained fingers curling in. His wrist was seized, tugged on sharply enough to send him off balance. Yuuri fell in, command on his tongue silenced by a hand covering his mouth. Long fingers were cold against his lips.

Ice blue eyes and a heart-shaped smile flashed down at him. Yuuri glimpsed strands of silver falling free of the hat hiding them.

“Hi, lovebird. Come to help me escape?”

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s heart pounded so hard and loud he was afraid it would be heard out on the streets. In the hallway and on the staircase at Victor’s back, Yuuri saw an entire platoon’s worth of unconscious men. Victor’s smirk spelled out pure pride.

The feathers jutting from Yuuri’s skin calmed and he threw himself at Victor, wrapping himself tight around his mate.

Victor chuckled against Yuuri’s cheek. “You don’t think it’s the first time I’ve escaped from a prison, do you? Though at this point, I would have expected them to watch me a bit closer.”

“They’re going to hang you!” Yuuri’s fingers tightened in Victor’s stolen coat.

“They’re not going to hang me, lovebird. I’ve been charged with high treason. Sentence for that is being drawn and quartered. Much more exciting. Involves horses.”

Yuuri bristled. Victor laughed. “Come on, we’re going to have a much easier time getting out of here if we get you in disguise. I doubt you were subtle coming here.”

That, Yuuri could not deny. The square outside the prison already looked like a violent execution had taken place, bathed in the same red dripping off his hands. Victor pulled Yuuri away from the open doorway, down the prison hallway.

Victor flipped over one of the bodies of his captors, making quick work of stripping the man bare. “Step in, lovebird, we’re gonna make an officer out of you.”

Yuuri did not protest, changing quickly into each article of clothing Victor held out to him. They were not comfortable. The breeches were stiff and sat low on his hips, the sleeves of the coat hanging past his knuckles. The fabric of the too-large shirt bunched around his waist, making him lumpy. When Victor plopped the hat on his head, it slipped down over his eyes. Yuuri batted it away.

“Hmmm, actually…”

When Victor straightened, Yuuri finally got a proper look at him. A short laugh slipped out. While his uniform was too large on him, the one that Victor wore was a size too small. The buttons along his chest strained to contain his pectoral muscles, upper arms hugged by the fabric like a second skin. His ankles were exposed, pants comically short. Even to a siren’s eyes, they would not be fooling anyone.

“Excuse me, I didn’t have time to be very selective with size comparisons,” Victor said and swiftly undid the front of Yuuri’s coat. “Strip. We’re switching. Let’s just hope we don’t get caught with our pants around our ankles.”

Usually, Yuuri savored the sight of Victor undressing. He tried not to sneak too many glances as they swapped clothing, a far better match in sizes. Yuuri’s heart might have fluttered a couple of times. Victor looked unfairly good in the uniform, deep blue with gold accents. His mate was thinking the same thing, the way his eyes swept Yuuri obvious.

“My, lovebird, I had never considered a uniform to be so cute before. And I must say, those breeches do wonders for your ass.”

Yuuri chirped, halfway between flattered and scolding.

“You’re right, I’ll flirt later. Ready to make our bold and daring escape?”

Smiling, the siren chirped again.

“Anything you say, officer.”

Chapter Text

The single reason that Yuuri did not cling onto Victor’s fingers as they made their escape from the prison was the sense that most navy personnel would not be holding hands while searching for an fleeing pirate. Yuuri followed after Victor, taking note of the fact that the uniform breeches also did wonders for Victor’s hindquarters. When they got back to the ship, Yuuri might need to have a failed escape attempt from a certain uniformed officer. Perhaps he didn’t like wearing human clothes, but he very much liked Victor in them, especially ones so fitted and handsome.

The sun was rising on a gruesome scene. Bodies of soldiers littered the copper-streaked ground, chests opened by fearsome claws. Fired guns laid spent alongside their spent owners. Victor stepped over a detached arm, picking up a shed black feather, flicking it clean of red droplets before slipping it into his pocket. “All this for me, lovebird? It isn’t even my birthday.”

Yuuri almost looked sheepish.

“I hope you enjoyed yourself, at least,” Victor said, scanning the square for their best route out. "Come on, stay quiet. Try not to draw too much attention.“ Easier said than done. Victor waved them down the street leading away, down a side street and not exactly straight back to the harbor.

They did not make it far. It was possibly the fact that they were running away from the commotion gave their disguises up. Or that Victor’s messy hair was not entirely contained, a dead giveaway to anyone that glanced in their direction for longer than a second. Or Yuuri’s fidgeting with the legs of the stolen uniform, where they tucked into the boots. Why didn’t they just cut the pants shorter, Yuuri did not understand. Or roll them up. He could roll them up and make them far more pleasant.

Victor plunged a sword through the heart of a shouting soldier, kicking him off the blade, catching another in a defensive block. He strained to push the man off, a bit winded, and Yuuri remembered the tens of bodies in the prison that Victor had already gone through mid-escape before Yuuri had arrived to save him. A shame, because Victor always looked incredibly good when he was fighting, a beautiful reminder of how lucky Yuuri had gotten with his mate.

"A bit of help, please!”

Said beautiful mate had locked swords with a soldier, and was fending off the leveraged weight of a knife nearing his throat, fingers clenched around the man’s wrist.

Stay in disguise as long as possible, Victor had said. Luckily, Yuuri had learned a few human tricks of late.

He grabbed the rifle off the man Victor had already killed, cocked the flint, directed the gun toward the struggling duo and squeezed the trigger. The rifle fired off, and as did all of Yuuri’s nerve-endings at the strength of the kick and the clap of thunder in his ears.

The shot fired through the soldier’s shoulder. Victor broke the knife out of his grip and drove it into the side of his neck, body collapsing at his feet. His sigh of relief was heavier than it needed to be, Yuuri felt.

“Lovebird, your fluff is out,” Victor said, indicating toward Yuuri’s ears, which had floofed up with the firearm’s explosion.

Yuuri had to concentrate to draw his fluff back in, though he preened with the pride of a successful shot, smiling wide at Victor in expectance of a compliment.

“Please tell me you did that with your eyes open this time.”

Yuuri did not reply. Best not.

Chapter Text

The city was waking up. Yuuri chased after Victor, almost laughing at the burn in his legs and the stiffness of his boots. Thrill coursed through him as they wove through the city, dodging past vendors, around the people beginning to mill in the streets. The sun came bright and warm on their faces, chasing them toward the harbor.

There was activity on the docks, men at work the moment the dawn light permitted it. Victor pulled Yuuri into the shadows, adjusting the siren’s uniform, humming in displeasure at the specks of blood on his sleeve hems. He folded them in. Yuuri’s eyes went wide and he grabbed Victor’s wrists. “You want to go through there?”

“Yes?”

“There’s no boat, they’re all back at the ship,” Yuuri protested, his marks itching beneath his clothes.

“Then we steal one,” Victor smiled, smoothing Yuuri’s hair down over his ears and patting his hat down lower. “Look alive, officer.”

Yuuri was not quite sure what that was supposed to mean, as in his opinion, he always looked alive. He did, however, copy Victor’s cues to a fault. Victor straightened his posture to a line, with his shoulders back, and so did Yuuri. Victor lifted his head high, striding forward with confidence, and so did Yuuri. No one seemed to glance in their direction, busy with their morning tasks. They reached the end of the docks without incident or a second glance, to where a smaller fishing boat lingered.

“Attention, sailor!” Victor’s voice was commanding. Yuuri caught himself about to call out the same, biting his tongue. “We are commandeering your vessel.”

The man standing at his boat frowned, hesitant. His eyes swept the two uniformed men, moving to block their path. “On what grounds?”

“Give us the boat,” Yuuri said, voice quiet to limit its range. Obedient, the fisherman stepped aside.

“So helpful,” Victor said, untying the ropes holding the boat to the docks. He offered his hand, palm up, to his siren in order to help him step abroad. “Shall we, lovebird?”

Yuuri took his hand.

Chapter Text

Yakov’s sword clattered across the courtyard.

Victor grinned, gleeful, rotating his own which was still firmly in hand. “Two out of three?”

“This isn’t a game, boy.” The gruffness of Yakov’s voice rumbled as he picked up his weapon and pushed himself off his knee, sheathing his sword as he faced Victor. “Watch your feet.”

Victor glanced down, his feet close together and pointed forward, a complete break of the proper stance that Yakov had been trying to drill into him. “I disarmed you though, why does it matter?”

“It’s for your balance, for speed! So that you don’t get knocked off your feet the second that someone tries.” Yakov kicked Victor’s ankles, nudging his stance further apart and changing their angle so that the tips of his shoes no longer faced straight. He knocked his elbow into the base of Victor’s spine, making him straighten his posture.

They retook their positions on the chalk lines drawn across the courtyard, and at Yakov’s signal, took a second match. Victor had sprouted several inches over the previous year, but he remained light on his feet. The dance lessons he had forced to take along with his other training had not made sense to him at first, but he found he enjoyed them more than the relentless strategy games and experiments Yakov ran him through.

Victor parried and stepped his way out of each of his mentor’s attacks, outmatching him for footwork even though Yakov growled, “Your stance, Vitya!” as a reminder. Victor hardly saw the point for concern regarding it, advancing when Yakov lunged. He ducked under the strike, knees bent low as he batted the weapon away and thrust out his own. The tip struck the center of Yakov’s chest, ending their match.

“Well?” Victor asked with a sense of pride, pulling back. “Am I done?”

“You’re too easy on him, my dear Yakov, how will he learn?”

Both men straightened to attention, bowing their heads. Lilia approached them, lifting up the sweeping skirts of her royal gown, heels of her shoes clicking across the stone of the courtyard. Her dark hair was pinned tightly back, adorned in gems that sparkled in the sun.

“Give it here.”

Yakov held out his sword to her, shifting away as Lilia took her spot on the line. A collection of curious on-lookers gathered, watching from the open halls.

Hesitating only for a moment, Victor returned to his starting stance, bowing low. “Your Majesty.”

“Stand straight, no slouching. Chin up. Look at my eyes when you fight me.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Lilia gave him no warning, her gown trailing behind her as she struck. Victor was pushed back by her speed, the nimble expertise of her movements, barely able to fend off her quick attacks which did not lend themselves to an effective counterstrike.

Victor made to sidestep out of her assaults, but the moment his left foot crossed his right, his balance was swept out from under him by the hook of Lilia’s heel. A circle parry down near the hilt knocked his sword from his hand, but Victor dove for it, not ready to give in.

No sooner had he snatched it up that it was out of his hands again, skidding away into the nearby grass. He froze, the tip of Lilia’s sword resting over his heart.

“That’s a fault!” Victor protested, scowl unbridled. “You cheated!”

“There’s no such thing when it’s your life on the line, boy. Even less so when it’s a life you’ve been tasked to protect. If you had kept your stances proper, I wouldn’t have had the chance.” Lilia took him in, her thin lips set in a line, tutting in indignation. “And your hair is getting too long. Have it trimmed, or it’ll get into your eyes.”

“Yes, your Majesty…”

Lilia held her sword out for Victor to take, turning away. She paused briefly before Yakov. “Be firmer with him, Yakov. Don’t make me regret allowing you to bring him here.”

She left the courtyard, followed by her escorts.

Victor looked after her, raising a hand to touch the lengthening tips of his silver hair. It was cut again that very same evening.

Chapter Text

“Tell me you are not fool enough to believe you’re getting away in that.”

Victor’s fingers tightened around Yuuri’s at the level voice which came from behind. His siren stopped, foot hovering above the side of the fishing boat, ready to step on. Victor drew him back onto the docks, turning to face the person who had addressed them.

Soldiers stood at attention, swords drawn, while others pointed cocked rifles. They flooded the harbor, blocking the paths with rows of men upon men, yet Victor could see the weakness of the knees in those at the front. No doubt they had passed through the square littered with the evidence of Yuuri’s rescue operation.

Before them all, the Queen stood tall and regal, her gown forgone in favor of the navy blue and gold of a military uniform. The belt on her hips was strung with a pistol and a rapier. Her green eyes trained on Victor with an intensity that had him nearly shying back, reminded of his younger days.

“Other options would have been preferred, but I’ve always made do with what’s available to me.” Victor plucked the hat off his head and swept into a low, formal bow. “Your Majesty.”

“It is a shame you aren’t keeping that uniform, Victor. It suits you.” Lilia approached, her strides long, stopping out of arm’s distance. Her men shuffled forward, keeping at her back.

“I’m afraid it doesn’t fit me well anymore,” Victor straightened, shifting before Yuuri, to shield him from Lilia and her soldiers. “Good to see you again, nonetheless. How’s our dear Yakov? Did he give you my regards?”

“You drove your sword through him and left his ship disabled at sea.” Her tone was like ice, cold and cutting in the warmth of the summer morning. “A younger sailor would struggle to live through that.“

Victor stiffened, teeth gritting together. A tremor ran through his nerves, constricting around his heart. He shrugged. "Regretful to hear. He shouldn’t have come for me.”

“He did not come for you,” Lilia replied, chin tilting up as her gaze shifted to the man hiding behind Victor, to the black fingers curled over the shoulders of Victor’s uniform. “He came for that… your siren.”

Chapter Text

The entire dock went still, no soldier daring to breath as the queen addressed the siren behind Victor. As Yuuri peeked out over Victor’s shoulder, the disbelief coming from the troops was evident.

Yuuri’s brown eyes were wide as he took in the scene, the extended force filling the harbor. He looked meek, his fingers curled into Victor’s clothing like he needed the protection of his captain. His hair was messy under the hat Victor had put on him, fluffed around his ears where it was meant to hide his markings. He was unsteady in his boots, feet fidgeting, hardly the appearance of a threat.

“Lovebird, I think her Majesty is implying she’d like you to go with her. Do you accept her request?” Victor glanced over his shoulder, casting Yuuri a sweet smile.

Biting his bottom lip, Yuuri shook his head. Victor winked at him before turning back to address Lilia.

“I must apologize, he doesn’t want to,” Victor excused, playing with a sorrowful expression. “Perhaps next time, if you send us a royal invitation, we might consider.”

“Where do you expect to go, Victor? No ships for you to sink here. You’re going to try to take on all my soldiers with your back to the ocean?” Lilia questioned, her hand on the hilt of her rapier. “We’ll shoot your bird out of the sky.”

“I take issue with that,” Victor answered, reaching up to lay his fingers over Yuuri’s and give them a gentle squeeze. “He isn’t a bird. But he can fly.”

Yuuri’s wings ripped out of the stolen uniform, shredding fabric, sending waves rolling through the water. His arms wound around Victor, lifting his mate into them as his wings beat down onto the docks. The wind knocked rifles out of hands and soldiers off their feet.

With a shout, several men were swept into the water, along with Lilia. The men who remained upright at the front scrambled for the edge of the wooden platform, diving in or reaching out to save their Queen.

“Idiots, I can swim, get Vitya!” Lilia yelled from the water, pulling herself out of it.

Rifles fired, but Yuuri was already out of range, soaring high into the sky with Victor securely in his arms. Laughing, the pirate removed his hat and waved it in farewell. He let it fall down to the ground, a cocky token. “Better luck next time, Lilia!”

Her cursed orders were lost to the wind as Yuuri flew away, chirping when Victor kissed his cheek in triumph.

Chapter Text

They landed on board the ship to relief, but Victor granted no time for it. He called out for a count on the crew, ensuring that they had all returned to the ship in good health. Then gave orders to launch for the horizon, with warnings of possible navy ships on their tail.

Yuuri kicked off the boots at the first chance he got, shrugging out of torn clothing. While Victor aided in securing the anchor, he helped hoist the sails, feathers ruffling in obvious eagerness to be out the rest of the stiff uniform.

“Go get changed,” Victor told him, pinching gently at the feathers sprouted around his ears.

Smirking, Yuuri tipped up to press a kiss to Victor’s cheek, tracing words into his mate’s palm. With a wink, he turned and was gone, leaving Victor slightly dazed and uncertain if he had caught them correctly– No, Yuuri was definitely swaying his hips with purpose as he walked away.

“Was it the two of you who nearly burned down the city?” Chris asked, eyebrow arched in suspicion. “Cause I think it was the two of you who nearly burned down the city.”

“What– no, I mean, just a bit– hold that question."

If Victor had been carrying anything precious when he walked into his cabin, it would have smashed into a million pieces all across the floor.

Because Yuuri sat in their bed. On the edge of their bed. Naked.

Victor latched the door.

Yuuri’s wings were out, draped over their bedsheets in pure elegance, sleek and gleaming in the low light of their quarters. The remaining fabric of the naval uniform was discarded, under the point of his bare feet. Victor could already see himself taking those delicate ankles in hand, kissing up Yuuri’s feather markings.

Yuuri had his legs casually crossed, smooth muscles of his thighs flexed and begging to be worshipped. The siren leaned back on one hand, trailing the fingers of the other up his own chest, up the length of his throat, up the side of his beautiful face. He swept his bangs back with the push of his fingers, eyes half-lidded as he pinched his tongue between his teeth and directed a look which Victor could only interpret as an invitation to come pray in gratitude at his feet.

Victor was not sure what had brought such a reaction on so suddenly. The daring escape. The threat of execution. The opportunity to engage in a bit of bloodsport, which Yuuri had been missing out on of late. The thrill of a good adventure.

Yuuri smirked, full lips quirking and leaving Victor weak. With one smooth motion, he uncrossed his legs, spreading them in welcome. "Come here, officer.”

Oh. The uniform.

Victor swore that his pants would have dropped of their own accord, if it were not for a shake of his gorgeous siren’s head. “No. Leave it on.”

Chapter Text

Victor’s fingers moved gently through Yuuri’s hair, lifting up the dark strands of his bangs and letting them flutter back down. Yuuri nuzzled into his shoulder, contented and preening, despite having been forced to move their post-coital nestling on the deck of the ship. At the very least, he had managed not to hiss at anyone this time around.

With the wind graciously at their rear, the ship picked up speed, making her way over the waves as if she were sailing on clouds. Minami had scaled up to the crow’s nest, parrots on his shoulders, keeping watch for any ships chasing their tail. They remained to be sighted.

Victor had let down his hair, allowing Yuuri to brush out the messy braids in favor of tying it low with a single ribbon. Loose strands danced around them, Victor standing in silence as he looked to the water and the sky in the distance. When Yuuri’s fingers traced his knuckles, Victor turned his hand over, offering his palm to his siren.

Tell me.

Victor curled his fingers over Yuuri’s, holding on. “He adopted me, when I was a kid. There used to be these board games we’d play in the orphanage, where the goal was to capture your opponent’s queen. He came by one day, said he’d heard that I never lost a match and challenged me. I didn’t know who he was then, but it was fun to have someone new to play against. We ended in a draw, and he left. But he came back two weeks later. And played me again.”

A small smile pushed up the corners of Victor’s mouth. “He started with the exact same strategy as the previous week. I won easily, didn’t think back then that I did anything impressive, I simply remembered every move that he had made. I left the orphanage with him that day. Started training under him, as a strategist for the navy. Before I had even turned ten…

"Obviously, we didn’t always agree. But I finally had a father. When I got to be a little older, he introduced me to Lilia. I didn’t even know she was our Queen at first. She scared me a lot more than Yakov did, despite it.” Victor laughed lightly, lacing his fingers into Yuuri’s. “We’d visit her, on occasion. It was nice, having a family, even if it wasn’t quite what most people would call normal.”

“Why did you leave?” Yuuri asked quietly, his words almost softer than the wind.

“I wish I had a good reason,” Victor replied. “I was tired of always being under someone’s heel. I wanted to see what a taste of freedom would be like.”

“…Was it worth it?”

“Of course.” Victor turned, tipping Yuuri’s face up to bestow him with a fleeting kiss. “It tastes like you.”

Reaching back, Yuuri ran his fingers through his wings. Carefully, he pulled loose a few of his feathers. Bunching them in his hand, he wove them together, twisting them in the form of a blooming flower. Yuuri set it into Victor’s hands, gesturing out to the ocean.

Victor pressed his lips to Yuuri’s forehead and stepped out to the bow of the ship. He let the wind catch the blossom, carrying it out to the waves.

The captain stood with his siren at his side, watching the feathered flower float to the horizon and then be overtaken by the sea.

Chapter Text

A shrill squawk sounded from above, pulling everyone’s attention to the crow’s nest. Minami was all but invisible from the angle that Victor stood on, able to see only a tuft of red hair. The parrots, however, dove down, circling the supplies raided from the city.

“Intruder! Intruder!”

Swords were drawn and pistols were cocked by everyone on board.

Victor held up a hand, frown fouling his expression, and cautiously approached where the parrots had started to peck at barrels of gunpowder. Leaning over to look down between them, he was met with a head of mousy brown hair and eyes so wide it was possibly to trip into them. A boy.

Victor grabbed him by the collar and lifted him out. He wore deceptively simple clothes, like a pageboy, but the shoes on his feet were polished leather. The chain of a pocket watch looped down from the buttons of his vest. All of which were soaking wet.

“Where’d you come from?”

“Ummm-…” the boy stammered, his feet kicking out for support but unable to reach the wood.

“Ummm?” Victor prompted, eyes glancing around to see his crew still holding their weapons at the ready.

“I’m, I’m trying to think of something good to say,” he squeaked back, pitch of his voice breaking.

Victor’s frown cracked. “You look a bit too proper for a pirate ship. Why are you here, boy?”

“I- uhhh, I’m looking for adventure?”

An eyebrow arched, Victor scoffed and released the boy, letting him drop. Instantly, he snapped up, back straight and posture proper. “Adventure? As a stowaway?”

“I want to join!”

Victor chuckled, eyes sweeping the small frame before him in consideration. “…Aren’t you the one from the blacksmith’s?”

Brown eyes shone back at Victor, the nodding of his head eager. “Yes! Ummm, yes, that-… that was me.”

“Have you ever worked on a ship?”

“N-no,” he replied, hands twisting at the hem of his own vest. “But I’ve helped at the forge and… I know a lot about… a lot of things.”

“You were an apprentice?” Victor asked, surprised. The boy’s fingers were thin, skin smooth and hands showing no wear of labor.

“Well, I helped the apprentice…”

Victor chuckled, shaking his head. “You don’t belong on a ship.”

“I promise I can work hard! I know all about ships, I’ve studied them! Look, I managed to get on deck without anyone noticing me, that should count for something!”

“I don’t think so. We’ll drop you off at the nearest port. You can have your adventure finding your way back.”

“But I can work!” he protested, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Oh, you’ll work,” Victor replied. “No one stays on this ship for free. Anyone here need a spare till port?” he glanced around, holding a hand open in invitation.

Otabek stepped forward. “I could use a new monkey. I need another one after what happened to Cao Bin. While he lasts, at least. Hopefully long enough to rotate the canons.”

“There you go,” Victor smiled. “All right, Beka, he’s your responsbility. You can have him start with getting the barrels to the powder room.” Victor turned, then paused and gazed back at the boy as his crew withdrew their questions. “Any questions?”

The boy quickly shook his head. As Victor went to leave, his hand shot up into the air. “Wait, just one!”

Victor gestured for him to continue.

“What, umm, what happened to… Cao Bin?”

Laughing, Victor spun on his heel and walked away. Strands of his long silver tail and the black feathers woven into them trailed behind him.

Otabek pushed Guang Hong to work.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong bit his tongue, refusing to allow a single whimper escape when the ship doctor splashed his hands with alcohol and wrapped them in bandages. They bled, raw from rope burn. He had slept in a hammock that rocked with the motion of the ship, waking up with muscles burning so much that he had cried upon forcing himself onto his feet.

He had spent the entire previous day working, transporting supplies below deck before being tasked with cleaning cannons. By sundown, Guang Hong’s skin had been stained black with soot and gunpowder, his normally pristine clothing dirty and ragged. The pads of his fingers felt like they had been worn down to the bone, the soles of his feet aching for a soak in a hot salted bath.

Dinner had consisted of a portion of dried meat and hard bread, along with a comment that the cook was busy sorting his new stores. Breakfast, at least, had been hot, a cup of soup with generous chunks of fish meat. Guang Hong didn’t really like fish. He had chugged it down, grateful to fill his stomach.

“Come show them to me tonight before you sleep, I’ll make sure they won’t get infected,” the doctor said, kind smile on his scruffy face. “Try to keep them clean. I’ll tell Otabek to be a bit easier on you today.”

“No!” Guang Hong flinched as his own protest sent sparks of muscle pain spasming through his spine. “I-… I want to work.”

“Can’t work if you’re broken.” The pat to his shoulder almost made Guang Hong whimper. “You can wash decks with Kenji. Still work. Doctor’s orders.”

Guang Hong nodded, following Emil to the deck. He had eaten his dinner next to Minami, who had sat with a parrot on his head and juvenile chickens pecking around his legs. The chickens clucked menacingly in Guang Hong’s direction, driven by the occasion accusatory squawk of “stow-way!” from one of the macaws.

“They’re not usually like this!” the blond had quipped. Guang Hong, having drawn his knees up to his chest to keep his toes away from the frittering birds, simply nodded and continued chewing on his dried meat for going on the fifth minute.

“Kenji, you’ve got Freckles here.” Emil called out, giving Guang Hong a gentle nudge to push him forward.

“Hiiiiiii!” Minami waved, smile splashed wide. His hair was tied back in a bandana. The chickens gone, but the parrots stayed perched nearby, preening their feathers in the sun. Earlier, Guang Hong had sworn he heard clucking overheard but that made no sense. “Welcome, by the way!”

“Ummm, thanks,” Guang Hong muttered, gaze drawn to the other boy’s bare feet and the wet rag next to them. Hesitantly, he stepped out of his leather shoes, rolling down his socks to tuck them inside. “Kenji?”

“Yeah! Guang Hong, right?”

The energy shining off Minami was encouraging. He was even smaller than Guang Hong, so if he could survive the work of the ship, then Guang Hong should be able to manage. “Yes.”

“Awesome. Here, yeah, take your shoes off, don’t leave them too close to the triplets though, they’ll chew them.” Minami handed Guang Hong another rag, and dropped to all fours, ready to push it across the wood. Guang Hong knelt down to copy him, back already complaining. “So, how’d you end up here?”

“Ohh, ummm, I-… I kinda… Captain Silverlock is really cool?”

A passing Yurio laughed so hard that he slipped on the wet deck, clutching his sides as he fell over.

Chapter Text

Storm clouds gathered on the horizon, cold and dark, casting their shadow across the ocean. Victor had ordered the ship toward the coast, in hopes of glimpsing a cove where they might find sanctuary from the weather. Wind whipped at the sails, driving the speed at which the ship cut through the waves.

Guang Hong watched with wide eyes as Minami climbed quickly up to the crow’s nest, pencil in his teeth. He did not dare to question why, legs already shaking from trying to keep himself steady. He could not imagine what the pitching would feel like atop a mast.

Orders were shouted across the deck and Guang Hong rushed to the railing, checking that everything along them was secured against the potential storm. Rope burned at his hands despite the bandages around them, but he persisted, determined to prove he could earn his keep aboard the ship. Adventure was not supposed to be easy.

Wood creaked and Guang Hong saw a flash of gold in the near black of the sea. Rope looped around his wrist in case the ship pitched, he leaned over to try to catch another glimpse. He shouted in frightened shock.

Webbed, scarlet claws dug into the side of the ship, leaving welts in their wake. A thick tail thrashed behind the creature that slithered up the ship so quickly that Guang Hong did not have time to blink. The boy stumbled back, tongue swallowed by his throat, hands fumbling for the knife on his belt.

Curved long nails gripped onto the railing struts, dripping in sea water. With a shout, Guang Hong launched himself at the mermaid, short weapon trembling between his fingers.

His wrist was grabbed from behind and the knife knocked away as easily as if he had not even been holding onto it. “Stop that.”

Guang Hong’s head snapped around to see Chris, the cook scowling in clear displeasure.

“Siren!” Guang Hong yelled in protest, pointing at the mermaid on the railing.

“Not a siren,” both Chris and the finned-hybrid spoke at the same time. “Mermaid.”

If Chris was not holding Guang Hong off the deck, he might have gone weak-kneed in fear.

“And he’s friendly,” the cook added on, dropping him.

Guang Hong choked on his words, jerking around.

A perfectly friendly face looked back at him, wet dark hair over dark eyes. Some sort of cute little white bunny-looking slug crawled over the top of his head. The mermaid waved, fingers webbed. “Hey there! I’m Phichit, are you new?”

Slowly, stunned, Guang Hong waved back. “Yes? Nice to meet you?”

Chris chuckled behind him and clapped Guang Hong on the back.

Phichit grinned, displaying the kind of razor teeth Guang Hong had only seen on sharks before, in the pages of his textbooks.

He tried to convince himself that his legs weren’t about to give out. It didn’t work. They did.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong sat near the bow of the ship, back against the railing, legs spread out straight in front of him. He worked his fingers carefully over the sore muscles of his thighs, wincing now and again when he hit a sensitive spot. He had spent the entire day scrubbing rust off cannons. His neck and spine were stiff from laying on the wooden floor, under the cannons as he cleaned their wheels and bellies. Emil had told him the pain and exhaustion would fade as he grew used to the work. So far it was only getting worse. He had not been able to climb out of his hammock that morning. The boy called Yurio had flipped him out of it. 

He had wanted to catch the last bit of sunlight before the night fell, having spent far too many hours inside the dim of the hull. The sky had been clear and blue after the storm, but Guang Hong had not had the privilege of savoring much of it.

Minami stomped onto the deck from the crew quarters, normally cheerful face crumpled into a scowl. He turned from side to side, eyes holding out a spot of hope as he searched.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t find my sketchbook!” Minami plopped down next to Guang Hong, kicking out his legs in frustration. “I’ve looked everywhere! One of the triplets was preening a chicken, it was so cute, I wanted to draw it but it’s nowhere.”

“Did you leave it somewhere?” Guang Hong asked, trying to remember if he had seen a sketchbook anywhere on board. “What about yesterday? Up there?” he pointed to the crow’s nest.

“No, I couldn’t find it yesterday either,” Minami replied, huffing heavily. “I just borrowed some paper from Victor, I thought maybe there’d be some harpies with the storm and I’ve been trying to get a better record of their wings. They’re really different from a siren’s, I tried to ask Yuuri if he knew why but he left for a hunt so… Guess I gotta wait till the next storm.”

Guang Hong was still trying to get to know everyone on board the ship. The encounter with a mermaid had been a surprise. So much for the novels being an exaggeration… They had just failed to describe the amount of labor that went into maintaining a ship. “Hey, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“What… what happened to… Cao Bin?”

“Oh.” Minami’s eyes went wide and he reached up to rub at his neck. “Uhhh, yeah, we don’t talk about Cao Bin because, ummm… Yuuri ate him?”

Guang Hong snapped his head around so fast that the kink in his neck corrected itself. “What?!”

“Well, like, it was when he first got here, you know! You can’t really blame him, that’s his thing! Bin didn’t like having him on board and fought with Victor about it, so Yuuri… ate him.” Minami defended, waving his hands in attempted reassurance. “He doesn’t anymore, not the crew, I mean! That’s why he goes off on hunts, when he has that urge, he–” Minami paused, taking in Guang Hong’s terrified expression. “You haven’t met him yet, have you?”

Guang Hong shook his head. No, no he had not met the member of the crew that was apparently a cannibal that hunted humans. 

“Oh!” Minami brightened up instantly, frown flipping upside down. “You’re gonna love him, Yuuri’s amazing! He’s not scary at all, I promise! You’ve gotta hear him when he sings, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Do you play any instruments, cause he adores music and if you play something for him, he’ll usually come out to sing and dance. I mean, I’d let him eat me if he really wanted to, but he’s really super nice, he rescued Victor from the Queen all by himself. They’re mates. You should have seen how incredible it was when he flew off the ship to go save him, I wish I had a siren mate, how cool would that be?”

Minami only stopped when he ran out of breath, smiling happily, his prior mood at having misplaced his sketchbook entirely dissipated. He gazed out across the deck, toward the horizon, and his joy doubled. “Look, there!”

From inside low hanging clouds, Guang Hong glimpsed the shape of a bird emerging. Dark and flying fast toward the ship, growing larger and larger by the second. Wings spanning broader than the bow of the ship cut through the sunset sky, casting a shadow that enshrouded Minami and Guang Hong.

“Yuuri! Welcome home!” Minami waved.

A huge wing, torn off at the shoulder and warped out of shape, dropped with a dull thud at their feet. Guang Hong tried to swallow his scream, he really did, cementing himself back against the railing. Brown feathers the length of his forearm were splattered in blood, the wing ripped from a creature that Guang Hong could not even begin to imagine.

The wood beneath Guang Hong shook when another creature landed heavily before them. A whimper died in Guang Hong’s throat.

Blood dripped off claws wrapped in pitch black feathers. Guang Hong watched, unable to look away, as talons melted into human feet. The wings at his back furled in, sweeping the deck. His beautiful face was contorted into a glower.

There were feathers along the side of his face, but they were ruffled, bent. He threaded the tips of black fingers through them, lifting out one that was broken. A hiss came from him, quiet but somehow it wove into Guang Hong, sending fear around his heart, squeezing air from his lungs. Guang Hong could not break himself out of it. The sound rooted inside him, as mesmerizing as it was terrifying.

The broken feather was released, floating to the ground. Eyes flinted with red glared straight at the two of them, and then the man stormed off, leaving a trail of bloody footprints, the drag of his wings smearing them as he went. 

Squeaking in a way that was nothing close to the horror that Guang Hong felt, Minami dived for the wing left in front of them, clutching it to his chest in utter joy.

Guang Hong stared after the footprints that spanned the deck and disappeared down the stairs which led to Victor’s cabin, a stunned breath escaping him, “… Oh my god, an evil siren lover.”

Chapter Text

Victor caught an armful of siren, hands coming to rest on Yuuri’s back when his mate nestled into his chest. “Lovebird? What happened?” he asked, holding on. Yuuri’s fingers curled into his shirt, clutching tight. His feet had tracked blood across the cabin, and Victor had glimpsed more on his hands, a faint smear across his cheek. It was rare, for Yuuri to return from a hunt without cleaning himself off first. Victor could feel Yuuri starting to tremble in his arms. “Yuuri? Yuuri, talk to me, what happened, are you hurt?”

Dark eyes still lined with the red of his siren temper gazed up at Victor, swimming. A tear spilled over, trailing wet down his cheek.

“Oh. No, Yuuri, don’t cry.” Victor thumbed the tear away. He cupped Yuuri’s face in his hands, trying to read through Yuuri’s eyes what had upset him. “Was it the harpies? Did you not find one?” After Minami’s disappointment at not sighting one during the storm, Yuuri had decided to fetch a wing for the boy. A gift, for notifying him of Victor’s arrest. Victor had thought it was rather sweet.

“Look at my feathers!” Yuuri cried, turning his face to show Victor the black fluff at his ears.

Victor looked immediately. They were ruffled, vanes split. The downy of the smaller contour feathers was stripped. At the crest of Yuuri’s ear, there was a bald patch, feathers ripped out by the root. 

“Those… those… those flying rats tore them out!” Yuuri snapped his face out of Victor’s gentle hold, covering his messed up feathers with his hands. “I-… you like them and they tore them out…”

Victor blinked, taking in the pout Yuuri wore, the frustrated anger filling his eyes with tears. He wrapped his fingers around Yuuri’s, pulling them down to take another look. “Were you worried about me being upset at you losing feathers?”

Cheeks puffed out with an exhale, Yuuri muttered another harpy insult under his breath. “…I always want to be your pretty bird… This must look awful." 

Laughter escaped without Victor’s intention and he swooped in, pressing his lips to the skin visible through the part of Yuuri’s feathers. "Lovebird, you’re always beautiful. A few missing feathers isn’t going to change that.”

“I don’t like it,” Yuuri murmured, angling his face away from Victor’s further attempted kisses. “It’s gonna be days before they start growing back.”

Chuckling, Victor let go of Yuuri’s hands. “Here, look.” He pulled his braided hair around, removing a few feathers which had been woven in. Tucking them behind Yuuri’s ear, he fidgeted with the placement until they covered the offending patch. “Perfect. The prettiest bird I’ve ever seen." 

Victor could tell that Yuuri was trying to contain it, but a smile cracked on his lips. "They’re gonna fall out…”

“Then I’ll put them back. Or maybe, if I make you blush hard enough, they’ll sprout again.”

A near silent chirp purred from Yuuri’s throat, pink blossoming on his cheeks like it always did at Victor’s flirts. He dropped his head back against Victor’s chest, nestling in.

Victor kissed the top of his head. One of the set feathers slipped out of place, so he carefully readjusted it. “How about we get you cleaned up, lovebird? You’ve got harpy all over you.”

Yuuri nodded, but did not detach himself from his mate. Victor held on, cradling Yuuri against him even as he walked them across the cabin so that he could wash the blood off Yuuri’s hands and feet for him.

Chapter Text

“Kenji!”

Minami leapt to his feet, harpy wing still cradled in his arms. He had been carefully inspecting the feathers, moving the joints before rigor set in, all the time muttering little notes about it to Guang Hong who had been assigned the task of scribbling them all down. He was not sure if he technically had to listen to Minami, but figured it best not to start arguing with pirates so early on.

If Guang Hong had to be honest, it actually was quite interesting. He had only heard tales of the creatures said to live at sea before, never knowing if they were true. Now he had met a mermaid and a siren–and knew the difference– all in the span of two days. And learned a bit about harpies from Minami. They almost sounded scarier than the siren, if not for the fact that they had the gruesomely bloody limb of one, while the siren seemed to have made it out of the fight with nothing more than a couple feathers out of place.

Guang Hong saw a flash of silver and his heart picked up its pace again.

“Will you ask Chris to boil off water for a bath and bring it to my room? Get, what’s-his-name, Freckles there to help you.”

Minami groaned, shoulders dropping. “But–”

“It’s for Yuuri.”

That perked him back up. “Of course, Captain!”

Guang Hong gazed after Silverlock after he had disappeared back inside. He had barely caught more than a glimpse of the captain, trapped as he was under the ordered work of the master gunner. Guang Hong had read about pirates ruling their ships under an iron fist, yet thus far… there had been no indication of such. Apart from their tasks, the crew seemed pretty free to do whatever they willed. The only real rule that he had been made aware of was to stay out of the crow’s nest unless otherwise ordered. Yet, he had seen Minami climbing up there during the storm.

“Come on, we gotta get water.” Minami tucked the harpy wing under his arm, elbowing Guang Hong. “Do you know where the kitchen is?”

Guang Hong nodded.

“Okay, go there and tell Chris. I’m gonna put this away.”

Minami skipped away.

Guang Hong wondered what kind of life experiences had led a boy his age to treasure a dislocated wing gifted by a siren dripping in blood. He would have to debate about whether to ask.

He made his way to the ship’s galley below deck, finding the cook seated near his stoves. It was humid and hot, pulling sweat from Guang Hong’s skin immediately. A white cat slept atop a table, face tucked into its long fluffy tail. Chris was scratching behind her ears as he watched large vats set over the heat. An eyebrow arched in Guang Hong’s direction. “No seconds. We barely have enough to make it to the next port. Fish if you’re hungry.”

“Ummm, no, the captain requested water for a bath?”

“Oh, did he now?” Chris questioned, standing up, arms crossing over his chest. “You call tell the captain that I just finished boiling off some water, but if he wants some for a bath, he’s gonna have to wait because it’s for drinking and not for–”

“It’s for Yuuri!” Minami dropped in, sleeves rolled up, hands cleaned of harpy blood.

Chris’s expression remained unchanged, but he sighed. “…Fine. For our dear murderbird. But the two of you are fetching me more buckets after this, I’m not going to sauna myself two days in a row.”

Guang Hong did his best to help as Chris hoisted up a barrel of water, having shifted the vats over which a tarp had been strung to catch steam, the salt and grit left behind. Freshwater ran down the fabric to collect, dripping into more barrels.

If he pulled knowledge from his studies, Guang Hong could calculate approximately how long it would take to boil enough water to fill a barrel. His mouth went dry thinking about the glass of water he had knocked over that morning, when his hands had been shaking with exhaustion after a fitful night.

The water was reheated, poured into buckets that he and Minami had to trudge to the captain’s quarters. Minami led and Guang Hong followed, wide-eyed at being granted access at a new part of the ship. Below deck, the crew’s quarters were rather cramped. Guang Hong could touch walls with both his hands in many places and he slept with another hammack right above his own.

The captain’s quarters, however, were quite grand. Wide, richly colored carpets rested on polished dark wood. Guang Hong noticed bookshelves groaning with the weight of the texts filling them, a proper bed against the far wall laid in golden covers. His imagination when reading his own books could hardly compare. Oil lamps lit the room, their flickering flames casting reflections in the expansive windows off the left side. Guang Hong saw a porcelain tub positioned near them, white and gleaming. And at the center of the room was Silverlock…

Guang Hong’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach.

The siren sat, in a chair of wood carved intricately and spun with gold. The harpy blood tainting its skin was gone, as were the wings Guang Hong had witnessed upon the deck. Instead, the siren’s skin was marked with black patterns, weaving to form feathers on its arms and legs, which were crossed in the regal pose it had taken on the chair.

Silverlock was kneeling before the siren, holding its foot in his hands. Guang Hong watched as the captain carefully wiped the siren’s ankles clean with a damp towel. His movements were delicate, almost reverent, taking care not to miss any spots.

“Right over there,” Victor said, gesturing toward the tub. Minami shuffled across the room, grinning as he also looked to the siren, before pouring the steaming water into the tub. Guang Hong did the same.

It took several trips back and forth from the galley to fill it high enough. The second time in, Guang Hong caught sight of Silverlock pressing a kiss to the sole of the siren’s foot, then another to the arch. The third time, the siren’s gem-laid robes had been discarded and instead he was covered in golden sheets seemingly pulled off the captain’s bed.

In the opposite corner of the room, Guang Hong saw a parrot perched, her eyes carefully following his movements the same as the siren’s did.

On the last time in, Guang Hong nearly tripped because Silverlock’s shirt had been discarded. On his chest, above where his heart should be, was a tattoo. An X crossed with one of the feathers that Guang Hong recognized as belonging to the siren, a scrolled word beneath. Throughout it all, the siren stayed, a commanding presence beside the captain. Only when the bath had been filled was Silverlock permitted to leave the siren’s side, dipping his fingers in to test the water.

“I think it’s fine, lovebird,” Silverlock said and Guang Hong connected it to the tattoo. The pirate captain had been marked, perhaps in ownership. “All right, out with you two. Give Yuuri some peace.”

Minami saluted, grabbing their empty buckets and Guang Hong by the arm. “Have a good bath, Yuuri!”

Guang Hong let himself get dragged out and up the stairs. He glanced over his shoulder, into the room, and caught sight of the golden sheet dropping, the siren’s back bared to him. Tattoos in the form of wings were painted down its back, accented tips sweeping the curve of its buttocks. More feather markings were stamped the small of its back, contrasting the paleness of its skin. The siren had lifted an arm, black fingers grasping the braid of Silverlock’s hair. It tugged him in close, rough.

Guang Hong was torn away by Minami, the door shut behind them. His companion took him to the task of fetching more water for the galley, rattling on about how the captain was way too lucky to have the privilege of watching the siren in a bird bath. Guang Hong hung onto every word.

Silverlock, and perhaps his whole ship, was under the possession of a beautiful, dangerous, deadly siren.

Chapter Text

The hot, clean water sunk into his bones, melting Victor down. His arms were loose around Yuuri’s waist and he leaned into his siren’s back, brushing nonstop kisses across Yuuri’s shoulders. He traced the top curve of Yuuri’s tattoos with his mouth, content to simply sit and treasure the gift in his arms.

A splash made him squeeze his eyes shut, droplets jumping up into his face. Laughing quietly, Victor peeked over Yuuri’s shoulder, to where a small toy boat had been submerged and was being held under until the air bubbles stopped floating to the surface.

Chirps mixed into Yuuri’s giggles, pure and crisp like the trickling of a spring. He released the boat, letting it float back up. Before it broke the surface, he plunged it back down with both hands, cackling in delight.

Victor tipped his face to the side, touching a kiss beneath the lobe of Yuuri’s ear. “Is this what you imagined doing to my ship, when we met?”

Yuuri’s head tilted back on his shoulder. His dark hair was wet, strands plastered to his skin. Tiny specks of water clung to his lashes as he blinked, low and slow, playing innocent. Victor fell in love all over again. 

The toy boat bobbed in the bath water. Yuuri guided a finger around it, directing it through waves of his own making. A mischevious smile adorned his lips and he lifted out one of the loose feathers that Victor had tucked behind his ear.

Dampened by his touch, it fell more than floated, landing atop the boat. Yuuri lunged in, snapping the toy clean in half, wood crushed by his fingers. Splintered remains scattered across the water, bits sinking beneath the surface.

Victor scooped them out and deposited them over the edge of the tub as Yuuri continued to laugh. “You’re so terrifying, lovebird. I don’t know if I can continue to keep you on board.”

Yuuri smiled with the brightness of peak summer, nuzzling into the underside of Victor’s chin, happy hums vibrating against his throat. Victor’s arms wound tighter around him, face dipping in for a kiss.

Yuuri chirped into it, making Victor laugh as he proceeded to peck kisses repeatedly to Victor’s lips and to his face, littering his skin until Victor had to sink into the water to escape them. Grabbing for his shoulders, Yuuri tried to pull him back out, only to yelp when Victor tugged him down.

Their breath formed more bubbles, then none, as Victor sought out another kiss in the warmth beneath the water’s surface.

Victor’s long hair floated all around them, like silk threads. Yuuri twisted some around his fingers, adding silver rings to the gold already on them. He let himself get lost in the kiss, breathing off Victor’s lips until his lungs burned and they broke the surface, laughing, dripping, wrapped up in each other.

Yuuri tipped his forehead against Victor’s, eyes still shut as he caught his breath. Victor couldn’t remember ever having seen a single sight more beautiful. He fell in, sending them splashing again, wanting more of Yuuri’s laughter echoing in his ears, echoing through the entire cabin. 

The floor around the tub was certain to be a mess, soaked in water. Victor did not spare a single thought to it, not when he had Yuuri taking his hands, kissing his rings, his palms, his wrists. He laughed for himself when Yuuri grabbed another toy boat from the edge of the tub and tucked it into Victor’s fingers.

“You want me to sink it?”

Yuuri nodded so rapidly his entire body trembled, making waves.

Victor set the boat to float. With a finger pressed against the curved top, he pushed it gently under. Yuuri promptly slapped his hands.

“No?”

Yuuri shook his head no. He grabbed Victor’s wrists and plunged them down, forcing the toy down to the bottom. He did not let it go, keeping Victor’s hands down for a minute, two, three. A grin spread across Yuuri’s face.

“What?” Victor asked, gazing down at the drowned boat.

“They’re all dead,” he declared, gleeful at his simulated mass murder. He was pure joy personified, radiant. Water was diamonds on his skin, light dancing waltzes in his eyes.

Victor was hopeless, helpless when it came to Yuuri. “I love you so much.”

Yuuri’s laugh filled Victor’s chest to the point of bursting. Even when Yuuri let him go, nestling close once more, Victor continued to hold the boat underwater, trapped in Davy Jones’ Locker. Yuuri seemed to like that idea, kissing his cheek in approval.

Victor was content to simply sit and let Yuuri teach him how to sink toy boats until the water chilled around them.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong could not sleep well that night. The rocking of the ship made him feel ill and whenever his eyes did manage to slip, visions flashed behind them. Of a glaring siren with human blood dripping from its mouth, the ship captain trapped beneath a taloned foot.

He was awake before Yurio came to flip his hammock, climbing out himself. Seated toward the bow of the ship, he chewed through breakfast slowly, softening a hard biscuit between his lips. His eyes were locked on the captain’s cabin, waiting to see.

When he had asked the previous evening, where it was the siren slept, Minami had shot him a funny look. With Victor. I told you, they’re mates.

Mates. Guang Hong meant to find out exactly what that meant.

When movement came, Guang Hong sat up straight, eyes narrowed. He continued chewing, not want to give off the impression that he was spying. From below the deck, the siren rose. It stretched arms up toward the sky and outward toward the sea. Wings appeared off its back, spreading till the tips could brush the ship railings at either side, before folding in. The smile Guang Hong could see adorning its lips was unnaturally beautiful– because it was. Guang Hong shook his head, refusing to let himself be taken in by any siren’s magic.  

His attention shifted quickly, to Silverlock, who followed three steps behind the siren. Guang Hong stiffened. The captain walked with a slight limp that was undoubtedly missing the night before. He kept a hand behind him, pressure on his lower back, wincing on the steps. What more– his neck was bruised, dark marks peppering his skin from his jawline to where his collarbone disappeared under his skirt.

The siren leaned in, expectant, and Silverlock obliged, meeting it with a kiss.

Guang Hong’s eyes narrowed further.

Seeming pleased with its demand being met, the siren spread its wings again and took to the sky. Its vast shadow circled the ship once, a shrill chirp echoing through the sails, before it was lost to the clouds.

Silverlock waited, watching, and only moved away once the siren had vanished from sight. Given a moment of release.

Guang Hong sprang to his feet. His decision was made for him– he had to save Silverlock.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong collapsed in his hammock at the end of the day, shaking the sleep from his eyes. He couldn’t, not yet, not until he had his plan for the next day figured out. His attempt to talk to Silverlock had not gone well. The moment the captain noticed him beelining in, he had grabbed Guang Hong by the shoulders and directed him to work, along with a comment of, Have you been earning your keep?

He did not even have a chance to protest, his warning lost by the loud squawk of a parrot swooping in to land on Silverlock’s shoulder. The handsome captain had rubbed her beak, but Guang Hong noticed how those bird eyes followed him around. No doubt, all the birds on board were under the siren’s orders as well, to supervise the crew while it was away and report back. Guang Hong was not going to be able to accomplish anything under their watchful gaze. He’d jumped when a chicken clucked at him after he got below deck. Evil siren spies…

He and Minami had searched every inch of the ship that they could for the sketchbook. Minami had whined about it being full of all his notes about Yuuri, and how he wanted to add in drawings of the harpy feathers and wing, to document it all properly. It remained missing, Minami finishing their search by kicking at some barrels, frustated, muttering something to himself in worry. He wouldn’t tell Guang Hong why when he asked.

Guang Hong had spent the rest of his time going around, asking any members of the crew who had time questions, passing it off as natural curiousity. About the ship, about their voyage, about the captain… about the siren. Everyone had nothing but praise for the creature, enchanted. The fact that it feasted on the flesh of men seemed to faze so few of them.

Thus far, it seemed like not a single person on the crew had been spared from the siren’s magic. Not the captain, not the cook, not the doctor, not the deck hands. At first, Guang Hong had theorized it was a spell that affected only men– but no, Mila, the quartermaster, was just as in love with it as the rest of them, remarking how cute she thought the siren and captain were together. 

He had thought to climb to the crow’s nest the following day, before dawn, while the siren still slept. To see what was up there, why no one was permitted in it under usual circumstances. Guang Hong had tried to remember, any rumors he’d heard or any books he’d read, if sirens were said to have any weaknesses… He would find out. No creature was invincible. 

Guang Hong went still as footsteps approached, other members of the crew making their way through the sleeping quarters. The young, angry voice that echoed down the hall was familiar. 

“I kept asking him and he refused. Just for one night! I’ve trained them so well and he won’t trust me to keep them here. The triplets don’t need to be listening to what they get up to there at night.” Yurio walked, not bothering to be quiet as he vented frustration.

“Ask Victor,” replied Otabek, following along.

“You know Victor will just do whatever Yuuri says, command or not. I’ll just have to find some other time to teach them… dumb siren.”

Guang Hong sat bolt upright.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong slept past dawn, having been kept up by his late night mental scheming. The work task for that morning was inspecting any gun powder barrels for leaks or water damage, and transferring out the content of any that were found as such. He tried to get close to Yurio during that time, offering help in exchange for the chance at whispered conversation.

Yurio, however, did not want any help, snapping at him to do his own work. Guang Hong gritted his teeth but continued on, even if his arms screamed from the strain of the gun powder’s weight. He had to take several breaks, looking for his opportunity the whole time. It came as they were finishing.

Guang Hong struggled with lifting another barrel, the bottom of which had started to disintegrate. His leg muscles were beyond sore, fingers full of splinters and close to bleeding again. His arms shook, ready to give out at any moment despite his huffing breaths and determination to get it done. The edge slipped from his fingers, barrel dropping.

Yurio caught it, diving in. He scowled and heaved up the barrel on his own, cracking a fist against the lid to pop it open, emptying the powder into a dry container. “You’re lifting it wrong, idiot. Bend your knees, not your back! And rest back edge on your shoulder, it won’t feel so heavy.” He split the wood under his foot, pulling off the metal rings, tossing both into two different piles.

Guang Hong stared, then glanced down at his knees. How was he supposed to know that if no one told him? Steeling himself, he threw his shoulders back and glared straight at Yurio. “You!”

Yurio took a half a step, surprised by the sudden outburst. “What?!”

“The siren! You’re not under its spell!” Guang Hong blurted out, seizing his chance. “How? How are you resisting it? Everyone else, the captain, they’re all entranced by it!”

Yurio’s brows furrowed at the center, arms crossing over his chest. “What?!”

“Haven’t you noticed– this ship has been possessed. The siren has Silverlock trapped and doing whatever it wants! We gotta find a way to break everyone out of it!”

Whatever reaction Guang Hong had been expecting, it wasn’t an eye roll and a scoff. “What the hell are you on about? No one’s under any dumb spell. Victor’s just stupidly in love. Yuuri’s family, leave him alone or he’s gonna eat you too. You’re not part of the crew, that rule doesn’t apply.”

“But you– I heard you last night. You called him a dumb siren!” Guang Hong protested weakly, his shoulders dropping.

“Yeah! Cause I wanted to train the triplets how to make some shadow puppets but he wouldn’t let me take them cause he thought they’d get scared if they went too far below deck. Wouldn’t even let me try!” Yurio shook his head, irritated. “I wouldn’t keep them down there if I thought they were scared.”

Scowl deepening, Yurio dusted off his hands, turning away. “And stop calling Victor Silverlock. It’s weird.” He stomped off, leaving Guang Hong behind.

Guang Hong felt like sinking into the pile of broken, discarded wood at his side. His last hope, gone. The only person left unaffected by the siren’s magic was… himself.

Chapter Text

Any chance that Guang Hong got to chat with Minami, he took, prying out any and every tidbit of information about sirens that he could. It was shockingly easy. Minami jumped at any opportunity to chatter about “Yuuri,” eager to offer answers to all the questions that Guang Hong had even if the majority of them did not help him to figure it out how exactly it was the siren cast its spells.

He did learn that the majority of the siren’s power was behind its voice. A command given by the siren would be followed, without resistance. It explained why Guang Hong had felt such overwhelming dread when it had hissed at him, influenced by its magic. Minami had told him that the siren was weak in the spring, spending a couple weeks inside, shedding feathers and unable to fly. But Guang Hong could not wait that long– and even if he did, the problem of its voice remained. He needed to find some way of silencing it… or discover another weakness.

Another problem he had was that whenever the siren was on the ship, it kept close to Victor, refusing to leave the captain’s side. Keeping control. Guang Hong could see how it would lean in, whispering its incantations into his ear.  He kept an eagle eye out– until one midday that both the siren and the captain vanished from sight.

Checking that the deck was mostly clear and that those around were occupied, Guang Hong made his way up the rope nets that connected to the crow’s nest. He climbed carefully, slowly, dinstinctly aware that each time he inched up, the ship got smaller beneath his feet. A breeze blew, shaking the nets and Guang Hong had to cling, trembling.

A glance down had fear seizing around his heart. At height, a single missed step would mean a quick drop and very sudden stop. Guang Hong had very little confidence in his ability to catch himself should he fall– but he could not stop now. If the siren kept secrets, he needed to find them, to be prepared to take it on.

Hand over hand, foot over foot, he climbed, keeping his eyes put, refusing another look down. He remembered one day he and Leo had out together, during the previous year’s summer festival. Guang Hong had brought a kite his family had received as a gift, shaped like a butterfly with purple wings. He had gotten it caught in a tree within five minutes and Leo had climbed to retrieve it, teasing Guang Hong who had been too scared of falling to try getting up the tree himself. If only Leo could see him now…

Guang Hong grabbed onto the edge of the crow’s nest, gasping when he pulled himself up. He made it. He looked into the crow’s nest and his entire body went stiff.

It was not empty. Blankets and pillows lined it, plush and warm under the sun. It was littered with shed feathers, black and red, and others, midnight blue peckled in shimmering pink– Guang Hong recognized them as the second half of the cross on Victor’s chest. That was not all. He glimpsed the sparkling of gold, of gemmed jewelry scattered around. And the stark white of what he was certain were bones.

It wasn’t a crow’s nest. It was a siren’s nest. Set directly over the heart of the ship. And inside the siren’s nest was the siren, curled into a half-circle, with the silver-haired captain trapped in its arms.

Both dozed, the siren’s face buried in the back of Victor’s neck, an arm draped around his waist. A few of its feathers were woven into the captain’s hair, laid behind his ear in claim.

Between them a chicken nestled, its beak tucked into its own feathers. Another slept at their feet, third having tucked itself against Victor’s stomach. The siren’s stained-black fingertips edged into its wing feathers, keeping contact as they dozed.

The fourth…. sat above their heads, vigilant. Its beady eyes stared straight back at Guang Hong. 

Yelping, he dove down, ducking beneath the edge of the crow’s nest, his heart pounding a march against his ribcage. From inside the nest, he heard rustling and then a voice. Gentle, preening, soft with sleep. It called out, a sweet chirp resonating despite its quiet. “Victor…”

Something strange filled Guang Hong. A warmth unlike that of the sun beating down on him, a lightness unlike the breeze. It pricked at his nerves, setting him alight, mind flooded with memories of the comforting smell of the forge, the tender stroke of Leo’s fingers through his hair, the joy of their shared laughter.

Guang Hong shook with the intensity of the visions, fingers tremoring as he wrapped them in the net and started to descend, unable to comprehend what had just happened and why the unsettling emotions plunged so deeply inside him.

Chapter Text

Whatever magic had been layering the siren’s voice, Guang Hong had been hit by a big dose of it. For hours after, his heart ached, his mind shifting to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, his impression of the siren had been wrong. Maybe it had not trapped the captain in its bloody clutches. Perhaps what Yurio had said was not lies, maybe Silverlock– maybe Victor was actually, simply in love.  With a siren… that dripped with blood, controlled people with its voice, made him kiss its feet, and ate members of his crew. A crew that, as far as Guang Hong had seen thus far, Victor really cared for.

No, he could not give up. He had to find a way to break everyone out of the siren’s spell, before he fell under it himself.

The following day, Guang Hong scaled his way back up to the crow’s nest, snatching up shed siren feathers from between the blankets. He threw some into the ocean, crushed some under his fingers, threw some into the embers heating the kitchen stoves when the cook wasn’t looking.

The siren remained on board the ship, lounging on the figurehead with its wings spread out in the sunlight, a mermaid chattering away next to it. Guang Hong kept away from them both. 

Guang Hong volunteered to bring the siren its food at night, Chris having prepared fish for the whole crew. Plenty of servings to go around, as the siren had fished for them all. Guang Hong planned to steal spices from the stores, to try to make the siren go hoarse, as without its voice maybe the rest of its magic would wane too. His plan failed when Chris had laughed and shook his head, ruffling Guang Hong’s hair as he told him not to worry. The siren did not eat cooked meat, so Guang Hong was welcome to an extra share for himself that evening.  

Minami had told him that the only things that really bothered Yuuri were the feathers of other birds around his mate, and horses. Guang Hong drew a horse and ran by the siren, shoving the paper into its hands. It blinked at the page, then handed it to its chicken to shred and play with. Guang Hong regretted his lack of artistic skills.

He collected the discarded feathers of the chickens and the parrots, covering his hair with them, ready to prance in some sort of bird dance in hopes of intimidating the siren. Instead, the quivering feathers had caught the attention of Chris’s cat, who saw an opportunity for a game of chase that the actual birds refused to take part in. Guang Hong had rid himself of the feathers quickly after, shaking them off and throwing them all at the cat, legs and arms scratched red.

One quiet evening, the crew collected on the deck, bringing out instruments to play music. Yurio showed off the fact he had finally taught the triplets how to cast some playful shadow puppets across the white of their sails, rewarding them with small bits of fruit. Guang Hong hid in the crew quarters, wrapping towels around his head to muffle the sound of the siren’s voice. The song it sang was sweet and mellow, weaving stories about the comfort of its beloved nest.

Guang Hong cried into his sleeve, frustrated, unable to block the sound completely. His heart crumbled inside his chest. He pined for familiar company, for the person he had left behind, for his own nest, for the sense of home.

He fell asleep weak, trembling, rocking not in a hammock but on the edge of defeat.

Chapter Text

Paper crinkled between Guang Hong’s fingers. His arms were draped over his knees, sticking out from between the ship railings. There was nothing but water around them. The sun rose out of the water, the sun set on the water.

Guang Hong repeated the same tasks everyday. Get up, eat a diet of stale bread and salted meat, work until his muscles gave out on him. That was, if he was lucky. Days on board the ship were long. Minutes dragged on when there was nothing to do. He napped, volunteered himself for small tasks in the galley. He tried making friends with the ship cat, he talked with Minami, he plotted. He wished for his books, which had lied about the promise of adventure.

There was no swashbuckling, no chests overflowing with treasure, no kraken tentacles snaking their way up the side of the ship, ready to snap it in half and send it plunging down into the cold black abyss. His biggest adventure that day had been avoiding the chickens that had trailed after him. They had followed him around most of the morning, after he had accidentally dropped part of his biscuit.

He was lost. Uneasiness weighed between his ribs. When the siren had come back from its flight that day, it had landed into Victor’s outstretched arms. Nestling exhausted into the captain’s chest, it had called out a command to be carried to bed. A command that was immediately obeyed, a choice in the matter not granted. Yet, Guang Hong could not shake the sight of the smiles on both the siren’s and its captive’s faces.

Guang Hong did not know the extent of its power, perhaps it extended to manipulating emotions. Or maybe, it was something else. Like how once, after Guang Hong had fallen asleep at the forge, Leo had carried him home. Or how after a picnic, Guang Hong had complained about walking down the hill so Leo had thrown him up, giving him a piggyback ride. Guang Hong had laughed all the way down.

Minami had spent their free afternoon untwisting some spare rope, sewing together loose pages of notes that he grudgingly made into a new sketchbook. Guang Hong had stolen one of the blank pages.

With no books nor adventure to keep him company, Guang Hong wrote his own. A letter to Leo, painting a grand picture of his time on the ship. He wrote about fighting a mermaid, about learning how to fire cannons into the bellies of enemy ships. He wrote about the gorgeous redhead on board, who walked with a wooden leg and directed men with the sharp gaze of sapphires. He wrote about how the ship was controlled by fearsome birds that pecked at his ankles, whose echoing screeches filled the sails fuller than the wind. About his plans to challenge their siren overlord. About how the nights could be cold and how he missed the warmth of the furnace on his skin, about wanting to be wrapped up in the itchy wool blankets Leo always draped over him.

Water welled in Guang Hong’s eyes again, dripping from his chin and splattering on the folded pages filled with his exaggerations. A letter was only a letter when it could be posted. He had left Leo behind without a thought, who would have no idea of what had happened, if Guang Hong had made it on board the ship, if he had drowned or been killed, if he had fallen to the fire that had burned through the city. Guang Hong knew that Leo would be fine, yet to Leo his absense would be a mystery. And for how long? Weeks? Months? Years? Forever? How long till Leo forgot about him?

Guang Hong bit his lip, trying to muffle his sobs, wiping his face on his collar. It was dirty and rumpled, smelling of salt and the sea, and Guang Hong hated it. He wanted a hot bath and clean clothes, he wanted something more than fish and stale biscuits which got him chased by chickens. He wanted his books, he wanted floors that did not sway with the waves, he wanted Leo’s arms to craddle him in comfort, he wanted Leo.

Bare black feet stepped next to him. Guang Hong did not care, dipping his head down further to hide the tears staining his cheeks, hoping if he stayed still and quiet, it would leave him be.

It didn’t. The siren remained standing, silent, facing the wind.

Guang Hong pushed the ball of his hand up his cheek, wiping tears from it. “W-what do you want? Are you-… are you g-gonna eat me too?”

No response came back. Guang Hong trained his focus on his knees, trying to blink away his tears. He didn’t want to look weak in front of the siren, he refused to let it think he could fall under its spell as easily as the rest of the crew seemed to have.

Guang Hong risked a glance. The siren was staring down, its expression unreadable, but its dark eyes were not on Guang Hong. They were on the pages in his hands. Guang Hong crushed them against his chest, protectively. “You can’t read them, they’re not for you!”

The siren’s gaze shifted and Guang Hong felt his heart do an involuntarily flip. “Are they for your mate?” it asked.

Guang Hong could feel it this time, the magic in that voice. It pulled on him, made him open his mouth to respond to its question before he had even decided if he wanted to. It made him feel safe, like there would be no more sorrow or worries if he simply followed it. So sweet and giving, reminding Guang Hong of all his favorite things at once. He fought against it. “No! No… he’s- Leo’s just my friend.”

“Do you love your friend?”

Guang Hong wanted to cover his ears, to block out its voice. His mind, his chest flooded with the same ache he had felt before, when he had overheard the siren calling out Victor’s name. He didn’t want it, he wanted it out of him, wanted its power out of his head, making him feel like if he answered its questions that everything would be okay. It wouldn’t.

“It doesn’t matter,” Guang Hong snapped, crumpling the paper. “He’ll never read them anyway.” With that, he chucked the pages at the ocean.

They did not hit the water. Guang Hong was nearly knocked overboard by the sudden force of the siren’s wings bursting forth, feathers erupting off its marked skin. 

It caught the pages in its claws, and then was gone, vanishing into evening clouds and taking Guang Hong’s letter with it.

Chapter Text

The siren did not return by daybreak. When Victor came onto the deck that morning, he looked tired. The usual smile was missing off his lips and his long hair was bound into a loose knot, strands coming off it messily. Small black feathers remained tangled within them.

Guang Hong stayed observant. The captain spoke with a few people, all of whom shook their heads at him. His shoulders were weighed in worry when he finally turned toward Guang Hong. “Have you seen Yuuri?”

Biting his tongue, Guang Hong shook his head. The siren had stolen his pages, on which Guang Hong had written his intentions to fight it, and had not come back. When it did, he was sure to become meat, a feast for a mythical sea creature… A memory flashed in Guang Hong’s mind, lines from one of his books.

“If you see him flying back, please let me know.”

This time, Guang Hong nodded, hiding his surprise at how timid Victor sounded, how drained. He kept his eyes on the captain once he’d walked away, then bolted across the deck, grabbing Minami. “Si– the captain doesn’t know where the siren went!”

Minami shrugged his shoulders, playing with his bangs. The red streak was fading into a strawberry blond. “Yuuri leaves sometimes. He used to, a lot, but not so much recently. He’ll be back."  

Guang Hong glanced after Victor, who had gone up to the helm, his blue eyes out on the horizon. "He seems worried?”

“That’s normal. Victor always a bit different when Yuuri isn’t here, he’s changed a lot since Yuuri showed up.” Minami smiled, hands planted on his hips. “Yuuri’s got control of his whole world now. You should have seen how this ship was before.”

There it was. Exactly what he had suspected all along, before the siren’s evil magic had begun seeping into his brain. Determination flared through Guang Hong and he gazed up at the crow’s nest, the netting leading up to it.

He didn’t know how long he had until the siren was back, but he had a plan. One shot, one real chance. He would capture the siren and break the spells cast by its voice, return the ship to how it had been before. Guang Hong rolled up his sleeves.

Time to get started. 

Chapter Text

The night after the festival, when the sun had risen, the city had been left in a chaos far worse than Leo had imagined. The fire from the plaza had been put out before it spread too far but several buildings had been charred down to their foundations. The prison and path leading from it was bathed in red, bodies ripped limb from limb by something that had not been human.

As Leo later heard, the forge was not the only place that had been hit by pirates. The artillery had been raided, stripped of guns and gun powder. The apothecary had also found her stores emptied, while one of the food merchants had told a shaken account of being robbed at gun point.

More bodies had washed up on the shore, and Leo felt guilt eat into his chest when he had sighed at relief at seeing they were only soldiers. Harbor patrol. The ones who had somehow let the pirates past them.  

The dead had been laid out, so that the families of those who had lost could claim them. Leo had searched and with each waxen face, his chest tightened around his heart. Guang Hong was nowhere to be found, and it was not long before whispers reached his ears. The son of the noble family was missing.

Leo had not thought that Guang Hong would actually try to follow after the pirates. He expected Guang Hong to run to the harbor and stop. Perhaps, at best, try to get into a dinghy and give up after a couple strokes of the oars when he realized it was not as easy as his fantasy books would have led him to believe. Except now, Guang Hong was gone and Leo spent every second praying that he was fine, that he was safe, that he had not actually gotten himself onto the deck of a pirate ship.

The second morning Leo had risen before dawn and set at his work as usual. Chopped wood. Tended to the forge, before his mentor arrived. With weapons missing and the rumor that the navy was preparing to give chase to the escaped pirate Nikiforov, their orders were full. Yet, Leo’s mind was not on his work and by sundown he had a few new burns on his wrists and forearms to show for it, the scolding he got each time doing nothing to snap his focus back.

Leo had found himself wandering through the streets that night. The festival decorations had been taken down, solemnly early. A city in mourning was far too quiet for a summer’s night.  He had ended up at the gates to the Ji Estate, greeted with less than enthusiasm by a servant at the door.

He could not tell the truth, that Guang Hong had run off with the intentions of joining a pirate crew. So he told half of it, that Guang Hong had been with him when Nikiforov had arrived, that Guang Hong had challenged him in order to save the life of Privateer Leroy. And that later, members of the Nikiforov crew had kidnapped Guang Hong, intent on holding the young master hostage in exchange for their captain, had he not escaped capture.

Leo’s story had been met with a slap to his face, the hand of Guang Hong’s mother stinging at his skin as she cried and yelled, that she had told them, she had told him to stay away from her son. That if Guang Hong had been home, away from that dirty and dangerous forge, he would be safe, he would be alive.

Leo accepted it, hanging his head in shame, knowing it to be true. It was his fault. He had let Guang Hong be put in danger. He had not stopped him, not chased his friend. Even if Guang Hong was alive and not rotting at the bottom of the sea, would he ever make it back? And how would he be after surviving the harsh command of pirates who had wrecked such havoc, such death upon the city without remorse. It was said that Nikiforov had flown off in a siren’s arms, laughing after taking so many lives. Guang Hong escaping unscathed seemed like a fantasy.

Guang Hong’s parents had called for guards to seize Leo, to have him questioned about their son and why he did not come forward sooner. He stuck to his story, and a gracious confirmation from Jean-Jacques was enough for him to be released.

The guilt grew heavier. The days dragged.

Each night without sign of Guang Hong made it all the less likely that he was all right. Before he slept and right after he woke, Leo walked to the harbor and hoped by some miracle he’d find his friend sitting on the docks. He also feared it, in the case that it would only be a ghost. He did not know which was worse, knowing that Guang Hong was gone or being left wondering, forever. 

When his work finished, well past sundown, Leo peeled off his gloves, casting a glance at the table at his side. It was lonely, quiet, working without Guang Hong there to weave his fantasies, reading books out loud, acting out the scenes that he got caught up in. Leo hoped, hoped so hard that it made his chest hurt, for a knock at the door which would bring him back his friend, smiling and freckled, laughing about how great of a prank he had managed to pull, making Leo wait and worry for so long.

As if on cue, there was a knock, so soft that Leo almost missed it. Then, the squawks of what could only be a parrot penetrated through the door, repeatedly demanding, “Open up, open up.”

Leo crossed the forge to go open it up.  

Chapter Text

Leo risked peeking up from the letter that had been shoved into his hands. It had been accompanied by a look that was strangely intimidating despite really not matching the man that had bestowed it upon him.

He did not believe what was written on the pages at first. Wouldn’t have, if his heart had not convulsed at the sight of what was distinctively Guang Hong’s handwriting right from the start. It said that Guang Hong was all right. That he was on abroad Silverlock’s crew, or, as he later corrected himself, Nikiforov’s.

A laugh got caught in Leo’s throat as he read about Guang Hong threatening a mermaid which had scaled the ship, jabbing at it with the knife that Leo had gifted him. Only to later discover that the mermaid was actually a welcome guest on board, unlike himself.

Halfway through the ridiculous tales that could only come from Guang Hong, Leo’s vision blurred and he had to stop, to wipe his eyes and catch his breath. Guang Hong complained about the ship, about the food, about how much work he had to do and about how boring it was in the same sentence, about how he was sore to the bone, about being seasick, about being homesick, but he was alive. Alive and well enough to complain. Somehow his sweet, spoiled Guang Hong was surviving life on board a pirate ship.

The letter mentioned a siren, without doubt the same one that had destroyed the city, with Guang Hong insisting on a theory that it was controlling the ship with a miniature army of birds.

The macaw which had requested for the door to be opened perched on the edge of Leo’s work bench, her beak chipping at the wood. The attractive young man on whose shoulder she had ridden was occupying himself by frittering around the forge, footsteps light but a bit clumsy in the oversized boots he was wearing. He had yet to speak a single word. It was the parrot who had instructed Leo to, “read, read!” once the letter was delivered. 

Leo was at a bit of a loss. He doubted that the pirate ship was anywhere nearby, even more than he doubted the parrot’s ability to deliver a letter on her own. If Leo squinted, the siren’s description could match the man curiously inspecting a rack of newly made swords, the blades of which had yet to be sharpened. Yet, Guang Hong and the words of those in the city who had seen it told of a creature dripping in blood, with vicious claws, whose voice could coerce men into taking their own lives without hesitation.

What Leo saw before him was a timid specimen, that poked at metal with hands wrapped inside socks that had finger holes ripped into where toes should go.  His breeches were rolled up to above his boots, the vest he wore was inside out, his shirt misbuttoned, hat on sideways. Leo would have suspected a drunk getting dressed in the dark, if he weren’t extremely attentive, with brown eyes that sparkled with curiousity as he explored.

“I-… this is from Ji?” Leo risked, clearing his throat. “From Guang Hong? He’s okay?”

The man’s head snapped up, hat nearly tumbling off. He readjusted it, angle at which it sat precarious. He nodded. Leo caught sight of odd black markings speckled around his ears. 

“How did you find me? Did he tell you where to bring this?”

The parrot answered, taking a break from chewing on the table. “Victor! Victor!”

“Nikiforov?”

Both the parrot and the man nodded their heads.

Leo leaned back, a pressure in his chest pushing out against his ribcage. Guang Hong had challenged the world’s most infamous pirate, as a result saving Jean-Jacques’ life. And had apparently ended up taken in by his crew, liked enough to be permitted to send a letter via… “Are you the siren?”

The dark-haired man put a finger to his lips, small smile indicating a secret.

Leo glanced back down at the letter, rereading the lines in which Guang Hong detailed his efforts to defeat the siren controlling the ship with no success. Leo looked at the siren, in its rather ridiculous clothing, then back at the letter, and then back at the siren. The siren blinked. Leo did the same.

He could not even begin to understand. “You didn’t… you haven’t eaten him, have you?”

Brows furrowed in confusion, the siren shook his head. His parrot supplimented in a way that was not quite helpful. “Can’t eat the crew. Don’t eat the crew, Yuuri! Don’t eat the crew!”

Leo was not sure if it was appropriate to sigh in relief. Folding the letter, he tucked it into his apron pocket, glancing around. “Would you mind taking a letter back to him?”

With a shrug of his shoulders, the siren mimed writing. Leo rushed off to find paper and ink, stealing sheets from the front of the forge to scrawl out a hasty response. He nearly spilled the ink all over the table, causing the parrot to flap her wings and squawk at him in irritation before once again returning to chewing on wood. 

Leo hesitated, eyes on the parrot. “Oh, are you…” He had no idea how long they had flown. “Are you hungry? Can I give her something?” he asked the siren.

A nod granted him permission and Leo left, returning with some crackers and hard cheese. The parrot snatched them up, her beak making quick work of the food. Leo watched her for a moment, before noticing the siren’s gaze intently trained on the falling crumbs. 

“Did you want some too?”

The siren nodded again, his bird following it up by lifting one of her legs, talons wrapped around part of the biscuit, “Yuuri wants a cracker!”

Leo fetched the siren his own share of crackers. The thanks was unnecessary, evident as he tore into the food. So much for man eater. With both parrot and siren happily munching away, Leo sat down to write.

It was surreal. For the last couple weeks, Guang Hong had been a mourned memory, and within minutes he had become…

Leo smiled, addressing the letter to Pirate Ji.

Chapter Text

Crackers still puffing up his cheeks, Yuuri accepted a wax-sealed letter and dipped his head in thanks.

When he had first joined Victor’s crew, he had been on edge and unease, the experience of living amongst so many humans completely foreign. Yet, day by day, they had welcomed him in, adjusting to Yuuri’s customs just as he had to adjust to theirs. It had not been easy, for him to let go of thinking humans as prey, existing only for his gain, to seeing them as somewhat of a new family. Humans weren’t that bad though. Some of them, anyway. He had come to enjoy quite a few things about them. Like their crackers.

Watching the new tiny human who had snuck on board try to adjust to the life had been fun. Yuuri had a bet with Chris that he wouldn’t make it. And a bet with Emil that he would. He would get a new toy boat out of it either way. Yuuri smiled to himself.

“Thank you,” the human who had previously introduced himself as Leo said. Lutz had taken a liking to him after the gift of food, permitting him to rub the top of her head with a finger. “Please, please take care of Ji. I know he can be a bit much sometimes, but he’s a good person. And he’s very smart, when his head isn’t in the clouds. I just want him to stay safe.”

Yuuri would make no promises. But observing Guang Hong had been entertaining, especially how he jumped whenever one of the birds got close to him. Yuuri may or may not have been egging his chicklets on, encouraging them to try to steal food from the newcomer. And Yuuri was curious to see how long he could survive aboard the ship. The longer it was, the more fun for Yuuri.

With a chirp, Yuuri saluted in imitation of the soldiers he had seen, knocking his hat off. He snatched it up and plopped it back on his head. He did not like it. But Victor usually put hats on him when they went to shore, so Yuuri had followed the pattern. He was quite excited to show his mate the disguise he had gotten, all by himself. It was very good. Very human. Boots and gloves and all. 

Yuuri tapped his own shoulder and Lutz flew to him, perching herself there. He had carried her for only about half their flight, both of them enjoying the leisure of a longer journey, a chance for the proper stretching of wings. With the response letter tucked away, however, Yuuri was eager to get back home to his ship.

A little more than a day apart and his heart was already pining for Victor. No doubt his silver hair would be messy without Yuuri there to tend to it. Yuuri would need to spend extra time brushing it out and braiding it, to make up for his sudden absence.

Leo saw him to the door, checking outside first to ensure that the coast was clear, before holding it open for Yuuri. Much appreciated. Yuuri nudged at Lutz’s wing feathers. “Thank you!” she squawked for him. Leo echoed back with a “you’re welcome” and stayed at the door, watching the two of them walk away, headed for the harbor.

The night was warm, but the city streets quieter than they had been when Yuuri had come with Victor for the festival. Yuuri was tempted to explore, as his only experience with human cities had always been accompanied by Victor. But he could tell that Lutz was tired and he was itching in the stolen clothing. There was no way he was going to get his wings out without ripping them, but a sacrifice was a sacrifice. 

Yuuri chirped to Lutz as they approached the ocean, making sure she was ready to fly. She ruffled her feathers in response. Smiling, Yuuri peeled the glove-things off his hands, the marks on his skin rippling into feathers. He had grown used to keeping his wings and feathers contained, living in the restricted space of the ship, but letting them free was always a welcome relief.

His wings ripped through the shirt after all, slipping rather uncomfortably out of the vest sleeves. Yuuri would have removed the clothing entirely, if he hadn’t wanted to get his praise from Victor at doing so brilliantly picking out an outfit for himself.

Stretching, Yuuri wiggled to get adjusted to the feel of the restrictive fabric, testing the movement of his wings.

A yelp sounded behind him.

“S-s-siren… Siren. The siren! You’re the siren!”

Glancing over his shoulder, Yuuri saw the uniform colors of a soldier, whose face was painted with fear, a cocked rifle trembling in his hands.

“H–”

Yuuri lunged, claws out, ripping out the man’s throat before his shout could resonate. He collapsed, gurgling cry muffled by a mercifully quick death.

Dropping the fistful of flesh, Yuuri looked down at himself, at the blood splattered over his clothing. How disappointing. He had really wanted to show off his new clean clothes to Victor. He had been so careful when getting them, and now this.

Yuuri turned back to the sea and took flight, pouting heavily at the parrot on his shoulder in the hopes of receiving a chirp of sympathy.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong remembered a story that his uncle had once told him, about the voyages he took at sea. That the oceans were full of creatures that thirsted for human blood and were far stronger than men, created to hunt and overpower sailors. Yet, every creature had its weakness. And, according to Guang Hong’s uncle, all of the sea beasts shared one. 

Guang Hong had spent his every waking moment on his plan, searching the ship for silks only to find them in the siren’s nest. Peculiar, but perhaps it kept them there so that no one else would have access. For three days, Guang Hong shredded and twisted the fabric into ropes, weaving a net large enough to catch the siren like the bird that it was.  

Before the spring, foreign merchants would usually come to the city, peddling various wares. Some had sold silk ropes, promising that they were the only material strong enough to contain the vile beasts of the sea. Guang Hong’s uncle had told him story of catching a mermaid on a line of silk, and how it had held despite its thrashing when all other ropes broke.

Guang Hong would catch the siren and silence it, breaking the spell over the ship. Silverlock had grown glum, regularly spending time with his eyes on the horizon, watching for the siren’s return. One of the parrots had vanished too, the other two circling the ship, keeping everyone under their vigilant gaze.

The high noon sun was hidden behind thick clouds when the parrots began yelling, loud squawks catching attention of everyone on deck. Guang Hong’s breath seized in his lungs, pulse stammering. The ship had been moving slowly, wind filling the sails and ebbing away, but Guang Hong knew this was the only chance he would get. Another week under the siren’s influence and he might be as gone as the rest of them.

Checking the sheathed knife on his hip, Guang Hong jumped, climbing as fast as he could to the crow’s nest. He had hidden the silk net in it, under the siren’s other bedding. From his observations, the siren almost always circled the ship before landing and that was where his best shot was.

The wind picked up and Guang Hong had to keep his grip strong, not permitting himself even a split second of fear. If he wanted to be a proper pirate, he could not be scared of heights. His eyes momentarily dipped down, showing the drop beneath him. He forced them back up again. He saw the shadow of the siren, breaking through the clouds and heading straight for the ship.

Guang Hong gritted his teeth and climbed higher, reaching the nest. He reached in, grabbing the silk net from within, and turned, steadying his feet on the mast rigging.

The siren grew closer, its wings spread to full width as it soared. Guang Hong adjusted his hold on the net, eyes narrowing as he waited for his chance. Just a bit nearer was his adventure. The Great Pirate Ji versus a siren. He’d teach it to steal his letters.

Guang Hong counted his heartbeats, breathing deep and slow. The siren approached, flash of color tucked into its collar. It was not in its usual bejeweled black robes, and Guang Hong could see the copper of dried blood staining the shirt it wore. Had it murdered someone simply to steal clothes?

Closer, closer. Guang Hong met its eyes as it swooped in, circling the mast. It locked gazes with him and Guang Hong saw its lips parting, as if to speak. With a shout, Guang Hong threw the silk-made net.

Everything happened in a split second. The siren’s voice sounded out, a panicked cry, its wings beating forward to twist away from the net. The force of the wind it generated ripped the silk from Guang Hong’s hands and knocked him backwards, his footing slipping.

Guang Hong fell, yelling, legs kicking and arms flailing, from the top of the mast. There was no rigging under him, no nets to catch him as he plummeted. In the final moment, he squeezed his eyes shut, bracing himself for impact.

Instead of his back slamming and breaking on the deck below, he was rammed sideways. Gasping, Guang Hong clenched his jaw, the pain of the sudden jolt pulsing through his arm. But he did not hit wood. Instead, he felt like he had kept falling, an arm wrapped around his back, another hooking under his legs. There was the sensation of the pit of his stomach falling out, swept up with breeze fast against his cheek.

Guang Hong cracked open an eye and saw the green and blue feathered face of a macaw, peeking out from within messy folds of blood-stained fabric. “Stow-way!” the parrot squawked right at him, chortling to herself. 

He glanced up further, seeing the beautiful stretch of the siren’s neck, the wind-rustling black feathers spilling down its jawline. Guang Hong was in the arms of the siren, being flown in a short loop around the ship before it landed at the helm, carefully setting him down.

Guang Hong trembled, his knees weak, legs shaking and ready to give out. His tongue was tied, lost somewhere down his throat. The siren’s eyes swept over him, checking for injuries. Guang Hong cradled his arm, elbow sore from where the siren had bowled into him, catching him in the moment before he hit the deck.

A scowl sat heavy on its features as the siren carefully lifted its parrot out from her riding spot inside its shirt, chirping to her. She ruffled her feathers, holding her wings out in display before it gave her a satisfied nod. She flapped away, still squawking “stow-way” accusingly at Guang Hong.

Guang Hong stared as the siren adjusted in its new clothing, at a loss for what to say. Its eyes came up to meet his again, the deep brown burrowing into his soul. Then its attention snapped, drawn to the shout of Silverlock calling out its name.  

Half the crew had gathered on the deck, coming up to the helm to see what the commotion was in regards to.

“What happened?”

“Freckles fell.”

“What were you doing up there?!”

Stammering, Guang Hong shrunk back, faced by a group of pirates with their focus trained specifically on him. The siren had caught him, it had saved him.  Silverloc–Victor was at its side, having caught it in an embrace the moment they were within arms reach. It nuzzled into his chest, all warmth and affection followed by a look of irritation when it caught sight of the unkempt state of the captain’s silver hair. Oh. Oh.

Without warning, Yurio rounded on him, jabbing at Guang Hong’s chest, his face split in anger. “Idiot! Are you thick, are you delusional?! Did you really just try to catch him?!”

Guang Hong stumbled back, holding his hands up in defense. “N-no! No, I–”

The silk net Guang Hong had dropped was thrown at his feet.

Chapter Text

Guang Hong shrunk back, trying to make himself as small as possible. He hit a ship wall behind him, trapped against it by pirates. The faces that had previously smiled at him during his time on board were a lot more frightening now.

Pure rage burned off Yurio as he yelled in Guang Hong’s face, spitting accusations. The intricate patterns carved into Mila’s wooden leg suddenly served as knowledge that she must have lost it in battle, yet she still stood tall, pistols flanking her hips, no doubt loaded and ready for use. Chris might have been kind enough to put a little extra of portions on his plate, but now the knives he usually carved fish with could be equally as useful for carving up Guang Hong. Even Emil’s normally gentle face now hinted at the certain plethora of poisonous concoctions he could mix with his supply of herbs and medicine powders.

Guang Hong’s eyes darted around, searching for any way out, an escape. Pressure collected in his throat and in his chest, making it hard to breathe. His chances at survival might be brighter if he could weasel through and dive for the edge. At least on the open sea, he might not– Guang Hong rememebered the mermaid. Which, according to Minami, was the siren’s best friend. He had the choice of becoming siren food or mermaid food, and did not have knowledge about either’s eating habits to make an informed decision.

The captain stepped forward, one of the parrots descending to perch on his shoulder. Its eyes bore into Guang Hong, black whereas Victor’s blue pierced straight through him. Guang Hong’s mind flashed back to the image of him driving the knife through JJ’s foot without a second of hesitation, wondering if the same might become of his heart. Ripped out to be served on a platter to the siren. 

“Did you try to catch Yuuri?” The calm steadiness to the words was deceiving.

Guang Hong whimpered. “I-… I wasn’t… I d-didn’t mean–… I thought that… I w-wanted to… I–”

“Answer me!”

“I just wanted to break the spell!” Guang Hong yelled. He had been trying to do good, to help them, to save the ship. “That’s it, that’s all, just that!”

Perplexed faces stared back at him.

“He thinks Yuuri’s got us under some magic, doing his bidding,” Yurio scoffed, arms crossed over his chest, scowl hard. "Even though I told him he wasn’t.“

"Is that it?” Victor asked, head cocked.

Guang Hong nodded, as long and rapidly as he could.

Yuuri approached, sliding a foot out. He carefully touched the silk net with his toes, jerking it toward him. He jumped back, as if indeed scared, before leaning down to inspect it. His eyes went wide and he snatched it up, a soft noise of anguish spilling from him.

The siren held out the net made of his shredded silks, showing it to Victor, before his gaze snapped to Guang Hong. The brown of his eyes was gone, replaced by a deep, blazing red. His feathers spiked, standing on end.

Despite not a single word exchanged between them, Victor seemed to understand the siren entirely. If there had been an ounce of sympathy prior, it vanished.

The captain gazed down at Guang Hong, tall, cold, commanding. “Take him to the brig.”

Guang Hong did not even have the chance to shout out in protest. 

Chapter Text

It was damp in the brig. Damp and dark and cold, and Guang Hong was one thousand percent certain he had seen a rat the size of a chicken. He sat with his knees pulled to his chest, head resting on top of them. He had messed up, and he did not know how badly.

Looking back now, he really should have considered a follow-up plan in case of failure. Kind of hard to do when he did not have a single ally on board. He should have jumped in the ocean. Drowning would be better than becoming a meal for a giant bird. He would at least die with the satisfaction of knowing it was on his own terms, showing rebellion. A shame, that no books would be written about the bravery and perseverance of the Pirate Ji.

Metal scrapped and Guang Hong lifted his head, glimpsing red and yellow. 

Minami slipped toward him, wearing a look of sympathy. He knocked on the side of Guang Hong’s cell, cheeks puffing when their eyes were met. “What were you thinking?!”

Guang Hong’s shoulders dropped. Any lower and they would hit the floor. “I was trying to help. I thought… the siren’s got everyone under the spell of its voice." 

Minami rolled his eyes. "Don’t you think Yuuri would talk a lot more if that were true?! Why is he always so quiet? He never talks! Cause he is really careful about not influencing anyone on accident! There’s no magic!”

“But you said!” Guang Hong leapt up. “You said he had control of Victor! You said everything is different since he came!”

“Yeah! In a good way!” Minami waved his arms. “Victor is way happier now! You saw him when Yuuri was gone, he used to be like that a lot more! There’s no spell, they’re mates. They’re in looooove, that’s the magic.”

Guang Hong blinked. “You just said there was no magic.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Minami groaned, smacking his forehead against the wall.

“Then why is the whole crew okay with him too?!”

“Because Yuuri is nice?” Minami replied, voice picking up volume with his frustration. “See my hair? He dyed it for me! He catches fish for us so we have fresh food. He got Chris’s cat for him!”

“He ate someone on the crew!”

“He deserved it!” Sighing, Minami cleared his throat and straightened himself. “Does anyone here look scared of Yuuri? He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to this ship! We have so much more adventures now, life is better, and we’ve gotten way way way richer! Plus, all the birds!!" 

Before, Minami had told him that any command that Yuuri gave would be obeyed, without resistance. Yet, after weeks on board the ship, the only time the siren had spoken to him was to ask him a couple questions. Guang Hong slumped against the wall. "What are they going to do to me?”

“What happens to everyone who commits a crime, on a ship or not,” Minami said, his tone not offering assurance. “You’re going on trial.”

Chapter Text

Guang Hong was marched out onto the bow of the ship, met by the grim expressions of a collected mass of pirates. He had spent the night in the brig, unable to sleep, shaking with the cold. Minami had brought him food but Guang Hong could not eat, stomach sick with fear.

Maybe they would just put him in a dinghy and tell him to row. Or abandon him on a deserted island and wish him luck with the elements. Guang Hong wondered how long he could last. He knew how to start fires and hunt… in theory. From his books. He knew too many coconuts were not good for his digestion. He could make a net, maybe catch some wildlife. He was useless at fishing, Leo had tried to teach him but that had gone over as well as the one time Guang Hong had tried to strike at hot metal to bend it. He still had the burn marks on his wrist as a reminder.

A space had been cleared, a large barrel squared at the front. Guang Hong stared. Whatever he had been expecting, this was not it.

Atop the barrel sat one of the parrots. Atop the parrot sat a tiny white wig. If Guang Hong squinted, it looked to be made of… cat’s hair. The parrot squawked at him, an appropriately-sized gavel sitting at her feet. From off the side, Guang Hong heard a chirp. The parrot promptly lifted the gavel in one of her claws, smacking it against the barrel.  

“The Honorable Judge Lutz presiding!”

Guang Hong stared longer. She squawked, making him jump.

“Bow before the judge, Freckles!” Someone shouted.

Guang Hong bowed, dipping low, back parallel to the deck. He raked his brain, calling back memories, script on the pages of his text and adventure books, trying to remember anything he could about pirate trial proceedings but he had nothing. Nothing that involved a parrot judge. She had seen his attempt to catch the siren, would that not automatically mean she was biased, that wasn’t fair, he should cry foul. To a parrot. Something told him this trial would not be fairly judged no matter what.

Mila stepped forward, rapping her wooden leg against the side of the barrel to call attention. The parrot judge flapped wings, chattering in disapproval. Mila quickly apologized. “The defendant has been accused of attempting the capture of our siren Yuuri. How does he plead?”

All eyes turned to Guang Hong. An elbow dug into his back, pushing him forward. Guang Hong stumbled, before the parrot’s judging beady eyes. “Ummm…”

“Ummm!” Mila repeated.

“Ummm!” Lutz squawked in confirmation. “Ummm!”

“No, that’s not what I meant–” Guang Hong realized there was no use trying. A parrot had more sway in this case than him. He was doomed. 

“The defendant may make an opening statement. Proceed!”

What was he supposed to say? There had been several times when Guang Hong had been urged by his parents to attend the trials of accused criminals, which had taken place in their city. Family entertainment. He had always declined, taking the chance to instead spend time at the forge. Why had he not gone, just once? How helpful would it have been for a situation like this. “I… I thought I was helping.”

“And the prosecution!” Heads all turned, to where Victor stood, Yuuri at his side. Victor shook his head. Mila proceeded. “Judge Lutz?”

The parrot was busy preening the feathers under one of her wings. Mila cleared her throat. Lutz continued preening. Yurio whistled. Lutz jerked up, whistling back.

Guang Hong was not sure what it was supposed to mean.     

Victor stepped forward, his sleeves rolled up. Guang Hong noticed that his hair was immaculate again, thickly woven braid shining under the sun. Black feathers were dispersed throughout it. Guang Hong had to admit, seeing him beside a proud-looking siren now, they kinda made a cute couple. Silverlock was probably too tall for Guang Hong anyway. Shame.

“Freckles, is it true that you tried to catch Yuuri?”

Guang Hong glanced toward the siren again, who had his arms crossed over his chest. He was back in his usual robes, the gems at his shoulder and hips sparkling. “I-… I did.”

“Explain your reasons.”

Guang Hong had spent his sleepless night reflecting, letting Minami’s words sink in. All of the signs he had taken to mean that Yuuri was influencing the ship could be a bit of a stretch. Well, most of them. He still could not figure out the explanation behind seeing the captain on his knees before the siren, kissing his feet… But maybe that was a personal thing.

“I was under the impression that… that he was controlling the ship with siren magic, against the will of the crew,” Guang Hong muttered. “So I thought if I caught him and silenced him, I could break the spell…”

A murmur went around the crew, and the hint of the smile that had been playing at the corners of Victor’s lips was swept away. “What do you mean silence him?”

“I-…” Guang Hong wanted to shrink again, disappear out from under the piercing blue. “I was gonna… I was gonna shove silk in his mouth and keep him from talking!”

A pause, and then laughter rang out, echoing through the sails of the ship. Victor smirked, brows arched in mild amusement. “That’s it?”

“That’s it! Sirens are weak against silk, aren’t they?! It’s weird he kept it in his nest, but that’s it!”

“You were going to gag him and hope that broke whatever spell you thought he had us all under?”

“Yes?” Guang Hong tried. “And if it wasn’t enough, put my hand over his mouth?”

“You were going to put your hand over his mouth?”

“Both of them,” Guang Hong corrected.

Even the siren laughed that time.

Victor did not do a good job of keeping his own smile contained. “A wicked plot indeed. There is another issue at hand.” The captain glanced over his shoulder. The siren scowled, making a continuing motion with his hands. Victor faced Guang Hong again. “Do you admit to stealing from Yuuri’s nest?”

Not like Guang Hong could deny it. It would be easy enough to see if they retained the net, as shredded as the silks were. “Yes.”

“There we have it then. Guilty pleas on all counts. Judge Lutz, your sentence, please?”

Guang Hong looked back at the parrot, whose wig had slipped halfway off her head. She ruffled her feathers, spreading her wings out in display. “Cracker! Wanna cracker!”

Guang Hong’s eyes went wide.

The siren glared, chirping at her. Judge Lutz seemed to deflate, fumbling with the tiny gavel.

Then with a loud squawk, she banged it against the barrel, delivering Guang Hong’s sentence. “The plank! Walk the plank!"  

Guang Hong’s heart dropped into his stomach. Well, at the very least, it was not to become siren food…

Chapter Text

Guang Hong had been under the impression that plank walking would have involved being blind folded and tied up, or having a cannonball strapped to his feet. Insurance, to guarantee that he did not bob like a cork in the water. Instead, he was pushed to the plank as is.

The moment after he received his sentencing from the Honorable Parrot Judge Lutz, Otabek had laid one down, stretching out from the starboard side, weighted at the end. Guang Hong’s daydreams of running across it to board another ship in ambush were shattered. He probably had an hour of strength in his arms before they gave out, and that was if the sea was calmed and no mermaids came to drag him under.

Wood thin beneath his no-longer cleanly polished shoes, Guang Hong gulped as he looked down into the water. No flashes of scarlet gold were visible beneath the deep blue. Waves flirted at the side of the ship below. Not too rough. He was not a strong swimmer, but he could float.

Guang Hong scanned the horizon, desperately hoping for a glimpse of land. They had been at sea for close to three weeks, surely, surely they had to be close to a coast. How long did pirate ships even stay at sea? Guang Hong had thought there would be a lot more plundering involved. 

He inched forward, feeling a tiny bit of pride in himself as he was able to glance over the edge of the plank and not feel queasy. His fear of heights had been fixed by his numerous climbs up to the crow’s nest. More than he could have expected for himself. He had one accomplishment under his belt, small as it might be. He could die knowing that. Guang Hong paused.

Behind him, the parrot squawked again, banging her tiny gavel repeatedly. “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!”

The plank dipped, bending under his weight as he approached the end. This was actually happening. The feeble adventures of the pirate Ji, about the plunge into the sea. He wondered what had become of his letter to Leo. The siren had stolen it and– Guang Hong stiffened. The siren had stolen it after asking him questions about Leo and disappeared for several days. And came back, wearing odd clothes. Well, odd for him. Splattered in blood. Had he… had he taken the letter to Leo? Was that Leo’s blood?!

Guang Hong wheeled around, ready to launch himself back onto the ship. His heel slipped from under him and he smacked down onto the plank, bouncing off over the side of it. His fingers grasped at the edges and he clung on, literally, for dear life. His legs kicked under him, finding no purchase. 

Heads popped up over railing of the ship, watching him. “Let go, Freckles. Might not sound like it, but letting go is part of walking the plank,” Chris drawled, amusement heavy in his voice.

“Personally, I don’t think that was a fair trial!” Guang Hong shouted, grasping for a better hold. If only he had Leo’s nice arms, he could have pulled himself up already. “The judge was biased! And I had no representation! I don’t think the law would allow for a parrot judge. I call foul!”

“We’re on open water, Victor’s word in the law. And he appointed a parrot judge. That’s how it works.”

“The captain is apparently married to the plaintiff, also not fair!” Guang Hong tried, his muscles already burning. He was hopeless. All the work he had done on the ship and none of that had helped build the appropriate muscle group for his perilous situation. “Also! Also! The siren stole from me too! He stole my letter! He stole my letter and killed my friend! Doesn’t that count for something? I was provoked!”

Guang Hong went quiet when the siren’s head peaked over as well. His dark eyes narrowed, beautiful face disrupted by a scowl. Okay, maybe it was not smart to provoke the siren. Maybe he would convince the parrot to change the sentence. Guang Hong could still end up as siren chow.

From within his robes, the siren pulled forth neatly folded pages, sealed by wax. Guang Hong’s grip nearly slipped, because he recognized the forge’s insignia. He had gifted the stamp to Leo, not long after they had become friends. That meant… that meant… Guang Hong’s brain worked overtime, trying to string everything together.

“Yuuri didn’t steal it, he delivered it,” Victor called, an arm draped over the siren’s shoulders. “That blood wasn’t your friend’s, it was due to Yuuri having to defend himself, at the risk of his kindness toward you.”

Oh. Guang Hong stared at the letter, pristine and in tact. Unlike the silks that Guang Hong had stolen, out of the siren’s personal nest, and destroyed. For the purpose of trying to trap the siren and silence him. Okay, now he felt guilty. Walking the plank was a light sentence. And just like the main character in a thrilling adventure, Guang Hong needed to face it straight-on, with his head held high.

Guang Hong tipped his chin up. “I’m sorry,” he said, relenting.

Shutting his eyes, Guang Hong took a deep breath to fill his lungs and let go, plunging into the water. 

Chapter Text

The water closed in around him, growing darker and deeper as Guang Hong let himself sink. All in all, he really was not surprised that he was meeting his end. From the moment he had made the decision to go after the pirate ship, it should have been an expectation.

Death was somehow an absent theme in his adventure books, outside of the nameless faces that were simply unnoticed collateral. Yet, in reality… well, this was reality. Death by parrot sentencing. He could hope that someone would make note of it, maybe Minami, so that he could have a humorous mark on history.

Poor Leo though. Guang Hong had wondered if Leo would have assumed he had died chasing after adventure, only to receive a letter via siren to be informed otherwise. And here he was, dead anyway, without getting the chance to say goodbye to his best friend.

He was curious to see what Leo had written back to him, if the letter the siren had actually was his. Guang Hong imagined a long, sweeping confessional. About how Leo’s life was boring and without adventure since his dear pirate Ji had vanished in search of his own.

Guang Hong’s lungs began to burn.

Did he not get some sort of last request? Was that part of it? Last meal would not make any sense, because the food on the ship was something Guang Hong could live–or die– without. But he did want that letter.

Salt stung at his eyes when he opened them. The depth of the water had begun blocking out the light, soft rays of sunlight shining through. Guang Hong twisted himself around and kicked, pushing for the surface. 

The sea was bottomless beneath him, the cold of it chilling his skin. Salt slipped between his lips, biting at his tongue. His vision blurred, chest screaming, telling him to open his mouth and breathe. Guang Hong’s fingertips strained for the surface, reaching out, stretching, as if he could grasp on and pull himself up to air.

Darkness flashed, the light above him extinguished. He wasn’t going to make it. 

The water broke, plunging in around him. Waves, bubbles crashed against him, thrashing at him. He was ripped from the sea, shoulders seized by a sudden pressure.

Guang Hong coughed, droplets filling his mouth along with the sweet taste of oxygen. He was flying again.

The siren had plucked him out of the water, claws digging into Guang Hong’s shoulders, carrying him back onto the ship. He was let down a lot less gently, dropped onto the deck from a height up enough to make his ankles twinge when he landed.

Sopping wet and shivering, Guang Hong wiped the sea water from his face, sweeping his bangs from his eyes. He spat out sea water, coughing to clear his lungs, and was met by laughter.

Someone knocked him on the back, someone else ruffled his hair. He glimpsed Minami, not far off, trying to adjust Lutz’s wig while she flapped him off, squawking in refusal. The rest of the crew dispersed, chuckling in good humor.

The shadow of wings overcame him again and Guang Hong stiffened, flinching in expectation. The silk net was dropped into his lap. Followed by the sealed letter. Guang Hong grasped for it, cradling it to his chest, and gazed up to meet the siren’s glare.

Yuuri hmphed and strolled away, his wing retreating into the tattoo markings on his back. 

Guang Hong sat, weak and in disbelief, on the deck of the ship. Water dripped off his clothes and his hair, splattering onto the pages in his hands. Carefully, he peeled off the wax seal and deposited it into his pocket, hands shaking as he unfolded the letter.

His eyes scanned the lines, in Leo’s imperfect handwriting, the warmth of the forge flowing off the ink. His vision blurred again as he reached the end, more droplets rolling off his cheeks, the splashes disrupting the words written.

PS. I think the siren seems easily tamed by crackers

Choked up, Guang Hong cried openly, holding the letter away from himself so he would not ruin the pages any further.

Victor strolled by, nudging at Guang Hong’s legs with the heel of his boot. “Get back to work. You’ve got a heavy debt to pay off now.”

Chapter Text

Victor felt as if he were no longer solid, but floating like a newly formed cloud unweighted by rain. The last time they had gone to a market together, Yuuri had come springing back to him, shimmering in his excitement. He had bought a beautiful brush for Victor’s hair, for the days when it became unruly enough that Yuuri could not comb it with his fingers. He was making well use of the gift.

The firm bristles massaged at Victor’s scalp along with the gentle movement of Yuuri’s fingers as he sectioned Victor’s hair, brushing root to tip. Victor laid with his head in Yuuri’s lap, eyes closed, never not appreciating how Yuuri doted on him.

Yuuri always took his time when he tended to Victor’s hair and Victor never rushed him. Sometimes Victor would talk, telling Yuuri stories, answering any of the questions that Yuuri traced onto his biceps. Sometimes Yuuri would hum, inventing melodies, weaving tunes until words began to spill into a song.

That night, Yuuri had sung to Victor about a river made of flowing moonlight, incorporating lines about the stubbornness of pebbles that blocked its current whenever his brush snagged on a tangle in Victor’s hair. Yuuri’s affection and spotted irritation burrowed into his chest with the magic of the siren’s music, and Victor never wanted it any other way. 

Lashes fluttering open, Victor gazed up at Yuuri. The cutest focus furrowed Yuuri’s brows as he separated sections of Victor’s hair, undoubtedly trying to decide how he was going to braid them for that night. His ear feathers were out and they twitched as Yuuri scowled at himself, displeased with whatever concept he had come up with. Victor had to laugh.

“Yuuri…” Reaching up, he brushed his knuckles along one of Yuuri’s cheeks, smiling when Yuuri immediatly nuzzled in. “Lovebird, I was wondering… Do you… did you have a family? How do sirens grow up? Were you always alone before me?”

The play of Yuuri’s fingers faultered, his ministrations settling. He shook his head, tracing his response over the curve of Victor’s shoulder. I have a family.

“They’re sirens like you?”

Yuuri nodded, returning to tending Victor’s hair.

“Were they a good family to you?”

Smiling, Yuuri slipped his fingers between silver strands, crossing the sections one over the other. “Yes. They taught me almost everything I know,” he spoke quietly, his voice hushed. “How to hunt, how to sing, how to navigate at night by mapping the stars.”

Victor closed his eyes, greedy for how sweetly Yuuri’s voice sounded in his ears. Yuuri speaking was always his greatest treasure and he did not want to miss a syllable. “Were you a good child?”

Yuuri hummed in consideration. “Sometimes. I often got in trouble for trying to do too much, especially when I was with my sister. I tried to fly to the moon once, because I thought it was close enough that I could reach it. She didn’t tell me otherwise.”

Victor’s eyes snapped open. “You have a sister?”

“An older sister. Mari,” Yuuri replied, fingers deft at turning the shining sheet of Victor’s hair into a neat braid, loose enough for him to sleep with comfortably but tight enough not to unravel into a messy nest by morning. “When I was little, she would often encourage me to do all the things that my parents said I shouldn’t.”

Victor clutched at his chest, hands bunched over his Lovebird tattoo.

Yuuri blinked curiously, brown eyes wide.

“My heart,” Victor cooed, dropping the back of one hand against his forehead in imitation of a swoon. “The idea of a tiny siren Yuuri. So cute. Did you have little wings and adorably chubby cheeks?”

Laughing, Yuuri blushed, his ear tufts twitching again. He nodded.

Victor awwwed himself into oblivion, fidgeting and promising to commission Minami to sketch him such a deathly cute image, gushing about how sweet Yuuri’s childhood chirps must have sounded until Yuuri ordered him still. Victor obeyed, still smiling wide, and pressed Yuuri for stories.  

Chapter Text

The fishing line that Yurio had cast out onto the sea had remained motionless for nearly two hours. He laid on his back, one arm draped over his eyes to block out the sun, the other cradling the back of his head. He had the line between his toes, drifting in and out of a light doze, waiting for the tug. Sea gods be damned if he didn’t get some fresh food. No amount of teeth-breaking biscuits were gonna be good enough today.

The ocean breeze ghosted across his cheek, fluttering at his hair, but other than the drag caused by the forward speed of the ship, no fish came to nibble. His stomach, however, grumbled.

Spitting out a curse, Yurio jerked himself up to yell profanities at the water. He was met by a faceful of feathers, Axel’s wing smacking across his face. Yurio collapsed back onto the wood, groaning at his luck. No fish. Slapped by a bird as she flew down to land beside him. He peeked up to make sure the parrot had not been hurt by his sudden movement.

Axel’s black eyes stared back at him, her face upside down. She had landed right where he laid, her foot coming up to tap at his head repeatedly, claws snagging on his hair. She was asking for something.

“I didn’t catch any yet!” Yurio told her, his arms falling on either side with a heavy thump of indignation. Axel squawked, her wings beating at the top of his head. “I know, okay! I’m trying. What do you want from me?!”

Axel stepped back, her little claws clattering against the wood. She spread her wings out, the vivid red and blues of her feathers on display. Yurio watched her curiously, still upside down, biting the inside of his cheek when she jumped in a circle, squawking. “Happy birt-day! Happy birt-day!”

Yurio’s eyes blew up to the size of cannonballs. He rolled over, ducking his head when the other two parrots descended on him. Lutz landed beside Axel, while Loop crashed onto his shoulder, screeching, “Happy birt-day!” right into his ear. She then flew off, bouncing over to join her sisters.

Yurio sat up, cross-legged, watching the parrots flap at each other, their wings a kaleidoscope of color as they chattered, whistling and dropping half-formed words.

The sweet chirp of a siren vibrated across the deck and Yurio saw Yuuri, off to the side, his focus trained on his girls. The triplets squawked at one another, and shuffled around, wingtip to wingtip. They hopped in a circle, rotating in imitation of a lively dance, their voices melding together as they sang.

“Happy birt-day to you! Happy birt-day to you! Happy birt-day, YURIO!” Axel squawked in punctuation at his name, throwing off their rhythm. Her sisters yapped at her in irritation before finishing off the tune, loud and crass in their attempts for their voice to be heard above the other’s. Yuuri face-palmed behind them. “Happy birt-day to you!”

One of the chickens scampered up to Yurio, clucking for his attention. Otabek stood above, a plate with a slice of simple sponge cake on it. Yurio leapt up, excited as his nose tickled at the faint scent of vanilla. 

He threw himself at Otabek, a quick hug before he seized the plate, cheeks stuffed with a mouthful of cake far too moist to be coming from a pirate ship galley. The next second, he had parrots on both shoulders and one on his head, all twittering and begging for a piece. Glaring at Axel’s attempt to dive in beak first, Yurio gave each of them pinches of sponge once Yuuri had nodded his approval.

As Yurio finished off his cake, Victor walked by, ruffling his hair with a teasing chuckle about the crumbs on his shirt. Yurio slapped his hand away just as Victor set down a pair of boots.

They were tall, would stop just below his knees if he stepped in. Black leather. Yurio tried hard not to stare at the heels. If he wore thick socks, they would add at least a couple centimeters to his height. Patterns were stitched into them, pitch black thread slashing claw marks down the side, like those of a furious tiger.

“I think we got the right size,” Victor said, casual with a shrug of his shoulders. “Try them on.”

Yurio all but jumped in, his feet plunging into the boots, hands helping tug them into place. They starkly contrasted his clothes and the wood of the deck, dark and beautiful. “Fucking cool,” Yurio muttered, twisting around to inspect them from every angle. 

Victor laughed. “Don’t wear them out too fast.”

Yurio got a brush for the boots from Emil, a new knife from Mila. Minami gifted him a sketch, of Yurio with Axel sitting on his head, the both of them happily munching away on cake. He rolled it up carefully so it would not crease.

And from the ocean, a large splash was followed by several fish flying up and over the side, pelting Yurio’s feet. Phichit dragged himself up the side of the ship, grinning pridefully at his delivery. “Heya! I’ve been informed we are celebrating! Paaaaarty time!”

Yurio swallowed the lump building in his throat, staying tough as he croaked out a genuine, “Thank you,” to everyone before he was whisked away to where others set up their instruments, clearing enough space so that Yurio could try out his new boots dancing in his own honor. 

Chapter Text

“Yuuri, Yuuri stop! Baby bird, listen to me!” Hiroko’s attempts to calm her son were unsuccessful. She grabbed his ankles, keeping him from flapping away. Yuuri’s growing wings beat madly, slapping at his mother’s hands but unable to break free of her solid grip. “Yuuri, wait!”

“No! I don’t– I don’t want to!” Yuuri cried, voice breaking as he gulped down large breaths of air to fight back collecting tears. “Don’t… don’t leave me. Don’t leave me here alone! I wanna go! I wanna go with you!”

Hiroko fought to bring her son into her arms, cradling him close, running a soothing hand over his hair. “This is Mari’s trip, Yuuri. Your father and I need to watch her. We need to make sure she stays safe, okay, baby bird? You need to wait here for us, so you can be safe too, okay?”

“I want to go! I can keep her safe too! I’m really good, I’m really good!” Droplets ran down Yuuri’s cheeks, eyes puffing up red as he rubbed them.

Gently shushing him as he sobbed, Hiroko carried Yuuri back to the center of their nest. She picked up a blanket, draping it over her son.

Tugging the blanket over his head, she rocked him to a softly chirped melody. Yuuri’s tears faded with his mother’s song, hiccups calmed into her chest as his eyes slipped shut.

Yuuri fell asleep nestled in the covers. His mother tucked him in tightly and set him down to rest. “You’ll get to go soon, baby bird,” she muttered, stroking his head. “I know you’ll be fantastic once you’re old enough. You’re already so talented. Your first hunting trip will come soon too.”

The tear streaks glittered off Yuuri’s cheeks as she kissed them, making sure he was safe and secure. He stayed that way until they returned, dozing lightly, awoke by Mari’s celebratory shouts.

Yuuri wiggled out of the blankets, running straight into his mother’s arms. He stared, eyes blown up and still a bit puffy, at the streaks of blood on Mari’s face and clothes. Her feathers were bathed in red and she wrote it proudly. Yuuri’s jaw dropped open. “How many?”

“Half,” Mari shrugged. “Mom said that’s really impressive for my first time.”

Yuuri nodded, eager for when he would have his chance, even if it was still years away. He was determined. He would take out a whole ship, all on his own.

Chapter Text

“And how was your first hunt?”

Yuuri’s fingers traced paths like the winding of riverbeds over Victor’s hair. He had finished his routine task of tending to it, the silver braided and tied in a navy blue ribbon. Yuuri had pulled it out of his treasure chest before they’d settled on the bed together. He kept a collection of a countless assortment now, in every color of the rainbow and all the hues in between.

Victor arched, tilting up to give Yuuri space to settle down amongst their nest of pillows. Their clothing had been stripped. Instead they entangled themselves in the silk of their golden sheets. Yuuri very purposefully wrapped Victor and himself in them, protective and fussing, still upset about the condition of those which had been stolen from the crow’s nest.

When Yuuri seemed satisfied, Victor rested against him once more, back to Yuuri’s chest, head idling on Yuuri’s clavicle. Even on nights of the roughest, coldest storms, nothing could make him feel warmer nor safer than his siren’s embrace. Yuuri’s nose buried into the whorl of his hair, nuzzling in. Victor could sink into an eternal bliss so easily like this, cradled by his Yuuri, lulled by his voice.

When Yuuri stayed quiet, Victor did not have to guess what it meant. “Not well?”

A shake of the head behind him.

“Less than half?”

Silence again.

“A quarter?” Nothing. “…One?”

“None,” Yuuri whispered. “None. I killed none.” His loose hold around Victor tightened, hands resting on Victor’s abdomen clutched together. His nails had started to grow into talons, digging into the backs of his own hands, feathers springing off his wrists. Victor slid his hands between them, lacing their fingers together instead. Yuuri’s feathers stilled and retreated into the markings, half-formed claws returning to those of human hands. “Not even one.”

“What happened?” With his thumb, Victor stroked at the rings between the knuckles of Yuuri’s forefinger, giving comfort.

“My voice kept cracking,” Yuuri muttered, face buried into Victor’s hair. His lips brushed at Victor’s scalp as he spoke. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t get out any commands. I got so nervous, all my strength left me and I couldn’t break through the wood of the ship. I just… I kept denting it. That’s it. I couldn’t break through, I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t order them onto rocks or into the water. And then they got their guns out, got their ears covered when they realized what I  was. Mari’s wing got clipped by a bullet, when she flew in to grab me and take me away from there. I was so sure of myself. I was so good, I was so ready, and then I couldn’t even get one…”

Victor turned in Yuuri’s arms, sliding his own up Yuuri’s chest and over his shoulders. He toyed with strands of hair at the nape of Yuuri’s neck, mimicking the gentle tugging that Yuuri could sometimes do when he wanted Victor’s attention on him in the morning. “My first time navigating a ship, I had us sail a day in the wrong direction.”

Just as he suspected, a smile pulled on Yuuri’s lips. “Only a day?”

“I nearly crossed us into another kingdom’s waters and started a war.”

Yuuri laughed, his forehead dropping against Victor’s. “Did you really?”

“No,” Victor confessed, making Yuuri laugh more. “But I still made you feel better, didn’t I?”

Yuuri pecked at Victor’s lips, tugging on his braid in scolding. “I thought back then… I thought, who would want me as a mate? A siren who couldn’t sink a ship.”

“I think the sea was pulling us to each other,” Victor answered. “A siren to a pirate.”

“Like the tide?”

“Like the tide. Except, I never want to recede from you.”

A chirp trilled in Yuuri’s throat, bubbling and sweet. His lashes fluttered, eyes slipping shut, content in their proximity. Victor rested with him, permitting Yuuri time for the memories filling his mind, for the anxieties of the past to be erased by the gift of the present.

When Yuuri’s eyes met his again, Victor had a coy smile teasing his lips, a question sparkling behind his gaze.

Yuuri tilted his head. “What?”

“You use the same blanket trick on the parrots to make them sleep,” Victor observed, the lilt in his voice sly without restraint. He saw the white of Yuuri’s eyes expanding, irises constricting with suspicion. “Does it still work on you?”

“No!”

Before Yuuri could scramble away, Victor had him pinned to the mattress, struggling to get the covers over Yuuri’s head as his siren kicked and wiggled, laughing out protests. Yuuri’s laugh was infectious, filling their cabin as Victor tickled under his ribcage, making Yuuri arch and squirm, gasping out to be released.

Victor got Yuuri all bundled up in the blankets even while his feet still kicked inside the cocoon. Chuckling along with Yuuri’s laughter, he cradled Yuuri against him, the blankets a curtain over his head, and stroked as if ruffling Yuuri’s hair through the material.

The wriggling and kicking stopped. Yuuri slumped against him. Victor leaned forward, to catch a glimpse of Yuuri’s face under the awning made by the covers. It was slack.

Yuuri’s eyes were closed, lips parted, his whole body melted into Victor’s hold. Victor blinked in disbelief. “Yuuri?” It had actually worked.

Murmuring, Yuuri snuggled in further, on the edge of slipping away completely. “Tell me… your stories now…” His words were slow with sleep.

Victor smiled and kissed the top of his bundle of Yuuri. “For you, lovebird, as many as you’d like.”

Chapter Text

The wet mass of puppy in Victor’s arms yipped the moment he had snuck them inside. “Shhhh!” Victor adjusted his grip, the rain-sopped dog wiggling in excitement and too close to slipping out. He needed to get her upstairs and dried, keep her quiet long enough for him to duck into the kitchens and nab something suitable for her to chew on. 

Her tongue lolled out of her mouth, panting as if she could not be happier. Victor shut the door with the heel of his foot. It was an action strictly forbidden, but he could not close it properly when he had his arms full of puppy. Water dripped off her wiry brown fur and off his uniform as he made his way inside, listening carefully for footsteps that were not his own.

It was late afternoon, his schooling for that day finished shortly prior. The house should remain quiet for some time longer. Victor had left his bag behind, leaning against an alley wall, so that he could carry the pup home instead. 

The stairs creaked under Victor’s weight louder than even before. He stopped midway up, again because the puppy had attempted an escape from his hold, thrashing her back. Her paws pedalled in the air, tail smacking at his knees. “Come on, stay still, please,” he begged her, smoothing a hand between her perky ears. She jerked her head up, licking at his fingers, tail thumping away. Victor seized the chance and bounded up the rest of the stairs, rushing down the hallway to reach to his room.

The doorway at the end of the hall opened. Victor froze for a split second, then jolted, eyes darting around for a space to hide or something to dive behind. Unless he was going to flatten himself behind a painting or fit himself into a decorative vase, however, there was nowhere for him to go. 

The poodle took full advantage of his distraction and twisted out of his arms, dropping and scampering across the carpet, trekking rain and mud. Victor started after her, but it was too late. She jumped straight into the richly colored skirts sweeping out into the hall, littering the hem with her muddy footprints, her nails snagging on the cloth.

Victor had a vision of his head rolling, chopped clean off by a guillotine.

The Queen stood tall, her expression as controlled as always, while a dirty street pup darted under and around her dress skirts, barking loud with incriminating joy.

Victor leapt forward, grabbing the dog and holding her tight so that she could not escape again no matter how much she squirmed. “Your Majesty, my deepest apologies, I had no idea you were here!”

Lilia lifted the fabric of her dress, her spine kept straight even as she leaned down to inspect the damage. “And greetings to you, Victor.”

Victor straightened his posture as best as he could while holding the dog, who busied herself licking his chin, yipping between the laps.

“Vitya! I told you this morning, did you forget alread–” Yakov emerged from behind Lilia and stopped at her side. His reddened face gained a deeper shade. “What is that?!”

“A dog, I believe, my dear Yakov,” Lilia responded, her skirts falling back to the floor. “Unless you’re talking about the horrid state of Victor’s clothing.”

Victor’s uniform was soaked through due to the heavy storm outside, pants splattered in mud and the rest of him no better. The dog had knocked his hat off halfway home, and his short hair dripped rainwater into his eyes.

“Vitya!”

Victor gripped the dog to him, protecting her. “I couldn’t leave her! I’ve seen her outside alone every day this month, in the garbage!” He had been saving part of his lunch each day, so that he could toss her scraps when he passed by. “She was shaking and hungry, just let me keep her here until the storm passes, please.”

“There’s no animals in this house!” Yakov snapped, gesturing to the floor, to the mess that the dog and Victor tracked all the way from the entranceway. “You know the rules.”

“You can’t throw her out there!” Victor protested. "I will clean everything myself, I’ll take her back in the morning but she’s going to freeze to death out there. Please, just for tonight!“

"Let him keep it,” Lilia said to Yakov, her head held high, only her sharp green gaze directed down toward Victor and the poodle. “If he can train her to be shipworthy, a dog can be an asset. If not… I’ll permit you to make that judgment.”

Yakov said nothing.

Victor’s heart pounded with the strength of a military march. He clutched what might very well be his new puppy to him, not daring to hold onto hope.

Yakov huffed. “…Might help him learn a bit of responsibility.”

Chapter Text

“You gotta flap harder,” Mari directed, watching her brother from inside the clustered branches of a mango tree. “When you take off, you gotta get all your weight up. Remember like Mom said, about pushing your wings down and not back?”

Yuuri huffed, his cheeks bright red, short pants puffing past his pouty mouth. He had been trying, Mari, thankyouverymuch, but it was impossible! He jumped and flapped his wings–yes, hard, he knew that– only to come straight back down. The grass and foliage beneath him had already stained the soles of his feet green, leaving tiny nicks on his feet and knees onto which he had crashed repeatedly.

Shaking his head clear, Yuuri bit back a sob of frustration and forced his wings to stretch out. They were still so small, so much smaller than Mari’s wings. He was small too though! Mom had told him that Mari had been around the same age when she had first started flying on her own. Now, he could fly for short spurts if someone lifted him into the air and got him going, but he could not figure out how to take off on his own.

Yuuri beat his wings, stirring up dirt and sand, bits of mango skin gusting up around him. He closed his eyes, his face screwed in concentration to flap, flap, flap and– nothing. His toes did not even leave the ground. Throwing his arms around himself in a huff, Yuuri plopped down, muttering bitterness at his wings. They weren’t even colorful like the rest of his family’s. Mari had her pretty mauve mixed in with her reds, and all he got was black. Supposedly, he had a bit of color developing on the tips of his feathers, but he couldn’t see it.

Mari flew down to him, natural as can be, her wings at her complete control. She hovered above him, holding out her arms, palms open in offer. “Come on. I’ll help.”

“No!” Yuuri wanted to fly on his own. He was done with having his parents carry him everywhere. How was he going to hunt ships if he could not fly out to them on his own? If any humans came near their island, he needed to be able to defend the family nest from them. And that included needing to know how to fly!

“I’m not going to pull you,” Mari said, rolling her eyes. “I’m going to hold your hands. That’s it. So you don’t fall and hurt yourself when you go up really high. Okay?”

Yuuri glared at her, trying to do his best impression of their dad when he got angry. Red eyes and all. It did not work. Mari laughed at him.

“Come ooooon. Or I’m going to eat them all. You’ll have to suck on my seeds.” She stuck out her tongue.

Yuuri looked at the mango tree, loaded heavy with beautiful ripe fruits that were just out of his reach. His stomach growled. “Fine! But don’t pull me!” Yuuri grabbed Mari’s hands and stood up, shaking off his wings.

“Angle them down, like Mom showed you,” Mari directed.

Yuuri nodded, watching his own wings as he stretched them out and turned them in. It strained his back, putting on his wing joints in a way that was not comfortable, but his parents had told him that was because he was not used to it yet.

“Big stroke. Up, then hard down,” Mari said, holding Yuuri’s hands tight in her own.

Yuuri lifted his wings and beat them down as hard as he could. Mari’s voice was drowned out by the flush of the wind, but he knew she was telling him to keep going, so he heeded. He raised his wings as smoothly as he could, and flapped hard down, once, twice, his feet left the ground.

Mari’s fingers went around his wrists, gripping on, but she flew back into the air as Yuuri went higher. His wings strained in their work, and he wobbled, dropping a little between the motions, uneven as his right wing flapped a fraction of a bit more than the left, but he was flying, he was flying, “Mari, I’m flying!”

“You’re flying!” His sister laughed, guiding him up and spinning him around. “Yuuri, you did it, you did it!”

Their voices turned to excited chirps, ringing through the trees in glee. Birds of paradise called back to them, singing Yuuri his praises as he beat his way toward the mango tree, letting go of one of Mari’s hands so he could grasp for the fruit.

His wings faltered and he crashed into the tree, saved from falling by Mari’s hold on him. She scolded him and laughed as she pulled him out of a mess of leaves, finding them a sturdy spot in the scaffolding of the branches. They sat together inside the tree, legs swinging, as Mari grabbed ripe mangoes for them, putting three in Yuuri’s lap. He devoured them all, mouth and hands sticky with juice, smile plastered ear to ear. “I’m gonna tell Mom!”

“No, don’t you dare tell Mom!” Mari said, peeling the skin off her own fruit to pluck out parts of the sweet flesh. “You’re not supposed to be trying without them!”

“But I flew, Mari, I flew!”

“Yeah, and if you do it again for her without telling her about this, maybe she’ll let you go see a ship instead of grounding us both!”

Yuuri’s eyes went wide as he realized the genius of Mari’s plot and nodded determinedly. “Good plan. You’re so smart.”

“Yeah,” Mari said proudly. “I know.”

Chapter Text

Victor’s classmates waved to him with enthusiasm before turning away and departing in their usual group, chortling about a joke the topic of which he could not be certain.

They didn’t even ask him that day, or even the whole week before, if he wanted to join them. Not that it mattered. His answers was always the same. A dashing smile and a shake of his head, apologies given when he told them he was too busy. And it was true, he was too busy. Daily classes finished, he had his short bout of freedom on his walk home. Mondays and Thursdays were his fencing classes, Tuesdays and Fridays typically filled by dance. Yakov wanted an officer, Lilia wanted a noble gentleman for the court. Wednesdays were taken by up bookwork, anything less than perfect marks unacceptable.

Victor prided himself in being top of his class. He was the tallest, the most eloquent, and if gossip was true, the most attractive. The most popular. He could snort at that as he walked home on his own, as he did everyday. The most alone. He kept his head high.

The first year he had spent under Yakov’s care, he had been followed by whispers. Orphan. Brat. Mannerless. A classmate had dumped a bucket of soot on his head, laughing that it was a more natural color for his hair. Yakov had scrubbed his scalp raw that night washing out the black, while growling at Victor not to cry about it and to do something. Victor did, emptying a case full of chalk powder onto the boy the next day, with a quip of, “No, my apologies, I thought I’d share my good looks, but you don’t look better at all.” He got suspended. Yakov bought him something called ice cream.

In his second year, the whispers stopped. Then changed completely. He was Captain Feltsman’s boy. Handsome. Talented. So polite. A favorite of the Queen. Boys swapped candies so they could sit next to him in classes. He was invited to parties, to birthdays, to festivals, to dances by girls. He went to none.

Saturdays and Sundays were his hardest days. That was when Yakov took him on ships. His back broke with the labor, mind strained by shouted commands, by the strategy games he could not lose unless he wanted to rig sails on his own. Victor loved being on ships.

The air was not stale like inside the classrooms. The salt bit at his skin, the wind rustled his hair. And if he won his games on Saturdays, on Sundays Makkachin would bounce around his legs on the deck, barking at seagulls until he hushed her. She knew all her commands now, could even help to hoist anchor, growling at the ropes in her teeth as she did. 

When Victor got home to his room, he dropped his school bag at the door and dropped to his knees, holding his arms out. Makkachin plowed into him, her tongue lapping at his face, her front paws over his shoulders. He laughed as he hugged her, scolding her for the kisses she wasn’t allowed to give. He still let her, as the tears rolled down his face until he buried it in her fur, holding tight.

Makkachin nuzzled against him, bumping his cheek with her nose, sniffing at the tips of his hair. It was getting to be overdue for a trim.

Slowly, he uncurled his fingers from her fur, giving her a smile when she licked his nose for good measure. “I know, I know, I’ll wash up,” he said, ruffling the puff of wiry brown at the top of her head. She had gotten so big that she was as tall at him when he knelt.

Victor stood, going to change and splash his face with cold water.

A gentleman could not attend dance classes when not looking his best. 

Chapter Text

The sea crashed upon his rocks, the mist coating his feet. The tide was flowing in, higher and higher, water hiding the jagged nature of the cliff below. Ideal, for shredding the bottoms of ships, sending floods into their bellies. Men would break their bones on his rocks, drown in the strength of the current. Yuuri had found himself a perfect nest, where the wind could fill sails and his wings, where the sea could bring him ships so relieved to be nearing land. Yet no ships had come.

Spring had given way into summer, his mating colors fading as the weather grew rough. Storms had a habit of keeping ships far away, for humans were cowardly and fell too easily to the waves and the winds. If this year was the same as the last, Yuuri’s cliffs would remain bare of bones until the air cooled. He would wait, alone, no mate to dance for and no sails to chase.

At least the sky was beautiful. Yuuri laid with his legs dangling over the edge of the cliff, feeling the spray of the water on his toes. Above him, blue stretched eternal, no clouds disrupting the canvas. Harpies had flown by the day prior, bringing with them the first typhoon of the season. Yuuri had not bothered with them, hoping their conflictless passing would bring him the luck of a ship following the calm of the storm. He had seen no such thing on the horizon all morning.

Closing his eyes, Yuuri sang, his fingers moving absentminded over the strings of his lyre. He sang for a mate who he had not yet found, sang of a life where he could lay beneath the cloudless sky, his life match at his side. Yuuri had flown to the nests of other sirens during the spring, had welcomed a few into his own. He had danced for none of them, finding that no matter how beautiful their feathers were, they did not tug on his heart. A siren was supposed to sense, right at the start, if they had found their mate. Yuuri sensed nothing.

The notes of his lyre mixed in with the lull of the ocean and Yuuri sang until his words ran out, the melody carried away by the waves. No ships, no mate. No one had heard his beckoning song. Yuuri let his lyre fall to his side and curled into himself, his singing swapped out for a sigh.

“Encore! Encore!”

Yuuri jerked up, feathers flashing to stand up on end, his fingers turned to claws.

“Encooooooore!”

Yuuri looked down. Below him, sitting atop his rocks, was a mermaid. Scarlet-gold fins flickered in the break of the tide, scales shining like gems in the sunlight.

Against his dark skin, the mermaid’s razor sharp teeth gleamed white, grin wide as he waved at Yuuri, happy to have gotten attention. Yuuri saw three white slugs crawling over the mer’s sea-soaked hair.

“Sing one more!” the mermaid shouted.

Yuuri narrowed his eyes, put off at having his nest disrupted. “I did not sing for you!”

“Yeah, I know, but you’re good!” the mermaid said, voice carried up by the wind. “No one else here, right?

"Go away!” Yuuri commanded, layering his voice thick with magic.

The mermaid simply grinned wider, chuckling to himself. “Sorry, siren, doesn’t work on mermaids. And I can’t. Got caught up in the tide, gotta chill here till it goes out again. Currents a bit too strong for me, I’m not too proud to admit it.”

Great. What Yuuri needed. A flashy mermaid sunbathing on his rocks, chattering away. Yuuri looked at his tail, watching how it swayed and slapped at the rocks. He could have a very large helping of fish for supper that night.

“Come on, I’m stuck here, and you were just complaining about being lonely!” The mermaid pointed, causing a blush to spring to Yuuri’s cheeks. “You can sing about how much you want me to leave, how about that?”

Yuuri reached over, slowly picking up his lyre. He did not take his eyes away from the mermaid for a moment, cautious in case it tried scaling the cliff to get to his nest. He strummed the strings, the notes deep and aggressive.

The mermaid looked delighted nonetheless. “Woohoo!”

Chapter Text

As the final notes of the waltz faded from the ballroom, Victor bowed low to his partner but kept her hand, bestowing a kiss to the center of delicate knuckles. He heard the sharp intake of breath before breaking away, retreating to the edges where he could pretend for a moment that non-existent shadows rendered him invisible. 

“You should not play with hearts so callously, my dear Vitya.” Amusement laced the words so thoroughly it was uncharacteristic enough for him to nearly misplace the voice. But there were only two who used that endearment with him.

Victor instantly straightened his posture, sweeping into a deep and formal bow. A tap to his shoulder brought him back up.

“You are going to give them the impression that you’re actually interested,” Lilia said, the warning in her voice unmistakable.

“It was you who taught me that it is never a disadvantage to hold a favor,” Victor replied, smiling before he dipped his gaze in respect. “Your Majesty.”

The musicians resumed playing, a livelier tune that invited more merriment for the couples dancing. From the day of his eighteenth birthday, Victor had received multiple invitations to royal functions. Those sent by the Queen he could not refuse. Those sent by others, he was advised not to.

He attended them all, making a name for himself not only as an officer, but also as the life at such parties. His tongue was sharp and his wit like lightning. He had grown tall, was toned by his naval training, knowledgable about the world from his studies and of the royal court from his associations. He was also the only known individual in the kingdom who could make quips about Yakov’s hairline and still have a head on his shoulders the next day.

Victor did enjoy the parties, the attention. For the hours they lasted, he had company to surround him, to fill the emptiness of his thoughts. But his hands and feet itched, his chest burning for the praise and admiration to be of his own merits, rather than simply his stature. He had done nothing to earn it. Perhaps, at the next one.

“And Yasha insists that you don’t listen,” Lilia said, her shoulders straight and back, nose turned up as she gazed onto the ballroom. “Though, he is right that your manners still need work.”

“Did I do something to offend you?”

Lilia held out her hand, palm down, even as she faced away from him, attention trained on the pairs waltzing. “Do you not intend to invite me to dance?”

“Of course, pardon my manners,” Victor replied, dipping down as he accepted her hand and led her out onto the floor. “I did not think you desired it.”

“I know you have no other women in your life, Vitya, at least let me be the last one you dance with,” Lilia answered.

Though Victor was meant to lead, the Queen had total control of their timing and steps, and he did not attempt to adjust that. “You’re not confident that I will return from the voyage?”

“Not at all,” Lilia dismissed. “I am certain that you will. But since I taught you how to dance with girls, I would like to be the last one to have the honor.”

Victor’s eyes went wide, but he corrected his expression, biting his tongue. It may have been improper, but he squeezed Lilia’s hand and caught the hint of a smile on her lips when he did so. “Understood, Your Majesty.“ 

Chapter Text

When Victor stepped aboard a ship meant for his first real voyage, Lilia saw him off. She was in attendance in official capacity, as a Queen launching a brand new vessel for her navy. The ship would run a simple patrol. A month along the kingdom’s coast, a month and some to return, battling against the winds and currents. Leaving home was always easier than coming back.

The morning of the launch, Victor had watched from around a corner as Lilia gave Yakov a gift. He had been promoted. No longer a captain, but a commodore, a fleet at his command. Victor would be just one of the men who looked to him for orders. For years, Victor knew that Lilia and Yakov were more than Queen and loyal servant. Yet he had never known them to be intimate, something surely reserved for when doors were closed and no one was in observance. The way she took his hands then and the way that he kissed hers confessed more than a proposal. 

Lilia had given Yakov her pistol, the barrel empty. Victor stood with his back flat against the wall, in the hallway outside the main room of his home, hiding as he listened to words he was not meant to hear. A symbol. That Lilia would not need her guns for as long as she had Yakov serving in her protection.

Victor had received a gift as well. Before they left, Lilia had handed him a collar, spun with threads in the same navy as his uniform. It was all Victor could do not to throw his arms around her.

The ship left the capital with Yakov at the helm, Victor with the rest of the men standing at attention on the deck. Makkachin sat at his side, her tail wagging, proudly showing off her new collar. They were ready, after years of preparation and training, to prove themselves.

Chapter Text

At 18, life on board a ship was exciting.

Training under Yakov meant that Victor knew and did every job on the ship. He knew how to load and clean cannons, knew which shots were most effective to disable a ship and which would sink it. He knew how to rig and mend sails, how to weave rope. He had never been that good of a carpenter, but basic repairs he could manage. He understood how to distinguish strong wood from that which was beginning to rot. He knew how to read the stars, how to work a sextant. He knew when food showed signs of spoiling, knew how best to keep stores dry and preserved. He could work the stoves in the galley, despite hating the humidity they produced. He was far from a surgeon, but he could administer first aid and knew how tight to tie a tourniquet to stop bleeding.

Yakov made it clear to him that a good captain should be able do any job, both to keep the trust of his men and to replace them when theirs was no longer earned. The days were long and the work was hard, but the way the wind blew in his hair every morning at dawn could soothe any ache. When the chores aboard the ship had been satisfied, Victor occupied his time by teaching Makkachin new tricks, or by spending his time in Yakov’s quarters, running through their strategy games and simulations.

Yakov always told him there were no victors in a war. Victor laughed, his ship pieces on their maps having surrounded and knocked down Yakov’s, and claimed that he was simply taking after his own name. Yakov never conceded to him.


At 19, Victor graduated from the games he played on sailing maps to being called in for his advice before a real seizure. They had been chasing a defector, a privateer commissioned by the Queen who had taken cargo acquired for the crown and fled with it. The ship had been sighted by passing merchants, sitting a few nautical miles off the coast. Reported to be heavily damaged, perhaps by a storm or by looting pirates.

The men around Yakov’s desk suggested surrounding the rogue ship and bringing her in, ensuring that if the cargo was still on board it could not be lost or transferred. The issue was that the privateer’s vessel was smaller and therefore quicker, with guns outfitted to her front and back. If she was damaged and gave chase, she could sink before they reached her or easily put up a fight of her own.

Victor offered an alternative. Wait. Put a watch along the nearby coast and simply wait. A ship in that condition would not make it elsewhere. There was a reason she was sitting in shallow waters and the reason was not awaiting rescue. Sooner than later she would come trailing in, open in surrender. A privateer’s pride and preservation was too great to let himself go down so near a shore, especially per the chance his cargo had been stolen. 

His suggestion was laughed off but Victor stood his ground, his posture straight and his gaze locked on Yakov’s.

“It is not our policy to wait around when actions can be taken,” Yakov growled and gave his orders. “Retrieve the vessel.”

Some foolhardy gunner fired a warning shot upon the privateer when they approached. His forward facing guns took out their mast and a few men before split-shots rendered his ship immobile, sinking slowly by the time the crew had boarded.

The privateer and his crew were arrested and taken in. The ship and her empty cargohold would hit the bottom of the ocean.


Victor went up through the ranks quickly. Of course he did. He was meant to. He worked harder than anyone else on board, he volunteered for every voyage. He made sure the strategies that he advised on followed the code, the policy of the navy. 

At 20, Victor made second lieutenant. He wore the insignia with honor, his head held high like Lilia had taught him. He shrugged off the whispers that started below deck. Two years in service and already a lieutenant. A position granted to him by the commodore. Unearned. A privilege of relation.

By Victor’s tactics, the navy captured three pirate ships within his first month in the service of his newly appointed role. Victor watched the pirates hang, each stepping up to the gallows with more pride in facing their deaths than Victor felt in having aided sentencing them to it.

When home for the short period between voyages, Victor made a formal request to meet with the Queen. It was denied. Her Majesty was otherwise engaged in matters far more pressing. He left without seeing her, again.

When the ship stopped at a port, the crew disembarked in merry spirits. They went off in groups, to drink, to eat a diet richer than anything they would ever get on board, to find a girl or two to warm a steady bed. Second Lieutenant Victor found himself standing at the docks alone, a familiar memory.

He stayed on board that night, cradling Makkachin to him, his face buried in her fur. He was on a ship full of men and had never felt more isolated.


At 21, Victor found himself in a tavern, a one-night stop in a port on a three-month patrol. He had walked to the far end of the harbor town, finding a place that would not be overtaken by loud sailors wasting their coin. He had thought the burn of the alcohol might warm him, but it only left him bitter.

His quest for quiet had been unsuccessful. He had ducked into the tavern to find a band playing and at first welcomed the music, something sorely lacking on the navy ships. It was ruined shortly after he sat down, some young drunken chap having volunteered as singer. He warbled out slurred words, and Victor would have been amused on any other evening if he had the laugh to share.

“Always a shame when a mouth that pretty isn’t put to proper use.”

Victor glanced toward the smooth voice purring at his side and was met with a vision that was not unpleasant. Tall and blond. He wore heeled, high boots, and a loose white shirt with enough open buttons to give more than a glimpse of a well-sculpted chest. He was ruggedly handsome, with trimmed scruff and full lips wet by the mug of wine in his hand. Victor had no doubts they would look even better if they were bitten red. “Are you addressing me?”

“I was referring to our glorious entertainment,” the man waved toward the band, where the fiddler was attempting to nudge their guest singer off the stage with his bow between the lines of music. "A shame, really.“

Victor chuckled, his gaze flickering from the band no doubt a few minutes away from breaking into a feud if the drunkard was not extracted. He rather hoped he wasn’t. "He might simply need some company.”

“Hmmm, no. I don’t do drunk, just tipsy.” His companion winked, eyeing the glass between Victor’s palms. “And how about you, chéri?”

“Not tipsy yet,” Victor replied, draining his drink.

“Can I help get you there?”

Victor could not remember the last time he spoke of something other than ships and strategies. He smiled and pulled out the bar stool next to him. “Please.”

Chapter Text

Victor awoke with more pain in his wrists and shoulders than in his head. There was light coming in from a window, strong, which meant it was very likely that Victor was late in returning to the ship. He bolted upright and shouted as restrictive binding around his wrists brought him straight back down.

He was tied to the headboard of the inn bed. Victor did not remember that having any part in the previous night’s exploratory activities. His eyes met hazel, his companion dressed and paused midway through searching the pockets of Victor’s naval jacket.

The blond threw a dashing smile. “Oh. Good morning. I apologize for not staying, you do look very good tied up.” He slipped the coin purse out of Victor’s jacket pocket and dropped the clothing to the floor. “But I do thank you very much for the lovely evening, Lieutenant." 

Victor jerked his shoulders in, rotating his wrists to loosen the binds, quickly twisting one hand free. The blond darted for the door just as Victor grabbed the knife hidden inside his boots, still positioned mercifully close. His expert aimed pierced through the handle a split second before the other reached it,  jamming the lock.

They locked gazes. Victor wheeled around to pull his left hand free, while the other bolted for the window. Bare feet chased after the heavy fall of boots, Victor managing to grab the man’s sleeve right as he went out the window. Victor hung on, determined, even as rich laughter vibrated in.

"Are you going to chase me out here?” the blond asked, an eyebrow arched in amusement. “In the nude? I mean, it is a sight I am sure many would appreciate.”

Point made, Victor gritted his teeth and let go. 

The blond tipped a non-existent hat. “You know, Lieutenant, you’d make a hell of a pirate.” With a wink, he slid down the inn awning, jumped off, and was gone.

Victor took a step back from the window and chuckled. He envied such style. The entertainment was certainly worth the little silver that had been in his pockets.

It had been a long while since he had that much fun.

Chapter Text

“You were seen!” The dark mahogany of Yakov’s desk shuddered under the force of his fists slamming down onto it. “You were seen. Have you no shame? No regard for the consequences of your actions?!”

Victor stood before the commodore, his shoulders squared. He had returned to the ship with pockets robbed empty, uniform in a state of disarray despite his best efforts. Being the last one to come back on board meant there was no avoiding all the gazes that trailed after him when Yakov barked his name. 

“I did not think that it was frowned upon a sailor to enjoy a night in port,” Victor replied, posture straight, his hands positioned formal at his sides. “It is habit for the rest of the crew. I do not see why my–”

“They were not consorting with known pirates!“ 

Victor bit his tongue. He was not going to admit that he had never gotten the man’s name, having been more interested in sharing the drinks between them, the smooth exchange of implicit lines, and later the taste of alcohol coming straight off those lips themselves. Perhaps, however, he should not have done it on the streets, a bit drunk and dumb, unwanting to wait for confirmation as they had made their way toward the inn. "I was not aware.”

“It is your job to be aware, to know of every scoundrel on these waters! So that your recklessness does not get you killed!" 

His nerves burned under his skin, itching to fire back protests. Victor was not the first on board to have had his pockets picked in port, not the first to have made regrettable decisions after a drink too many. No other had come back to the ship to punishment other than bearing the damage of their pride. Victor kept his tone as steady as he could. "Yes, sir." 

"Consider how your decisions would reflect on the navy,” Yakov growled, his face fully red in his anger. “How it would look on Her Majesty if your gallivanting with men had endangered the reputation of her crown.”

Victor bristled, fingers curling into his palms. “Lilia told me she didn’t–”

“She isn’t your mother, Vitya, she’s the Queen!” Yakov rounded on him, jabbing at the royal insignia stitched into his uniform. “Everything you do, every decision you make, is in her service. You owe her your entire life. You’re not her son. You’re her servant. Get that through your head, and consider it the next time you want to sleep with a pirate. Understood?”

If their relationship was indeed so thin, then Victor felt that a single indiscretion on his part would not affect her. How could it? Just another lowly ranked officer in her expansive military. It had been three years since Victor had seen her. She would hardly blink at his name if it were given to her.

“Understood?!” Yakov repeated.

Victor lifted his gaze to meet Yakov’s straight on. “Understood.”

“You’re dismissed. Make yourself proper and get to work.” Yakov growled and waved him off, returning to his desk.

Victor remained where he stood, his hands in fists, quivering at his sides.

Yakov glanced up, expression still twisted. But instead of anger, what Victor read behind his eyes was disappointment. “Do you have something you want to say to me, Lieutenant?”

Victor clenched his jaw, taking a slow and steady breath through his teeth. He held back the scowl, the fight in him that was so close to breaking through. He kept control. Like a proper officer. “No, Commodore. Not one word.”

Chapter Text

Victor threw himself into his work. He was the first one to wake, well before dawn, and the last one to sleep, well into the lamps being lit. He did everything by the book, so that none of his actions or decisions could reflect badly on the crown.

When the ships went into port, Victor did his best to spend the nights with the rest of the crew. He put on his best charms, his best smile, he bought drinks and entertainment for the men, worked his way into their favors even though he did not feel the need to win them. But they were personal challenges, goals to keep his mind occupied. Just another strategic victory.

At 22, Victor remained in the service of Yakov’s fleet. He was on the brink of being made commander, and more often than not it was his advice that was sought out by those who headed vessels of their own. His presence on board was requested by half the ships in the fleet, but Victor declined them all.

Day by day, Victor gazed in the direction of the coast more and more. It seemed that each morning, the sun rose as it set. Always at the same pace, always constant. Predictable. Lackluster. The colors it cast across the sky grew dull.

At 23, a summer storm swept over the ship, bringing the stench and earbreaking shrieks of harpies. Victor fought them like he was repeating the steps he had practiced in the Queen’s courtyard, all those years ago. Claws smashed into his shoulders, wrenching him into the air. He would have let it take him, if not for Makkachin bounding down the deck, her bark loud and her teeth piercing through the harpy’s hold.

Victor dropped heavily back onto the deck, his dog cradled to him, firing a shot straight into the harpy’s heart before it could target Makkachin. He wiped the blood from her muzzle and ruffled her ears, turning back to face more of the foul creatures. Her tail wagged with determination as they fought off the rest of them, Victor shouting new commands to the crew.

They made it through, but the ship was left in bad shape. Hasty repairs were made to patch the sails, the masts, the side of the ship where the harpies had torn into the wood and shredded it deep enough that water seeped in.

Barrels full of gunpowder were waterlogged, more than half their food stores unsalvageable. Rations were divided, barely enough to survive on till they made the nearest landfall. The animals that had been on board– chickens for eggs, cats to control the rats– were slaughtered to provide more for the crew.

When Victor approached to receive his pittance of a serving, he inquired about Makkachin’s, his poodle sat his side. Yakov’s expression was hard as he huffed an order for Victor to eat what he had been given without question.

Victor took it, his eyes locked with his commanding officer’s, and fed his entire ration to Makkachin. He did not receive another. 

When they reached shore two weeks later, Yakov had to carry Victor off the ship.

Chapter Text

At 24, Victor was made captain of his own ship, just as he fell out of love with the sea.

Victor was a good leader, respected. Men looked to him for orders in expectation and heeded the commands he gave without question. However, the policy of the navy meant that he was not a fair one.

On board the ship, his word was law and to speak against it was insubordination. As the captain, he was to do no labor, but ensure that it was complete and dole out punishment to any sailor not performing at the proper standard. His portion of the pay was too great, his authority too high, his leadership unearned, and his freedom lacking.

On many nights, sleep escaped him and he would climb onto the figurehead, Makkachin padding quietly after him. He would sit with his legs dangling over the side of the wood-carved maiden at the fore of the ship, Makkachin in his lap. He would stroke her fur and feel a moment of ease, seeing how she still wagged her tail despite the years she had spent at sea with him.

The fur around her eyes and muzzle had grown silver with her gathered age and Victor would lean down, nuzzling into the top of her head, whispering to her about how they were starting to match. She’d licked his face in retaliation, even though she definitely knew better.

“Captain.”

The title was one that Victor had wanted so dearly, ever since Yakov had first explained the rank to him, more than a decade before. Victor had stared at the gold insignias on Yakov’s uniform when they played chess, ones that he was promised could one day be on a uniform of his own if he won their game. From that day, he had been determined. He had wanted to be a captain, like his fa– Like Yakov.

It felt so hollow a dream now that he had it.

“Proceed.”

“There’s a ship on the horizon flying colors.”

Indeed there was. On the quarterdeck, Victor examined the ship in question through a spyglass. She was faced in the direction of known trade routes, toward a port that would be flooded with activity as the summer storms began to weaken. At her tallest mast, she flew a skull and crossbones, but her sails were pulled taut, with no give to the wind, rendering her immobile. She was far off, small even through the magnifying glass, yet Victor saw no men aboard her decks.

“Orders, sir?”

Victor frowned and looked again, training his focus on her front. He stood still, hands steady, his eyes sharp until her figurehead came into view. A mer, with scales carved like crystals of ice. “It’s Morooka’s ship.”

A wanted pirate. Known for his booming voice and the savagery of his tactics in the cold of the northern seas. Headed, seemingly, for lands belonging to the Queen. The Jolly Roger flickered in the wind, but the ship remained motionless.

Unease dropped like lead into the pit of Victor’s stomach.

“Sir?”

Victor turned, looking to their rear. The clouds encroaching on their tail were dark with rain, swirling with angry wind. The last storm of the season. Ships in the nearby harbors would be sitting low in the water, pregnant with cargo, awaiting its passing so they could sail without the fear of nature’s might or the beasts that rode the storm.

If the pirate ship indeed laid dormant, the waves and winds would spare it no mercy.

“I don’t like it,” Victor muttered, his nerves prickling like pin needles. He knew the coast line well. Other than the port, there were no coves, no inlets to seek protection in. A pirate like Morooka would not be fool enough to approach before the summer and the risk of her fickle weather ceased. “Stay the course.”

“And what of the pirates, sir?”

It was policy to take out pirates, to demonstrate the power of the Queen’s navy, to uproot the seed of such thoughts in any mind that might dare sow it. It was not to wait when actions could be taken.

Victor steeled himself, rolling his shoulders back. The frown twisting at his mouth deepened. His decisions were not at his sole discretion. He had to consider how they would reflect on the navy, on the crown. Passing a pirate ship that possibly threatened a port due to his own sense of apprehension was not the call of a captain in the Queen’s navy.

“We’ll come at her astern,” Victor said, steadying his stance. He raised his voice, head held high to shout his orders. “Man your stations and prepare to take on prisoners! We’ve got pirates in our sights, gentlemen!”

The anticipation which had been hanging over the ship lifted as men leapt to their positions. The prior quiet was replaced by the buzz of work, the turn of the wheel helm and the rounding of the rudder. The ship leaned starboard, cutting through the waves as she changed course.

As they approached the pirate ship, Victor kept her strict in his sights, alert for a whisper of movement on her decks. None came, and the closer they grew, the more Victor bristled. It was not normal. The ship sat dead, ghostly with her rigid sails, her masts–

Victor counted her masts. Morooka’s ship was a known frigate, full-rigged, designed with three. He counted five. The instincts Victor had buried flared into a bonfire. “It’s a trap, heave off!”

The tension in the pirate sails snapped. They were released, filling with wind in the same moment that blood red replaced the black and white of the flag being flown. From behind her shadow, two sloops emerged, cutting fast to flank his vessel.

It was too late to turn, momentum sending them right into the walls created by the pirates. They hit one of the sloops straight on, bow ramming into the smaller ship, splitting her near in half.

Shouts mixed with the sound of gunfire. The smell of powder and the clash of metal blades filled the air as pirates stormed his ship, abandoning their hiding spots and leaping on board in droves. Victor’s commands were mute in his own ears, deafened by blasts of cannons. Shrapnel cut at his face as he ran, sword steady in his hand to drive into the chest of one pirate, spinning to slice at the knees of another.

Victor’s eyes darted from ship to ship, surrounded on all sides but their rear. His sword cut swift at someone’s hand, and he seized the gun off their flanks, firing the readied round at the next man that came for him.

Spreadshots fired off Morooka’s ship littered his, taking out the men nearest with no regard for whether they wore uniform, and Victor understood. The pirate captain wanted his ship, to sail straight into port without suspicion. Victor would let it sink before he allowed it to be claimed, but if the pirates desired it, they would be sparse and cautious with the type of rounds they fired, focused on overpowering by force.

Turning on his heels, Victor ducked beneath a falling blade, arm hooking a pirate overboard. He gripped the rails, barking command to his men who had jumped aboard the second sloop. “Blow their powder stores!”

Time went slow in battle, as Victor had learned. A minute could last an hour when men fell at his feet, his boots slicked with their blood, heart pulsing in his throat as his sword reamed between the rib bones of yet another, feeling the dead weight drop at his feet. But it sped up in the explosion.

Barrels filled with black powder set on fire ripped through the sloop, showering Victor’s ship with splintered wood, the sea pitching with the force. Victor’s feet left solid ground, his body thrown by the explosion. His eyes glimpsed the confident form of the pirate captain, standing at the helm of his own frigate, face already twisted as if in victory.

Victor hit the sea and was pulled deep into the whirl. He kicked for the surface, spitting out the salt that bit at his throat and at his eyes. The sea burned all around him, broken wood and sails blazing atop the waves before sinking in pieces to the abyss.

Bodies bobbed in the water, bloodied and unmoving. Victor swam past them, pain searing through his side. Red wisped in the water around him when he reached his ship, fingers curling into the wood for purchase.

“Captain! Ca–”

The broken cry came off the waves behind him and Victor turned, catching a glimpse of cornish yellow amongst the tainted blue. A boy, one of the younger powder monkeys under his service, battled to remain above the water’s break. Victor pressed his boots into the ship and shoved off it, diving towards him.

He came up at his side and saw, that the boy was carrying another of the crew, a dark-haired gunner, whose weight was dead and threatening to drag them down. “Let go!” Victor ordered, slipping his arm under the boy’s shoulders to keep him afloat.

“No, he’s still breathing! He’s just unconscious.”

Victor caught himself about to snap, a command about how the chance of one life was valued more than the risk of none. The same words Yakov had fed him after Victor’s collapse in refusal to eat when Makkachin could not. “Hang strong then.”

He dragged them both, gritting his teeth through the splitting ache that cracked deeper through his side, swallowing mouthfuls of water when he sank in exhausted effort to keep the other two above the surface.

They reached their ship, Victor searching all but blindly in hope, a hand groping along her hull. His fingers burned on rope and he snatched at it, winding a length around his wrist.

Overhead, the roar of battle echoed in shredded sails, spilling blood in rivets. The ship groaned under Victor’s hands, as if she too were wailing. “Can you carry him up?”

“Yes.”

Victor pushed the unconscious gunner onto boy’s shoulders and passed him the rope, helping to heave them out of the water. His breath was labored as he watched, half submerged, body beaten by the waves. The blond climbed high, keeping steady, until he reached the rails and hoisted them over the edge, back onto the deck. For a moment, Victor breathed easy, eyes slipping shut.

“Captain!”

The rope was thrown back down to him, Victor catching the end in hand. His entire body strained as he planted his feet against the hull, muscles in his arms holding no strength. He had trained, and had trained other men, so many times, to scale up the sides of ships for moments just like this, yet now the ability escaped him.

“Pull yourself up, Captain!”

“If you’re able to talk, you’re able to man the guns!” Victor shouted back, and in response, he got a bark. His heart stopped there. From between the rails, Makkachin’s head peeked out, her ears standing high as she whined and barked at him once more.

Groaning, Victor threw up a hand and grabbed high, his teeth grit hard enough to break. A captain went down with his ship, not before it. He pulled, step over step, hand over hand, moving slow with the ship creaking beneath him.

Victor felt it before he heard it. A second explosion rocked the sea and the ship with it, tearing the ropes from his hands. The water was frigid the second time around. He sunk into the blue, vision blurred, exhausted. If he willed his legs to move, they did not listen, the light above him fading.

The surface broke and air escaped his lungs, water choking down his throat. Victor reached out, his fingers touching fur. Makkachin lunged for him, her teeth latching onto his collar, paws working to pull him to the surface. Victor broke it coughing, gasping, his feet kicking to aid his darling dog as she paddled them forward.

“I’m feeding you an entire bird when we get through this,” Victor choked out to her, kissing her nose when they touched home. “Let’s catch ourselves a pirate.”

Her pink panting tongue and sparkling eyes were the last thing Victor saw before thunder seemed to crack above them, the groaning fracturing of wood a howl in his ears. The sloop his ship had rammed had split completely, her tail sinking, rolling as she took on water. Her mast crashed down, smashing against his ship’s side and onto them.

Makkachin’s cries vibrated through him.

The plunging weight of the mast drove them into the water, pinned beneath, the sail a death shawl over them. Victor’s scream was lost to the sea as Makkachin slipped from his arms, her body limp against the sinking sail. He twisted out from under the mast, catching her again as he tore the knife from where it was strapped inside his boot and slashed an opening where the thick fabric had already been shredded.

Victor kicked and shot them through it to the surface, Makkachin in his arms, her head cradled against his collar. He seized the ropes once more and hauled them up, falling over the rails. Water poured off his clothes and hair onto the deck, blood dripping from the wound at his side.

Tears filled his eyes and choked his throat more than the sea, colors blurring together as he cupped Makkachin’s face in his hands. His fingers fumbled to find her pulse, to feel her breath, but nothing came. “No no no no no,” he wept, straightening out her neck, praying to feel the smallest puff against his hand. The world was mute around him.

He found her heart and pressed his palms down over her ribcage, down in quick compressions, down to try to make it beat again. What little breath he had left in him, he gave to her between the sobs that drove the air straight from his lungs and held it ransom.

She did not even twitch against him when he collapsed, screaming into her fur.

“Captain, the ship! We–”

Victor ripped himself away, tearing a sword out of the hands of the first man he saw. He leapt across the deck, blade carving through anyone who did not wear the colors of the navy. A cannon blast pitched him into a wall but he bounced off it, flying below deck.

Yelling orders at the gunners to step aside, Victor careened into a cannon, prepped and loaded, throwing his shoulder into its end. The weight drove forward until the cannon knocked against the porthole but Victor kept pushing until it skidded off its wheels, cart bucking up, the angle of the nose pitched down.

Victor lit the fuse and let it fire. The split shot meant for masts ripped through the pirate frigate’s belly, ripping through wood like it was paper. The sea water would rush, hungry to fill the hull, adding in her mass so quickly that the ship lurched forward.

“Fire all!”

Cannons blasted as Victor slumped, unable to catch a breath, his face wet with tears as he watched their fire power decimate the ship. When the ringing stopped, barrels emptied with nothing left to fire on, Victor stumbled to the deck, tying a sash tight around his waist to curb the bleeding.

The fighting aboard had ceased, few pirates remaining surrendered, with their captain bound and being held.

Victor stood tall, his posture straight, his shoulders back, presenting the model of a naval officer. He walked with sweeping steps, not permitting his wound to betray him, and crushed the bones of bodies that he came across beneath his boots.

It was policy, when having captured pirates, to arrest and lock them in the brig, where they could lament upon their crimes prior to their trial back on land.

Victor marched straight up to the sickeningly unbattered Captain Morooka, and before the man could smirk or plead, Victor pulled the pistol from his waist and shot the pirate in the throat.

Chapter Text

Yuuri had wiggled loose of the tightly tucked blankets and had instead wrapped himself around Victor. His wings were out, furled around Victor in comforting embrace. Their legs were tangled together, arms draped around each other.

They laid back against the many pillows of their nest, Victor resting with his head on Yuuri’s shoulder. His voice had grown softer with each story that he told, answering Yuuri’s quiet questions about his life in the navy and how he’d come to leave it. When Victor reached his final tale, his tone grew strained and Yuuri felt the drops of tears on his skin. He could only hold Victor closer.

“I was knighted, after that,” Victor muttered, burying his face in Yuuri’s skin. “For bravery. For heroism in battle. For my service to the crown. I was not permitted to refuse.”

Yuuri could hear the hurt in Victor’s words, the defiance.

“I knew. I knew it wasn’t right, that there was no reason for that ship to be sitting there. But because I couldn’t make the decision that I knew I should have, my men died. And I was honored. For commanding them to the bottom of the ocean.”

Yuuri could not imagine, how Victor would have felt then. To stand before the Queen he had once considered as his mother and receive praise and recognition at the expense of the funerals so many other familes would attend. 

“It had been so long since I’d seen Lilia. But she was serving in her role, as she was meant to. She said to me… She said that Makka died for a worthy cause, that I should be proud of her service. And I couldn’t take it anymore. I could love her, as the woman who gave so much to raise me, but I could not love her as the Queen. I left. But my whole life, the one I lived for her and Yakov, the only thing I knew well was the sea. They’d wanted me to be a captain. So I became one. The kind of captain I felt I should be. Instead of the kind I had to be.”

“Where did you go?” Yuuri asked, his hand sliding down to find Victor’s, entwining their fingers together until rings hit rings.

“I got myself onto a merchant ship. Sailed to a port and found myself some pirates in need of a few good men.”

A hint of a smile finally teased Victor’s lips and Yuuri felt like chirping at the beauty of it. “They liked you better, didn’t they?”

“Are you implying I took over the ship, lovebird?” Victor asked, shaking his head. “No. But I helped their captain capture a couple and perhaps stole one from the navy for myself. Found myself a crew, bit by bit. Ran into Chris, still working fools like me at the same tavern. Asked him if he cooked and he said he’d always wanted to learn.”

Yuuri laughed, nuzzling into the silver of Victor’s hair. “And you grew it long,” he said, playing with the braid he had woven for his mate.

“Truth be told, I had been neglecting to cut it for some time my last year in service. I thought it was a better look for a pirate.”

“How did you find Yurio?”

“He found me. Chased me down to a port, dragging Otabek with him. Took me a while to realize they weren’t there in anger. Otabek said Yurio abandoned the navy the day after he found out I had, spent a year trying to find me. As if I could say no.”

Mila had come with Victor off another pirate ship, one on which she had pretended to be a man so that she could serve. Victor kept no such restrictions on her. Emil they stole off a merchant ship. Well, claimed they did, so that Emil could deny joining willingly if he ever came to trial. The pay’s way better, Emil had once told Yuuri, months before.

“I think Georgi came on board in spite. He’d had a girl who ran off with a pirate and it was his way of proving that she lost out. He’s not a bad one though,” Victor smiled and Yuuri’s heart fluttered like a bird’s. “Kenji said he just wanted to see the birds in all the different places we would sail. Don’t believe he ever thought he’d get so lucky.” Victor tapped Yuuri on the nose.

“And the ship…”

Victor glanced up, at the rich wood overhead. “It’s bad luck to rename a ship. It’s also bad luck to keep a woman on board, especially a redhead.”

“Not a siren?”

“The worst,” Victor tipped up and Yuuri pecked his lips in response.

“You named her Makkaship for her.”

“And commissioned the figurehead. How terrifying, for the world’s greatest pirate to sail with a poodle at his fore.”

Yuuri laughed again, wings tightening around his mate. “I love her. She’s kept you safe, for all this time.”

“A siren who loves a ship. I could imagine nothing more wondrous.”

“She brought you to me.”

“She did. She’s saved me more than once, and guided me to the grandest treasure.”

“What’s that?”

Victor turned, sliding his hands around Yuuri’s shoulders to bury them in the darkness of his hair. He leaned in, catching the happy chirp that fell off Yuuri’s lips with his.  “My life and love.”

Chapter Text

Guang Hong watched the siren and the captain, who stood together at the front of the ship. Yuuri had Victor’s hands in his, writing words into his palm. They had been inseparable all morning, since they had emerged from the captain’s cabin. Guang Hong might have had quite a lot of guilt sitting on his consciousness.

Seeing them now, all he saw was a pair that was more than smitten. Yuuri nuzzled into Victor’s palm and they touched the tips of their noses, eyes closed as Victor muttered something to Yuuri.

“Are they always like this?” Guang Hong asked, Minami sitting at his side. The deckhand had spent the last few days huffing in his direction, less mad at Guang Hong’s attempted capture of Yuuri and more jealous that Guang Hong had gotten to fly in Yuuri’s arms.

“They get extra clingy before Yuuri’s leaves for a long flight,” Minami grumbled. He had charcoal in his hands and a thin strip of wood, drawing Yuuri’s on it. “If he’s going hunting or something like that.”

“How long does he go for?”

“Depends. He used to go for weeks. Not so much recently. I think Yuuri doesn’t like being away from Victor for very long,” Minami replied, smearing coal across his forehead as he flipped back his bangs. “It’s cute.”

Guang Hong returned to staring after the couple, sitting up when Yuuri’s wings appeared, blooming off his back, feathers springing off the markings on his hands and feet. “Wait, he’s leaving now?”

“Looks like it.”

“Ahh!” Guang Hong leapt up and scrambled across the deck, running to the crew quarters where he grabbed the silk he had been keeping in his hammock. He sprinted back, calling out Yuuri’s name just as the siren was spreading his wings for takeoff. “Wait! Yuuuuuri!”

Victor stepped in, hand flying to his waist, shielding Yuuri from Guang Hong.

“For you!” Guang Hong held out the silk which he had stolen and shredded in order to make the net, meticulously stitched back together to form a quilt. He had spent longer mending it than he had on weaving the net. “I’m sorry!”

Yuuri glanced over his shoulder and turned, walking around Victor with a hand brushing along his mate’s arm in reassurance, to pluck the silk from Guang Hong’s hands. He examined it, and Guang Hong’s heart broke a little when a scoff came off the siren. 

Yuuri’s wings burst open and he took off, carrying the silk with him. He flew around the ship, looping it once, and dove down. Guang Hong yelped and ducked as Yuuri swooped over him, clawed feets touching the top of Guang Hong’s head. Yuuri flew along the deck, dropping the silk next to Minami, who’d had the chickens and the parrots perched around him with the bribery of biscuit bits.

The birds all clucked and squawked at once, seizing the silks in their beaks. Within seconds, it was completely shredded once again. Yuuri, with chirps sounding like laughter, went high into the sky.

Guang Hong blinked, lost, as Yuuri disappeared into the clouds. “What….”

Victor stepped up, ruffling his hair in the same place that Yuuri had knocked against. “Means you won’t be eaten… Yet.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri glided on the wind, his eyes closed as he dipped low, speed slowing, skimming his toes across the surface of the water. The warmth of home surged through him, the smell of the waves salted and familiar. Lush green lined the horizon. Yuuri headed straight for it.

When the tide turned to the softness of a white sand beach, Yuuri landed with practiced grace. To think of how many times he had come crashing on the same shores, when he had been learning how to fly, his sister making snarky remarks as she’d come cruising down over him. For as long as Yuuri had not seen his family prior to that mating season, it had been longer since he had seen Mari. She’d left the family nest when she had turned of age, just like Yuuri had after her.

The sand was like silk between his toes as Yuuri walked to the cove, ducking under the green overgrowth. He chirped out a greeting, hearing it echo in the foliage. Not a moment passed before he received one in response, his mother’s voice calling back to him.

“Yuuri!” He was caught in her embrace, her wings wrapping him tight. “Are you okay, you’re back so soon! Did you bring your mate?”

Shaking his head, Yuuri smiled when he saw his father emerge to join them. The siren with scarlet wings that had been there previously was gone, his parent’s nest empty save for them. That was good. Yuuri preferred it for what he had come to discuss. He squeezed his hands together to stop them from trembling. “No. But I wanted to talk to you about them.”

His mother’s expression clouded instantly, feathers in her wings twitching. “Did somethi–”

“Nothing happened!” Yuuri cut in, before any worry could build. “They… they’re defending our nest. That’s why they didn’t come. I just had something I needed to tell you.”

“Let him sit, Hiroko, he’s flown far,” Toshiya said, hand settling on one of her shoulders. “Come on, Yuuri, we’ll make you some tea. You can tell us once you’ve had rest.”

Yuuri shuffled after his father, to the hearth at the center of the clearing where his family would treat sirens who needed aid. His homecoming in the spring had been the first time in the five years that he had seen his family. He had missed them greatly, waiting alone on his cliffs during the years he had spent without a mate. But Victor had filled his life so completely that Yuuri had stopped thinking of the cove as home. Home was the nest he had built on the ship, where even the tropical sun at peak summer could not match the warmth he felt when in Victor’s arms.

Yuuri sat and accepted the tea his father blended, smiling when he was passed sliced halves of a mango from the trees that grew behind the cove. He drank the tea, and left the fruit untouched.

His parents settled across from him, his mother speaking first. “The medicine helped?”

“Yes,” Yuuri nodded, reaching inside his robes to pull out a sheet of folded paper. It had grown worn over the year that he had kept it, having always tucked it against him whenever he took long flights. “Thank you. It did.”

Hiroko looked over him with concern. “Baby bird, did something go wrong with your mate?”

Yuuri shook his head, carefully unfolding the page. It was from Minami’s sketchbook, a drawing that the boy had made early on, not long after Yuuri had come to stay on the ship. Yuuri had gotten it in exchange for one of his feathers. It was beautifully rendered, of him and Victor, flying between the sails of the ship. Victor was in Yuuri’s arms, his long hair caught by the wind, laughing after his initial fears had faded into delight.

Minami really had done a wonderful job, of capturing the joy on both their faces. New mates experiencing the wonders of each other’s worlds. Yuuri had dropped Victor into the water twice before that, not used to carrying a human’s weight in a manner like embrace. Yet Victor had still trusted him enough to let him attempt a third.

With a deep breath, Yuuri held the drawing out for his parents to take. “His name is Victor… He’s my mate.”

Yuuri’s parents went quiet, studying the page he had given them. His mother traced the length of Victor’s hair with a finger. It lifted off black, stained by the charcoal. “…Did he lose his wings?”

“No,” Yuuri said. “He… he doesn’t have wings. He’s… he’s not a siren.”

The breeze rustled through the green enclosing them. From the nearby beach, waves washed across the sand. Birds twittered overhead, weaving between the trees. Silence laid between the Katsuki family.

“You’ve mated a human?” Toshiya asked, question formed slow and cautiously.

Yuuri could not answer, for his mother stood, the colored markings on her fingers going white with how tightly she clenched the page in them. “Did you attack another siren, in the spring?”

Yuuri bristled, his feathers puffing in defense. “I–”

“During the season, a siren came here, claiming he’d nearly been killed by a siren defending a human,” Hiroko’s voice trembled as she spoke, her eyes bleeding into the color of the coals heating the hearth. “His feathers were like a macaw’s. I thought harpies had ripped through him. Was that you?”

“Yes, but I was only–”

“You attacked a siren for a human?!” Her voice shook the birds from the trees. “Yuuri!”

“He tried to kill Victor!” Yuuri snapped, knocking over the cup of tea resting in front of him. “He tried to kill my mate! I was protecting my mate, like you taught me!”

“Not a human!” Hiroko cried, covering her mouth with a feathered hand, her markings blooming in the anger tremoring through her. “You invaded someone else’s nest, Yuuri, and drove them from it!”

“I didn’t realize it was his nest, I wouldn’t have gone if I had known!” Yuuri replied, shoulders slumping, head hanging. His attention shifted to his father who remained calmly seated. “Please, listen to me. Victor is… he’s human, but he’s my mate, and he’s so good to me. He’s not like the humans here, he’s made his whole ship into our nest, he–”

“A ship? A ship?!“ Hiroko took a step back, steadying herself. "You’re nesting on a ship?! And does he keep other humans on it that you’re not permitted to feast on, too?”

“I-… I can’t eat the crew,” Yuuri muttered, his wings furling in around himself. The cove was never cold, but Yuuri felt ice chilling in his veins, freezing his nerves. “But he’s good. He’s a good human…”

“Did you not see what it was that humans did the last time you were here?!” Hiroko questioned, thrusting the page out at Yuuri. “They’ll break you! They’ll–”

“Hiroko.” Toshiya lifted a hand, touching his mate’s hip. "Why don’t you let Yuuri speak? Let him explain.”

Her feathers calmed instantly, the red fading from her eyes. Attention still trained on her son, she nodded, retaking her seat before the hearth.

Yuuri took in a shaking breath, feeling his heart marking a bruise inside his chest with how fast it beat. He clutched his hands together, thumb stroking at the rings around his fingers, all gifted to him by Victor. With his father’s gentle prompting, Yuuri started at the beginning, telling his parents of how Victor had found him and how Yuuri came to be trapped on a ship, of how Victor’s silver hair and his kindness had caught Yuuri off guard. Of how he’d fallen for Victor’s dancing and his singing, and how a siren had come to love a human.

Yuuri explained how he had let his frustration during mating season cloud his judgment enough not to use caution when flying to the islet where they met the macaw, but that all he had meant to do then was protect his mate from a siren who had threatened to drown him. He told them of how Victor had painted himself gold and made wings just so that Yuuri could fly with him, of how in all the years he had spent searching and waiting for a mate, none could have compared to Victor.

Yuuri knew, he knew that humans could be vile and cruel, that they hunted sirens like they hunted each other. He knew that humans did not mate for life, that they abandoned partners for fickle things, but he also knew that Victor would give his whole life to spend it with Yuuri. And Yuuri knew that there was no one else that existed that could be his mate but Victor.

His parents listened, taking Yuuri’s pauses between his story to ask him this and that, if Victor kept him locked in cages like humans kept birds, if Victor had ever tried to clip his wings, if Victor knew that sirens mated for life and what that would mean if Yuuri were ever left alone. Victor didn’t, he didn’t, he did. 

As the red of the coals in the hearth faded to ash white, Yuuri opened up his wings, showing his family all the rings on his fingers, the golden jewelry that Victor had wound around his ankles and his wrists. He told them about the little boats that Victor would carve for him to play with, told them about all the ships that Victor had taken in for him to sink.

He promised them, that Victor was good, that he loved Yuuri more than all the treasures they had plundered, and that Yuuri would give up every ounce gold and every slice of mango if it meant that he could spend just one day longer with his mate.

The sun had sunk low by the time Yuuri finished speaking, his father rising to make small fires around the cove to give them light.

They sat together, in the dim, until finally Hiroko sighed. “…I suppose that means we won’t be seeing any peeplings from you. Too bad. I was so excited when you’d said silver wings before.”

Yuuri’s heartbeat stuttered, then flew. He smiled, chirp escaping from deep inside his chest. Rising, he threw himself at his parents, holding them both tightly as his spirits soared. His father’s chuckles matched his mother’s tutting remarks, scolding him for not telling them the truth before.

Yuuri felt silly, as tears stung as his eyes, relief flooding him. Their chattering filled the cove, imitating the sounds of birds, dying only when a siren’s screech pierced through the foliage.

They broke apart, Hiroko running toward the beach from where the scream had sounded, while Toshiya hastily rekindled the hearth.

The siren did come land on the beach. She came crashing through the trees.

Yuuri leapt up, catching his falling sister in his arms. Her battered wings smeared blood across his skin.

Chapter Text

Victor stood astern as ropes were thrown onto the docks to moor the ship, anchor dropped into the shallows. It was a relief to pull into a friendly port, knowing that a few good nights on land would do well for his crew. Summer was turning, the storms behind them. Rain clouds that gathered in the distance were no threat and Victor would welcome the droplets on his face.

He wondered how Yuuri might look, in a pleasant rain, with drops splashing off his skin. If he would dance, his bare feet striking through the puddles, joy on his face like a bird in a birdbath. Only a day apart and already Victor’s heart ached for his mate. Relief sat in it too, knowing that Yuuri promised to be away only for a few more. The days without him did make reuniting all the sweeter.

Ship tied in, the boarding plank was lowered, crew eager to stretch their legs on ground that did not shift beneath them. Mila grabbed Yurio, lifting him over her shoulder with a jovial laugh as he kicked and demanded to be released. Axel flapped over and landed on the backs of his knees. He stilled instantly, so as not to accidentally throw her off. Otabek followed after them, hands slipped into his pockets.

Minami grabbed Guang Hong, dragging him past Victor, who gave the boy a pointed glare. “We sail at sunrise, in three days. If you’re not on the ship, it goes without you."  

Guang Hong stammered out a, "Yes, captain!” with his smile unrestrained, and hurried off with Minami. Victor heard Guang Hong asking for directions to the nearest post station.

Emil stretched and strapped his medicine chest to his back, no doubt off to refill his stores. He tipped a salute to Victor as he went.

From down the dock, Victor heard a whistle and saw a flash of scarlet gold. Phichit sat, out of the water, flicking his tail from side to side. Chris cleared his throat and signed the cross over his heart. “Pray for me. I’m going in.”

Victor waved him off, his cook stumbling down the plank in the direction of the mermaid. As for himself, Victor thumbed the two gift rocks in his pockets, their surfaces coarse against his skin. Not for long.

With a smile, he stepped off the ship, tossing a couple coins to the dock workers who had secured the ship. “Ahoy, my merry gentleman. Have you ever seen a finer day?”

Chapter Text

Yuuri held his sister down as their mother hastily plucked her broken and bleeding feathers, burning the jagged ends off her quills, their father keeping the hearth hot. Water boiled and Mari bit out a swear when steaming fabric was pulled from the pots to wipe and disinfect her wounds before they were smeared in honey and bandaged tight.

Keeping his hands steady despite the nerves shaking through him, Yuuri helped his mother remove the bullet fragments lodged in the bones of Mari’s wings. They stitched a dagger’s slash in her thigh, Hiroko muttering through a strained tone of how it had nearly separated the tendons completely.

Toshiya ground up medicine, tipping it to Mari’s lips. She scrunched her nose at the bitter taste but took it, refusing to lay to rest even when her father pushed gently on her shoulders.

“They’re hunting sirens,” Mari hissed through her teeth, holding her newly bandaged side, where a bullet had torn through. Toshiya held out strips of dried ginger for her to chew. She snatched it from him, wincing as she bit in. “Filthy humans.”

“How?” Hiroko asked, sitting down to adjust Mari’s bandages and sort through her feathers, combing out any that were damaged.

“They’ve done something,” Mari replied, her wings half-extended in her mother’s hands, unable to unfurl them further. “I sat a cliff to sing a ship in, but they didn’t come. The wind was at my back, I know my voice carried to their sails but they kept straight along the coast. It didn’t matter how close I flew, they seemed to all be deaf to me. I flew to rip the wood from their belly, but they’ve strung silk nets between their sails. And fired more from their cannons. They shot them like giant spiderwebs, so fast I almost couldn’t get away." 

Yuuri rested back on his heels, hands folded in his lap, quiet as he listened. 

"I met a macaw, after the season,” Mari continued, her teeth tearing chunks from the ginger. “He said he had two ships chase after him, that he sang down the first in spring but that the second one, that they were deaf. He said he was planning to stalk the ships, that something strange was happening. I had been coming back down, to find him, but his nest was gone…”

Yuuri went stiff, that same ice as before splitting through his veins. When Mari reached forward, he immediately placed a cup into her hands, so she could wash the bite of ginger off her tongue with tea. 

“There’s a rumor, from others I met, that there’s a siren whose taken a ship for themselves and kept it. But, seems the humans have come to think that we can be caught and tamed.” Mari spat, the word an insult on her tongue. Tea drained from her cup and her eyes still blazing red, she let herself fall, her wings pinned beneath her. “And now, as a result, the wingless bastards all want one of their own.”

“W-want one?” Yuuri asked, the question tripping on his lips. “Want one what?”

“A siren pet.”

Chapter Text

After his sister laid down to rest, Yuuri stayed close. He kept the hearth lit, his ears tuned to the hushed whispers of his parents. He wasn’t meant to hear them. They had moved to the end of the cove, but his name had skipped along the sand. Yuuri bunched his fingers in his robes, winding the fabric tight.

How was it possible? He had never thought, that him being with Victor would lead to this. He didn’t understand. Yes, people had seen them together. Yuuri hadn’t been good about keeping himself contained. He had used his powers in front of humans, to save their birds, to get things for him and Victor, to chirp sweetly at his mate. He let his feathers show when Victor told him not to, he had done so many things wrong, in his excitement, in his fright. Victor had been so good to him, had given him everything that Yuuri wanted, let him hunt, let him fly for weeks at a time, let him sink ships. Victor doted on him, covered him in silks and gems, loved Yuuri so beautifully within the gold of their nest. 

In return, Yuuri had gotten Victor shot, got him threatened by sirens, got him captured and imprisoned. And now, Yuuri was getting other sirens hunted? Yes, people had seen him, but they had seen the power that sirens held. Were they not frightened off by how Yuuri had torn through the city to save his mate, by the chaos he had sown the moment he had thought Victor was in need of his help?

How were they avoiding commands? Even Victor couldn’t, he still listened to everything Yuuri told him, showing no signs of resistance no matter how much Yuuri spoke to him. The only indication that Victor gained any immunity to Yuuri’s voice was during their encounter with the other siren… How were these humans doing it? How did they know the proper way to weave silk so that it was strong enough for sirens not to break through easily?

What if someone on the ship had told? Victor wouldn’t, Yuuri knew that Victor wouldn’t, he knew that Victor would defend him through his final breath, but what if someone on the crew had let Yuuri’s secrets leak? Yuuri had grown to trust them all. The new boy… No, he hadn’t been on the ship long enough. He knew about silks, but the net he had woven would have been useless, though the idea he could have gotten from…

Yuuri removed the sketch from inside his clothes and looked down at it. Such attention to detail. Simply from gazing at it, Yuuri could feel the wind at his back, the weight of Victor in his arms. He twisted away, crossing to where Mari laid. Her eyes were closed, but he had seen her fake sleep too many times growing up.

“Mari… Mari, you said you met a macaw that had been chased by two ships. When was this?” Yuuri asked, the drawing clutched carefully in his hands.

“A couple weeks ago,” Mari muttered, arm draped over her eyes.

“And when did he find the ship that was deaf?”

“A few days before that.”

“Have you heard of others who experienced the same?”

“No. I didn’t believe him, until yesterday.”

“And the rumors? Of the siren who lives on the ship?

"I’ve heard it for near a year. Ignore it, it’s not important. Just fantasy humans breed for themselves to think they can make us into pets.”

Yuuri went quiet, counting days in his head. A moon’s cycle had passed since the raid. Since Kenji’s sketchbook had gone missing. Anytime they stopped in port, the boy always took it with him, in case he saw a bird of fancy. The book filled with every note and drawing that he had ever made, all detailing Yuuri, his habits, his fondnesses and weaknesses, stuffed full of Yuuri’s shed feathers and those that Yuuri had gifted on his own. A book containing every bit of information that Yuuri had ever shared about his species with the crew, now gone.

Mari dropped her arms, her head tilted toward Yuuri. He saw the strain in her movements, how the simple movement pulled on her bandages. Mari’s eyes narrowed at him. “Why are your wings away?”

Yuuri glanced back, down his shoulder, where his wings had indeed furled into his markings. He had not even noticed. “I-… I’ve gotten used to putting them away at night.”

“Why?”

The paper crumpled in his grip, charcoal smearing across his skin. “Because it’s me… I’m– I’m the pet.”

Chapter Text

“What have you done?!” Mari had pushed herself up, struggling against her wounds. She clenched a fist into the ground, her nails sprouting into claws. She carved welts into the sand. “You! With a human?!”

Yuuri shrunk back, his shoulders slumped and turned in, trying to make himself as small as possible. 

Their parents came running down from the beach, just as Mari spread her wings to the best of her ability, her feathers on end. She rounded on them, her markings spread up arms and legs with her rage. “Did you know about this?”

“He just told us,” Hiroko replied, halting between her children, cautious in approaching either. “Mari, I don’t think that Yuuri–”

“You mated a human?!” Mari snapped, her feathers fanning like quills off her body, wings up to form a halo at her back. Intimidation, meant to make her form look bigger.

“I-… I….” Yuuri stammered, unable to explain himself. He had never had the thought, before Victor. When he had thought of himself finding a mate, it had always been with some faceless siren, who had beautiful wings, who he could sing and dance with, hunt with, laugh with, grow older together with. He didn’t know when that vision had been replaced by Victor, had not even noticed it until it already happened. Victor had charmed him so completely, so naturally that Yuuri had wanted nothing more than to be with him, even though he was missing wings. It was the least important thing on the list anyway. Yuuri would more than happily spend the rest of his life covering Victor in his feathers, so that they could match. “I did…”

Mari spat, a wing swiping at the ground, kicking sand at Yuuri’s turned-in feet. “Do you realize what you’ve done?!”

“I’ve done nothing!” Yuuri protested. He hadn’t intended, he didn’t think it would lead to this. To sirens being hunted, to his sister in tatters before him.

“Your mate has told all the damn humans everything they need to know to kill us! How have they turned deaf to our voices? How have they learned to weave silk like that?!”

“It wasn’t him!” Yuuri said, voice shaking from his throat. “Victor would never! It wasn’t him, I know it wasn’t!”

“Then who, Yuuri? Have you taken up with more than one of those wingless slatterns? Let yourself be passed around like a pet?" 

Yuuri’s wings burst forth, his feathers exploding from his markings. "Don’t you dare call him that!”

Mari’s jerk to rise was halted by their father, who kept her down with hushed warning to mind her wounds. Red had begun to seep through the bandages at her side, aggravated by her movement. She threw his hand off her shoulder. “Are you fine with this!? We’re being hunted because of him! How long is it before they storm our nests? I barely got away! What happens when they come for us here, when they start stealing eggs from nests? What will happen then?”

“Maybe it’s just an accident,” Hiroko said, her eyes on Yuuri. “A wild guess? If Yuuri says his mate wasn’t the cause…”

“It wasn’t him!” Yuuri insisted, his blood boiling under his skin. Victor hadn’t, no one had, not intentionally. It had been Minami’s book. The one that Yuuri had never protested. Despite the annoyances Minami’s meticulous note keeping had caused, Yuuri had been flattered, to think he held such appeal. Yuuri had allowed this to happen. “It was me, it’s my fault.”

His decision to mate with Victor had led to this. All of Yuuri’s decision, all of his mistakes were the cause of Mari’s battered wings, the cause of the navy chasing after Victor. “It’s because of me. But I’m going to fix this!”

“How, Yuuri? How?!”

“I-… I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri didn’t know what to do. He was torn. On his fingers, he twisted all his rings. They were an irritant against his skin, the gold like a cheap rusted metal ready to stain his skin green. His sister’s voice was at his back, grating, questioning, demanding. How did he know that Victor had not betrayed him? How could he be sure he wasn’t being lied to, being used? How could he trust humans, when obviously, one of them had broken it, when Yuuri’s trust in them had led to this?

Yuuri didn’t know for sure. He didn’t know how this had happened, even if it was only at the cause of a mistake, he had never thought it would get like this.

If humans had chased after him, for being with Victor, he could handle that. He could fight, he could defend himself, defend Victor. But it had been like this from the start. The world trying to pierce between them, to cleave them apart. The navy, the macaw, the queen, his family. They had no support on either side.

A siren was not meant for a ship. A human wasn’t meant for a siren.

Yuuri couldn’t even speak without fear of his voice affecting Victor and when he did, when he relaxed and let his words free, he saw how much Victor lit up. Yet, the worry was always there, of the danger he could put Victor in if he phrased something incorrectly, or if his power waned to the point to where he would no longer be able to use it protect Victor. 

Even if Yuuri managed to convince his parents, his sister that Victor was a good mate for him, what of other sirens? Those who would think the same, that he was a pet, that he was betraying his species. And what of all the humans that thought the same? That had thought, like Yakov, like Lilia, that Yuuri posed a threat to Victor. 

Victor… Yuuri needed Victor. He needed to see him, needed to talk to him, to tell him what was happening. They could figure this out, together. Victor would hold his shaking hands, Victor would kiss the prickling itch out from Yuuri’s nerves, Victor would listen and he would have some idea, because Victor was brilliant.

Air caught in Yuuri’s throat, sticking there like it didn’t belong. Behind him, his family had calmed Mari, speaking in hushed voices as if they were afraid to let them carry, as if ships might already be waiting on their shore. They were planning, to fly to other sirens, to let them know to beware of ships, to join together to take out any of those which had learned how to become deaf.   

The hesitation, the doubt, the disbelief that had been in his parents when Yuuri had handed them the drawing seeped back in. But that was because they didn’t know Victor, they had not met him, they didn’t understand. What if his family told the other sirens of what Yuuri had caused and they decided to hunt Victor?  They’d have both sirens and humans chasing after them, trying to tear them apart.

“I-… I have to go,” Yuuri muttered, slipping on the sand when he tried to rise, his feet unsteady. His limbs felt heavy, his wings felt weak. He shouldn’t have come. All he had wanted was for his family to accept Victor. He wanted Victor to have a family again, to become a part of Yuuri’s. “I need to go.” He needed his mate, he needed to make sure Victor was safe. 

“Yuuri, wait, baby bird, what if there’s more ships out there like the one Mari met?” Hiroko asked, holding out her hand in offer. “Stay here, you can’t fly alone.”

Yuuri had already let one ship nearly get the best of him. He would not let another. He knew humans now, he knew how they thought, what they overlooked. If an armada stood in the way between him and Victor, he would shred through them until the waves themselves bled red. “I need to be with my mate. I’m sorry.”

“Yuuri…”

His attention snapped back, to his sister. In all his years growing up, Mari had been whom Yuuri looked up to. He had wanted to fly like her, to hunt like her, to have beautiful colors in the spring like her. Even before she was of age, Mari took out ships with such grace and such speed that drove Yuuri to envy in competition, wanting to be as good, as powerful as his sister. He had wanted her to see him and be proud of the little brother that she had helped to raise and inspire.

All that he saw now was how broken she looked, wrapped in stained bandages, her wings unable to lay naturally behind her, her red-tinted eyes filled to the brim with disappointment.

“Is being with this human the best decision you can make for everyone?”

Yuuri did not answer her. He turned away and spread his wings, taking off through the overgrowth above them. The branches scraped at his skin but Yuuri ignored it, pushing himself toward the sea.

Was it the best decision he could make? Yuuri couldn’t say that it was.

Chapter Text

“They’re beautiful, he’ll love them.”

Gold gleamed under the lights of the small shop Victor stood in, admiring the delicate work set out before him. His pockets were significantly lighter but it was absolutely worth it. The finely spun chain would drape over Yuuri’s skin like a kiss, the stone that Yuuri had gifted him no longer rough and plain, but a gorgeous weight at the center. 

The rings that Victor had requested were equally as stunning. Cut and polished sapphires lined them, color deep and clear, promising to sparkle so bright under the sun that they could blind. Victor had held Yuuri’s hand and put rings on his fingers more than enough times to know what size would slip snug and hold there. He only hoped that Yuuri would forgive him cutting up the rocks, still not entirely versed in what could qualify as impolite in siren culture. But Yuuri was always more than happy to be covered in gold, especially when it was Victor who was draping him in it.

Victor picked up the rings, checking the engravement along the inner bands. A delicate feather curved up from one into the other, only complete when the two rings were placed together. Yuuri considered Victor his life mate, involved Victor in every aspect of his culture. Victor had already waited too long to involve Yuuri in his. Yuuri had danced for him, flown with him, mated Victor in the most beautiful ways from sunset to sunrise. Victor wanted Yuuri to join him as fully, in the human ceremony of promising to be mates for life.

Shaking hands with the jeweler, Victor left with the necklace and rings carefully wrapped away. There was an extra skip in his step as he made his way through the town. They would sail the next morning, and Yuuri was expected to be back in his arms before the following nightfall. Victor had already planned the route the ship would take, up the north coast, to where they had first met.

At the tavern close to the docks, Victor found Chris slumped over the bar, drink untouched. His hair was a tattered mess, clothes completely worse for wear. 

Victor clapped Chris over the back as he sat down and received a pained groan in response. 

“Don’t touch me there… don’t touch me anywhere,” Chris muttered, voice hoarse like his throat had been scrubbed with sandpaper.

Victor arched an eyebrow, looking over at his cook. From under the collar of his shirt and from around his rolled up sleeves, sharp bite marks littered Chris’s skin.

“Phichit?” Victor guessed, trying his hardest to restrain the chuckle threatening to break loose.

“Phichit,” Chris confirmed, fingers inching forward across the bar to grapple for his glass and slowly drag it toward him.

“Worth it?”

“Every time.”

Laughing freely, Victor waved down the barkeep, ordering a round for both of them. He felt that Chris would need a second once he finally managed to sip down the first.  

The tall, proper-looking woman who served them their drinks leaned over the bar, her fingers settling over Victor’s wrist to pull him in close so she could speak in a hushed voice. “So, I hear you caught yourself a siren.”

Victor sighed, giving Minako a small smile before pulling out from under her hand. “How does everyone know?”

“Sara said she saw you in the port with one last time your crew came in,” Minako replied, helping Chris to tip his glass up to his mouth as movement seemed to be restricted for him. Victor noticed a few black dots along the line of his lips, no doubt caused by the mermaid’s piercing teeth.

“How did what a siren looks like suddenly become such common knowledge?” Victor questioned. He had never known until he had first seen Yuuri and understood what he was. Tales of sirens had been varied, with too few men ever having escaped them to be able to tell which stories were true and which were embellished bar talk. Without his feathers and wings, Yuuri looked ordinary enough. Unfairly gorgeous, but Victor always wondered if his personal bias influenced that.

“She said she saw his feathers, that he fluffed up when spooked by a horse. There’s lots of rumors floating around too, told by visiting sailors,” Minako explained. When Victor’s gaze snapped to her, she smirked in accomplishment. “So it’s true?”

“We can neither confirm nor deny such allegations.” Chris lifted his head, exposing more bite marks scattered down the length of his neck.

“What rumors?” Victor asked. He was not fool enough to think some details of Yuuri had not escaped, not after the encounter Yakov and then Lilia. His years in the navy taught him that sailors had loose tongues, looser after a few servings at a bar.

“That you’ve tamed one,” Minako answered, hand on a cocked hip. “I heard you danced with the siren in the town over, knocked off half the tavern on your way out, and had it sing commands at your request!”

“He’s not tame,” Victor corrected. Tame was the last word that Victor would use to describe Yuuri, nor would he ever want to. Yuuri was not some exotic bird that Victor had caught and taught to live in a cage. “I don’t control him. He does what he wants.”

“Yes, but what a siren wants is to sink ships and feast on men. You’ve got yourself a siren that’d said to be drop dead gorgeous, that stays with you, listens to you, and helps you in exchange for what…. warming your bed? You’ve got yourself the ultimate fantasy, Victor.”

He knew Minako meant well, that she was only reciting what talk had passed through her bar. Yet his skin still crawled. The implication that Victor had ownership of Yuuri, that Yuuri was just some prize to be won sawed into him like a dull blade.

“What’s that? A murderbird amongst my crew?” The joke was sour on his tongue.

“What everyone’s been wanting for themselves ever since they’ve heard you got one. A pet siren.”

Chapter Text

Pet.

The word was acid, eating through him. Was that what rumors made Yuuri out to be? A trophy for him to play with? Not an equal, not Victor’s beloved, not the terrifyingly beautiful siren that had blown through half a city just to get to him, but an object of ownership.

“How exactly do people think I’ve managed to tame a siren?” Victor asked, pushing his ordered glass away. The drink lost its appeal. Chris accepted it with dry gratitude instead.

“That’s the question, isn’t it? What everyone is wondering. How did you catch yourself a siren that didn’t kill you on the spot?”

That was the point that was being missed. Victor didn’t catch Yuuri. If he had caught Yuuri, he was certain he would not have kept his head long enough to even have a thought of how wondrous life with a siren could be. His life was Yuuri was nothing more than Lady Luck coming to give him her blessings from the very start. A chance encounter that would have been missed with the slightest change in the wind filling his sails.  

“Natural charms like mine are impossible to replicate,” Victor replied bitterly, leaning back in his stool. The idea of someone attempting to tame a siren was laughable. If he brought up such a concept to Yuuri, he would welcome a dip in the ocean waters when Yuuri’s glare would tell him to jump overboard. “There’s no controlling a siren. And I wouldn’t want to either. That’s not what he is to me.”

Victor was not about to explain his entire relationship with Yuuri, defend it against rumors. It would be pointless. He had a better plan already. To catch Yuuri in his arms when he came soaring back, his sweet chirps skipping across the sea. Victor knew what they were to each other. He would never stop Yuuri from flying, never want to change him from what he was. Victor would have Yuuri exactly as he was, feathered and beautiful, with a siren’s temper, forever.

Victor had explained to Yuuri the concept of marriage, the exchange of vows, the trading of rings. Yuuri might have already taken all of Victor’s rings from the first day, but it was about time they did it properly. Perhaps it did not matter, really, but there was nothing that Victor wanted more than to have Yuuri as his family, even if it was only by formal social rules set forth by his own kind. And he knew Yuuri would love it, to be able to participate in Victor’s culture, in a human mating ceremony of sorts. And then, if Victor ever encountered another who dared to call Yuuri a pet, a siren under inexplicable influence, Victor could correct them. Not his siren. His husband. Victor Nikiforov, the most infamous pirate on the seven seas and Yuuri’s husband. It would be the greatest title he could ever earn. 

If others wanted themselves a pet, well, Victor could sit back as they attempted to get one. Less fools for him to dispose of. "Has anyone tried?“ he asked, with a touch of curiousity. He had no doubts that there would be those that would seek the thrills and challenge of obtaining a siren. It would not be long before the lack of returning ships explained their fates. "To get one?” He could enjoy listening to a story, laughing at a drunken sailor spinning lies to buy himself a sliver of attention with tales of close encounters. How many would mistake a siren for a mer? “Because I’d love to see someone try.”

“Victor…”

It was not Minako who said his name, but Chris. He looked to his companion and found Chris sitting up, posture tense as he stared out at the bar. Victor turned. 

Every patron was focused on him, visibly straining to catch each syllable that left his mouth. With his quiet, not another sound was heard.

Victor narrowed his gaze, able to feel their desires for inquiry itching into him. “Does anyone here have a question?”

One man, seated at the table nearest the bar, spoke up. “Come on, Nikiforov, tell us how you got your pet.”

Victor stepped off his barstool and stood straight, tugging on his captain’s coat so that he presented himself proper. The fall of his boots echoed through the still of the bar as he strode up to the man and seized him by the throat, flipping and pinning him onto the table. The drink and food the place of which he took clattered to the floor.

The man had no chance to get away, because Victor’s pistol was cocked against the underside of his chin. “If you call him a pet again, I will deal with you in the same manner that I dealt with the great Pirate Morooka. Or better yet, I’ll feed you to said pet.”

He plucked a steak knife off the table, the blade dripping wet in spilled drink. With a twirl of his fingers, Victor jammed the knife into the man’s shirt collar a split hair from his skin, glare of his blue eyes an even sharper threat as they snapped up to take in the rest of the patrons. “That goes for all of you! And anyone else who dares.”

Leaving confirmation unspoken, Victor spun away and threw enough coins at Minako to cover the damage he might have caused. He left the bar in silence, the tension a plunging weight. The only thing that weighed heavier was the jewelry which remained secure inside his coat. 

Chapter Text

Sunrise could not come fast enough. Even before light broke, Victor was awake. Mornings without Yuuri stretched far too long.

Victor rinsed and shaved his face, so that his skin would be smooth for his lovebird to nuzzle into when he came home. He brushed out his hair, not quite taking the same reverant care that Yuuri took with it, but enough for the strands to gleam under the burning lamps. His skill at braiding his own hair had fallen significantly in the past year, as he much preferred the gentle tug of Yuuri’s fingers through it to his own. 

Selecting out a silver ribbon, Victor knotted the end in a bow with a few of Yuuri’s feathers slotted in. If Yuuri was to come flying back into Victor’s open arms, he did not know how long he would be able to wait before lacing their fingers together and spilling all manners of sweet words onto Yuuri’s lips. A promise, to stay together, no matter what challenges opposed them. Be it storms or the navy, or other pirates fool enough to consider Yuuri as anything less than his equal. Victor would throw every treasure he’d ever amassed overboard in exchange for one more day with Yuuri. 

Victor dressed himself proper, in his finest boots and gold-embroidered coat of faded amaranth. A man should always look his best for a day destined for festivities, as Lilia had once told him. Victor hoped to bring nothing but joy to Yuuri on that day. Jewelry encased in a small case of bronze, Victor tucked it into an inner pocket above his heart and left his cabin.

As the sun cast gold across the sea’s horizon, Victor helped the crew prep the ship for their departure, letting the event of the bar fall behind him. If anyone had heard of what transpired, no one mentioned it and Victor was content to let such insults be forgotten.

A count of their crew found everyone on board, Guang Hong standing at attention as if to convince Victor he was prepared to serve. Victor had half a smile on his lips as he passed by, impressed that the boy had come back for a second round.

With anchor raised and ropes mooring the ship unwound, they let the foresails out, carrying them from harbor and out toward open water. Victor had recited to Yuuri the route they planned to take, mapping stars on his palm before he had taken to the sky. When Yuuri had first left the ship on his long flights, on hunts, Victor had worried about whether he would be able to find his way back. Yet Yuuri always did. Victor could strain his sight and hearing, waiting for a sign of Yuuri coming home, but Yuuri always found him first. 

The ship was lively as they sailed, crew refreshed and stores well-stocked, their speed of leisure. It was not an hour past departure when the parrots squawked, sounding an approach. Victor’s heart leapt for a moment, hoping to spot black wings breaking through the clouds above. The sea was not so kind that morning.

Sailing fast and with purpose, in chase of Victor’s tail, was a sloop-of-war flying a privateer’s jack.

Chapter Text

Victor passed command around the ship. Ready the guns, tighten the sails, prepare for a fight. They couldn’t sail faster than the smaller pursuing ship, which cut down their line and raised the queen’s flag on its approach.

The sloop fired a single shot in warning, a message, calling for surrender. It was not Victor’s first time being chased by the navy. He heard the dull thumps from below deck, a signal that cannons were prepped and capable of providing cover fire. Victor let the sloop pull alongside them, making his way up to the quarterdeck.

Mild surprise flashed through Victor when he sighted who headed the ship, though he supposed it should have been expected. “Back on your feet so soon?” Victor let the wind carry his voice, tone laced in amusement.

Jean Jacques walked along the deck of his ship with a slight limp, but the prideful smirk on his face was unmistakeable. “I was not expecting the famous Nikiforov to be so easy to track, but I suppose your prowess may have been greatly exaggerated with how easily you were caught in our last encounter!”

“I seem to have a different recollection of events.” Victor smiled. It was almost regrettable that Freckles was manning the guns under Yurio’s guidance at present, for it would have been quite delightful to show that the real reason that Victor had not managed to escape without arrest was now under his command. “What gives me the pleasure of your company?”

“I am here to extend an invitation, to you and your siren,” JJ called. “A chance to surrender yourself to JJ, save you and your crew from a fight. What say you? I’ll even keep your ship in tact, a privilege you didn’t grant my Isabella.”

“You’ve fallen to me twice before, yet you think you can take on me and my siren?” Victor could feel the unease at his back, his crew on their toes. He watched the movements of JJ’s crew, stiff, keeping to positions. Their gun ports weren’t raised, guns holstered. They were hoping for the pirates to give in without resistance. It set tension Victor’s shoulders.

“Where is it anyway?” JJ inquired, making a grand gesture of examing Victor’s ship from beak to rudder. “Your siren? Are you keeping it locked away until you’re in need?”

Victor stiffened, the temptation of making JJ swallow his words itching through him. The tavern talk echoed through him. “Are you yet another fool who thinks he can catch one as a pet? That they’re something that can be tamed?”

“I’m not here to catch your siren.” The grin that spread on JJ’s face was one of expected victory. From within his coat, JJ pulled a thickly-bound book, letting the pages fall open in his palm.

Victor heard the sharp intake of breath from the netting above him, felt the constriction in his own chest when he recognized what it was. JJ traced a finger along charcoal-blackened paper.

“Can be restrained by finely spun silk nets, weave and thickness for maximum resistance to be determined,” JJ read a note off a page, before flipping to the next one. “Commands can be blocked, must go unheard. Music, shouting, plugs all effective.” JJ moved onto another. “Accepted bribes: mangoes, hand-carved boats– palm-sized scale preferred, toys and treats for triplets… This is all quite fascinating.”

Victor’s eyes darted up, the momentary wash of betrayal fading when he glimpsed the horror on Minami’s face as his sketchbook was read by the privateer. “None of that is going to help you control him,” Victor said, his posture kept straight. Yuuri would not let himself be caught by silk twice and his voice was hardly his only strength.

“I don’t expect that it would. Putting wax in my ears is not going to stop a siren from tearing me apart. Nor will it give me influence over it, even if I do catch it. As helpful as it is to know all this, what good is a beast when it cannot be used?” JJ snapped the book shut, handing it off to one of his men. “However, if a siren mates for life… well, that would make you its greatest weakness. I’m here for you, Nikiforov. And if you want a fight, then like you took my beloved Isabella from me, I shall take you from your siren.”

With a stomp of his good foot, JJ shouted an order and all the gun ports on his ship slammed open.

Chapter Text

The fire that JJ’s ship rained down on them was not meant to sink ships or wipe men off the decks. Cannonballs were replaced by pellets driven by low quantities of powder, casting down on them like a metallic hail. It was meant as a control, to send him and his men into hiding as the privateer and his crew threw grappling hooks to connect the ships.

Victor ducked low and weaved for the railing, cutting the first rope he came across to send a navy man plunging into the water below. His sword was in his hand for the next, the blade sinking into flesh without regard, a shot fired into the heart of the third. If JJ intended to catch him to have a chance at Yuuri, Victor was not about to hold out his wrists in surrender.

The blast of cannons rocked through the sea, cleaving wood into splinters. Men in uniform flooded Victor’s ship under the advantage of the cover fire, but Victor’s crew knew her layout better.

Minami dropped fishing nets from the rigging above, leaping down to ride tangled shoulders, his charcoal sharpening knife turned deadly when it jammed into the base of a neck. He was off quicker than the lightning that rode on a harpy’s wings, stooped low to avoid fire, slashing at ankles as he went.

Mila stunned with a flash of her fiery hair, letting the promise of bad luck be the last thing a sailor saw before the spark of her musket’s muzzle claimed his vision completely. A high kick of her left leg blocked a sword strike, metal knotching into wood rather than the flesh she had already sacrificed. Her smirk was followed by the thrust of her own blade hitting home, coated in red on the pull-back.

The ordinarily unassuming Emil fought with a sword in each hand, his surgeon’s precision at asset in battle as much as it was in the medical bay. Chris maintained his charm as a cook, knocking skulls with a cast iron skillet and carving out stomachs with a butcher’s knife.

Below deck, the gunners aimed high, firing on the privateer’s upper deck to fend off more from boarding. As the burn of black powder and the tinge of copper filled the air, Victor wove through the smoke, noticing…

No one came for him.

JJ’s men locked blades with his crew, leaping away when he approached. A gun which may have had a clear shot at him when he pulled a sailor off Minami fired instead at the boy, who crumpled into Victor’s arms. Victor shot off another of his own, splattering the deck in blood before dragging Minami to cover.

Mila knocked a man into the sea and slashed through three more before Victor could come to her aid as they were driven back, lodging a bullet into the back of a head that had aimed to catch Mila’s. He saw one of the triplets swoop down, screeching with her claws gouging sharp at a sailor’s eyes. A blinded flail struck her the next moment, throwing her into a battered sail.

“Get to Leroy!” Mila shouted into Victor’s ear, a knee at his back shoving him forward.

So Victor did. He flew across the deck unopposed, jumping off the rail of his ship to come crashing down on the lower set deck of JJ’s.

The clang of metal on metal did not echo like it had in the forge when JJ came to meet him. Victor bore down, driving the privateer back strike by strike. The power in his blows sent vibrations down the blade, numbing his grip. “Come on, Jack Jacks, how are you supposed to catch me if you don’t fight?”

JJ stepped nimbly, keeping stance as he parred Victor’s sword. “It’s Jean-Jacques, you’ll do well to remember the name of the hero that finally brings you in!”

“Isn’t that what I said? Or it might be, you’re really that forgettable.”

“As forgettable as a book that details your supposed lover? I’d never let such a dishonor befall my beloved.” JJ dodged a lunge, tip of his sword clipping the hilt of Victor’s on a counterstrike. “Consider the offer. Turn yourself in, spare what’s left of your crew. The Queen extends her forgiveness.”

“And let the navy use Yuuri to fight their conflicts?” What a glory to have under the service of the crown, a siren that could speak down an entire armada. “What have I done to earn such kindness from you? How many shares did you get to buy your pride? Not even allowed to harm the pirate who let his siren sink your ship.”

“I may serve her Majesty, but I only promised to try,” JJ replied, kicking a barrel between them and using the distance to pull a gun off his flank.

Victor hurdled over it, striking the weapon from JJ’s hand. It skidded across the wooden deck, their blades locking at the hilt once more.

JJ leaned back into the momentum and shoved Victor off, holding out his arms in a questioning gesture. “Where is he now? Your siren? Have you worn him out or is he another part of your life that you’ve abandoned?”

Teeth grit enough to crack, Victor shouted and sprung forward, only to have his balance swept out from under him by the hook of JJ’s heel. His sword was knocked from his hand, falling overboard.

Chapter Text

A second rolled like an hour between them. Victor’s eyes darted, from JJ’s properly navy-trained grip on the handle of his blade, to the gun laying on the deck a few feet away. His own pistols were spent, empty, no more powder, no bullets lining the sash around his hips.

Victor dove for the pistol, but before it was within his reach, pain ripped through his scalp. His hair, braided with Yuuri’s feathers and tied with ribbon, had been snagged.

JJ wound his fingers into the end and pulled. Stumbling back, Victor clenched his jaw against the sear. He pivoted in and when JJ lunged, Victor swung his leg around, boot colliding with the privateer’s wrist. JJ’s grip fumbled with the impact, his sword stolen by Victor.

Victor struck, once, twice, the tip grazing cuts through the sleeves of JJ’s uniform. His next strike aimed for JJ’s hand, to detach it from his hair. JJ pulled first. The yank bore enough force to turn Victor round, making him grab the base to keep the strands from ripping out at the root.

JJ laughed, winding the braid around his wrist to drag Victor closer. “Finally, down like the dog you are, led on a leash!”

It did not matter how Victor tried to twist away, to tear himself from JJ’s hold, to rush at him, to duck in the intent of grabbing the knife strapped inside his boot. Each time, JJ side-stepped him easily and pulled again, so close to knocking Victor off his feet.

Victor had never kept Makka on a leash. He would not permit it for himself, and he would not let his seizure lead to the same for Yuuri.

Heart pounding in his ears, Victor hooked the sword behind his back and swept it up. The sharp, polished edge caught the underside of his braid and sliced through it in one fell swoop, clean up the nape of his neck. His long silver hair was gone.

The cut braid unraveled in JJ’s hand, the feathers falling from it.

Victor spun, his fingers wrought into the grip of the blade he held. He saw the widening of JJ’s eyes as Victor made to plunge the sword into him, then saw the haste with which a pistol cocked. The sword in Victor’s hand did not reach its mark, but JJ’s finger reached the trigger.

Flint sparked. Powder ignited, propelling the bullet from its barrel to strike at Victor’s heart.

A siren’s scream split the sky above.

Chapter Text

Yuuri heard the blasting of cannons, felt the ripples vibrate through the clouds before he emerged from them. His wings strained against him, pulling pressure at his spine with how hard he beat them, the panic fueling him.

There was not much that Yuuri feared. But when he had been young, before he had perfected his techniques, the thumping of cannons echoing across the water had filled him with dread. During his first hunt, he nearly had his wing ripped out by one and it left him anxious of them.

He had learned, with practice, with age, how to avoid them. The angles at which they fired, how quickly they could be reloaded, the speed and strength at which they shot. He knew to approach ships from the rear or the head, how low to dip and how close to fly. He had learned to distinguish the type of cannon by sound and he knew the sound that he heard now. They were Victor’s guns. His guns.

Yuuri broke through the clouds and nearly fell from the sky. Two ships, side by side, held together by ropes spanning from a sloop to Victor’s. He heard the clash of swords, the firing of bullets. He heard a woman’s shout, watched a body fall lifeless into the sea below. He looked, for a flash of silver amongst the wood and the rigging, for it to catch in the sunlight from above.

Victor was not on the deck, he wasn’t there, there was blond and black and brown, but there was no silver, not on their ship, not in the water, not–

Yuuri saw it. Through the smoke burning off the sloop, Yuuri saw silver pulled tight, saw Victor being dragged. His wings threw him forward, fatigue washed from him like a flood. He saw the light reflecting off the blade in Victor’s hand, and saw the fray of Victor’s hair as it was cut, saw the fall of his own feathers. It hit him like a cannonblast, the anguish, as if he were seeing Victor lose his wings.

Yuuri was close, so close, his voice would reach, his voice would carry to Victor who turned, his sword aimed at the heart of his opponent. Yuuri saw the gun pulled from a belt, saw the flash of the muzzle, saw the bullet hit Victor.

And then, Yuuri saw his whole world turn red.

A scream ripped from his throat and he plunged down, streaking from the sky. His claws seized around the human’s throat, talons sinking deep into flesh. Yuuri tore the body apart like a rag, blood spraying like the ocean’s mist, coating the ship in red. He tossed the body overboard, two separate splashes haunting the waves but Yuuri cared not.

He crashed into Victor, hands a black blur as he tore into his clothing, searching, frantic, to find where his wound would be seeping blood, staining his clothes, angry and worse, so much worse than before.

His vision clouded with the tears spilling from him, unable to focus, unable to see, unable to find where the bullet had struck so he could push down, stop the bleeding, again, again, just like last time except there would no stitching this, no salve, no siren herbs he could give to Victor to save him.

“Yuuri…” Victor’s voice was dull in his ears. Yuuri clung to him, hearing the fall of running footsteps on approach, glimpsed navy blue. His wings swept the sailor off his feet, knocking him down onto the bloodied deck. Voice stuck tight in his throat, Yuuri grabbed a pistol from the sailor’s belt and fired a shot through his skull before letting it clatter onto the wood. There would be more, more, more filthy, foolish, undeserving humans all around, a threat that prey like them never meant to pose.

His arms winding around Victor, Yuuri held him tight, cradling Victor’s head against his collar, hands protecting his mate’s ears as the command for all of the rest of them to just die readied to bite from his tongue.

Yuuri saw the rest of their crew, still fighting, struggling to stop the men in naval uniforms from getting back to the sloop. Victor safe in his arms, Yuuri thrust out his wings and flew, his voice booming thunder across the waves, screeching a command for all that opposed them to perish. Instantly, bodies crumpled, dropping onto the deck and into the water.

Silence buzzed through the air, save for the whisper of Victor’s voice against the fabric of his robes, speaking to him, calling his name with hushed promises that, it’s fine, lovebird, it’s okay, I’m okay.

Yuuri landed them at the stern of their ship, Victor still cradled against him. He saw the softness of blue eyes, of a pink smile, and it broke him. He didn’t want them to fade, didn’t want to see that sparkle go dark, because of him, again, because of him.

Yuuri’s pulse drummed in his head, drowning out how Victor repeated his name, until Victor’s hands tangled into his. Victor guided them to his heart, where his skin was smooth and his tattoo unmarred, the only red staining it the color of Yuuri’s feathers in ink.

The pounding in Yuuri’s ears ceased. Victor curled Yuuri’s fingers around metal, drawing it out from the inner pocket of his captain’s coat. Lodged in a case of bronze was the bullet Yuuri had watched hit Victor, stopped, shredded, useless.

Victor’s hands cupped Yuuri’s face, wiping the streaming tears off his skin. “It’s okay, lovebird, look, I’m okay.”

He was fine. Yuuri dropped the case, searching Victor again, tearing the fabric from his chest so he could see it all, see that no other wound was there, that he was fine, he was fine, he was fine.

The tears fell from his eyes like summer rain, breath choking in his throat, and Yuuri crushed Victor in embrace. His wings wrapped around them both as he wept, everything coursing through him. Victor’s hands slid up his back, so warm, so loving, curling into his robes to pull him closer and Yuuri jerked away.

Shaking, weak, quivering, Yuuri met the brilliant blue of Victor’s eyes and layered his voice in the thickest magic he could muster. “Let’s end this.”

Chapter Text

The words seemed to pierce through Victor like the bullet that would have hit his heart. Yuuri drew away from him, trembling, his voice shaken apart by the tears which refused to stop falling. When Victor said nothing, did nothing, simply gazed after him, Yuuri said it again. “Let’s end this, Victor.”

All around them, scattered at their feet, across the decks of two ships, murking the water, was death and destruction. Yuuri had flown to his family, to tell them of Victor, and found their world about to fall into ruin. The weight of his sister’s body in his arms had been crushing, the smear of her blood against his skin like a stain he couldn’t wash off. Yuuri had flown to Victor to watch him be shot, for a second time, because of Yuuri.

Yuuri’s action had caused this. How many times had he brought Victor close to death? Yuuri was selfish and greedy, he had claimed Victor as a mate without explaining to him what that meant, without considering that the world would oppose the mere idea of them together.

Victor gave him so much love, so much care, he gave him everything that Yuuri could have ever wanted and more, and Yuuri gave him back this. His beloved ship shredded, his crew bleeding, his life in peril once again. And Yuuri knew, knew that Victor would chase him to the edge of the earth if Yuuri didn’t stop him.

Any magic left within him, Yuuri used, unable to steady his voice as he commanded Victor through the blur of his tears, words choking him as he spoke. “You should… you should f-forget… me.”

He couldn’t read Victor’s face, couldn’t see it, blinded by pain sweeping through him, at the notion that the safest life his mate could live would be without him. If the world opposed them, fought against them being together, like it had from the very start, well, they couldn’t win against the world.

Yuuri saw, through the unfocused haze filling his eyes, the pink of Victor’s coat blurring into cropped silver. Victor had risen and closed the step of distance between them. Before Yuuri could beat his wings to rip himself away and into the sky, he was caught in an unforgiving embrace.

He felt the slide of Victor’s hand across his skin, the cool metal of his rings caressing the back of Yuuri’s neck. The other arm looped his waist and pulled him close, so close, Victor’s hold around him like the only sanctuary that Yuuri would ever need.

“L-let go,” Yuuri begged, even though he didn’t want to.

“No.”

And Victor didn’t. Yuuri broke down completely, clinging to the torn fabric of his shirt, his gasping sobs flooding out without any chance at control. Victor held him and soothed him, played with the tips of Yuuri’s hair, letting Yuuri collapse in his arms until his tears ran dry and his heaving sobs began to calm.

Yuuri clung, not wanting to let go, afraid that if he did his commands would take effect and Victor would slip from his grasp to never return. Only Victor’s hold on him remained. When Yuuri finally stopped crying, Victor tipped his face up and wiped his tears away once again, the smile on his lips so unfair that it tore at Yuuri’s heart over and over until he was weak and defeated.

“Why would you say such things, Yuuri?”

Yuuri didn’t know what to do, how to answer. He was lost and scared, visions of his family captured to be kept as pets and of Victor burning up with fever from a festering gunshot wound flashing through his mind. “I-… I keep causing this. I keep doing this. You keep getting hurt because of me. With… with Yakov, with the raid, now, what if that bullet hadn’t missed you now, this is on me, Victor, I can’t– I don’t want you to die because of me…”

Yuuri felt the pressure building in his throat again, welling up in the ducts of his eyes. None of this, none of it would have happened if Yuuri had never washed up into Victor’s life.

“Lovebird, without you my life wouldn’t be worth living. How could you say that when you’re the only thing I have worth dying for?” Victor’s smile burrowed its way into Yuuri’s heart, weaving into it, nesting there. Yuuri never wanted to be without it. He was lost, but Victor was grounding him, tugging him back, back into his arms, back home. “You’re what saved me. You healed me when you brought me medicine, you flew me off those docks after I got myself caught, and you saved me now.”

Yuuri shook his head. “I didn’t–”

“You did, lovebird. You think I wouldn’t have the navy chasing after me if you weren’t with me? I would have been shot regardless.” His arms not letting Yuuri go, Victor reached down and picked the small bronze case off the deck, slipping it into Yuuri’s hands. “My love for you and yours for me is what’s kept me going for this long.“

Hands shaking, Yuuri pried open the case and nearly dropped the rings inside. He caught them, the gold bright against his skin. Yuuri blinked, the deep blue of the sapphires lining them dazzling in the sunlight beaming down on them, and then he realized what they were. What Victor had told him about, when explaining the custom of a human mating ceremony. The sapphires were from the rock he had brought for Victor, the one that Victor had hidden away, insisting one keeping it safe. The one that had so upset Yuuri, thinking his gifts had gone unappreciated.

"I don’t want to end this, ever,” Victor said, taking one of the rings from Yuuri’s palm. His touch was as gentle as ever, all love as he slid the band onto Yuuri’s right hand, on the one finger Yuuri had never worn one on before. “Because maybe it’s true we’ll never stop fighting, that we’ll always have something chasing after us to try to keep us apart. But I always want to be fighting alongside you. You’re my mate, Yuuri, for life. Human or siren, we have the same concept in our cultures. Of loving someone so much that you want to be with them, forever. If the world wants us apart, then I want to sink the world together with you. Will you stay and fight by my side?"

Yuuri had thought he had no more tears left in him. But Victor filled his soul to the brink and made him spill over. His trembling hands slid the pair band onto Victor’s, tangling their fingers together to see how the matching rings shined, pressing against each other. He nodded and fell against Victor, never wanting to be apart from him again. "Till death do us part.”

Chapter Text

Everything felt like it was happening in slow motion.

Victor kissed Yuuri’s face and used the sleeve of his coat to wipe the sailor’s blood off Yuuri’s hands. They stayed close as they surveyed the damage to the ship, rounded the crew, and pushed bodies overboard.

From down below, the gunners emerged, looking ragged with faces smeared black with powder. Guang Hong was shaken, but hastened over when Emil called him over to help carry those who were injured to the medical bay. Minami hobbled after them, shoulder already bandaged and arm in a makeshift sling, his retrieved sketchbook tucked under it.

Apart from some nicks and bruises, Mila had come out of the fight unscathed, while Chris put pressure on a head wound. Axel got a split for her wing and fussed about it when her sisters tried to preen her feathers in care.

They held services for those that weren’t so lucky, quietly casting them out into the water with coins placed over their eyes to pay for their peaceful passage to the other side.

The sloop-of-war was wrecked beyond repair, torn by cannonfire. Those who were steady on their feet pulled supplies from her belly before Yuuri shredded through it, sending her to the bottom of the ocean.

The day passed in what felt like silence, voices hushed even as they worked to patch the splintered wood, Yuuri flying up to help change out the sails. The decks were swabbed, washed of blood, and by sundown, the lull had hit full on.

Yuuri’s hand lingered in Victor’s when they finally went inside their cabin, back in the familiar comfort of their nest. Victor lit the oil lamps and Yuuri scowled when he saw the frayed ends of his hair, the once beautiful strands cut short and uneven. Yuuri pulled his mate to sit and found scissors in Victor’s deck.

Yuuri combed through Victor’s hair with as much fondness as he always did, even as his heart twinged knowing he would no longer be able to weave braids with his feathers decorating. Victor relaxed under his touch, letting Yuuri do as he wanted, like he always did. Silver fell all around them, scattering the floor in a fine dust, Yuuri trimming it so it no longer looked like Victor had lost his beauty in the fight.

When he finished, Yuuri cleaned off Victor’s shoulders and settled into his lap, his arms winding around his mate. He buried his face in Victor’s collar and stayed there, fighting the exhaustion and sense of loss threatening to overtake him.

Victor’s hands took hold of Yuuri’s face, cupping his cheeks. He stroked away the few tears which had slipped, kissing at the glistening trails. Yuuri clung on, his fingers threading deep into the now short strands of silver hair.

“Yuuri…” Victor tilted Yuuri’s face up, thumbs pushing on his cheeks to try to draw it into a smile. “Tell me something. Give me a command, lovebird, anything.”

Tears blinked like sparkling crystals in Yuuri’s dark lashes. He could see how Victor’s eyes shimmered, torn between the same mourning and sense of relief. His mouth parted, then closed, teeth sinking into his lower lip. He was still cautious, unsure, searching for what to say. Victor had defied him, straight out. They both knew what that meant, they had both seen it coming for so long. Yet facing it now felt unreal.

A spark shot through Yuuri and he nodded. “Get-… get me a mango… now.”

“No,” Victor replied, quick and easy, not a shred of resistance stumbling into his voice. And he laughed, leaning into Yuuri, foreheads tipped together. “No, I won’t. You can get one yourself.”

The weight of Yuuri’s pout only seemed to make Victor laugh even more. But Yuuri’s expression cracked before a moment had passed, corners of his lips twitching. His fingers tightened in Victor’s hair. “I-… I don’t have to worry anymore. I can… I can talk, with you. Whenever.”

“About anything,” Victor replied. “You don’t have to chose your words. You can tell me anything and everything. Boss me around without feeling guilty.”

Yuuri’s smile spread, full and aching across his face. He threw himself into Victor, nearly knocking them off the chair before Victor’s hand dropped and his arms wound tight around Yuuri’s waist.

Victor stood them up, and spun them around, Yuuri lifted in his arms. Yuuri drowned in the bubbling of his own laughter and how it mixed with Victor’s, making for the most beautiful sound in the world.

“Kiss me,” Yuuri muttered, a soft plea so uncertain on his tongue.

“No.” Victor smirked. Yuuri looked at him, broken, letting more tears swim in his eyes until Victor relented. “Of course, lovebird, always, as much as you’d like.”

Victor kissed Yuuri, sweet and gentle, holding him steady in their embrace. Fingers clutching at the fabric of Victor’s shirt, growing far more eager and demanding, Yuuri kissed back and did not let go. He would never let go.

Chapter Text

Even with the power gone, Victor could feel Yuuri’s joy flooding through him. His own heart filled enough to burst, overflowing over into their embrace. Tears continued to spill down Yuuri’s cheeks, transferring onto Victor’s skin and mixing with his own.

After so long, Victor could hear Yuuri’s voice, unbound. And Yuuri knew this too, whispering against his mouth, repeating the same words over and over. “I love you.”

The world could stop for them. Victor swept Yuuri into a kiss and up into his arms again, carrying his siren across the cabin.

Yuuri’s wings dragged along the floor, the carpet displaced by them. Neither Victor nor Yuuri bothered to adjust it. Yuuri had neglected to fold away his wings upon their return, but Victor would never ask him to. Yuuri was always beautiful, but with his feathers on display, he was breathtaking.

They stumbled through the cabin, tangled in one another, breathing off each other’s lips. Victor’s shoulder knocked against his weapons cabinet. Yuuri whimpered on Victor’s tongue when his hip collided with the edge of the desk.

Victor dropped Yuuri onto it, kiss broken so he could dip down and mouth the sore spot, muttering apologies, the hem of Yuuri’s robes pushed up. Yuuri’s hands stayed in his hair, as if he were afraid to let go. Kisses ghosted the curve of his hip, the expanse of his thighs. A bite to the inside of his knee had Yuuri whining, leg hooked over Victor’s shoulder and already arching for more.

The drawers of the desk were hastily pulled out, Victor rooting within them. A growl vibrated against Yuuri’s skin as he fumbled, fingers slipping around the vial of oil. The glass of it clinked against the wood of the desk, bottle rocking on the lip. Victor steadied it, kissing back up the length of Yuuri’s body. Lips traced his thighs, kissing below his belly button, up the centerline of his chest. He took Yuuri’s robes with him, lifting them over the siren’s head, sucking a mark into the crook of his neck.

“Ahh, not fair,” Yuuri muttered, grip finally slipping to drop to Victor’s shoulders. His head tipped back, legs spread to accommodate Victor between them. “Strip.”

“Why don’t you strip me?” Victor asked, smirking. His lips moved to the markings on Yuuri’s face, touching on each of them, his breath warm against the skin. He knew everywhere that Yuuri was sensitive. A touch to his markings could always make him shiver. Victor ran his hands up Yuuri’s spine, counting the dips in the vertebrae until his fingers brushed the silk of feathers. It was rare, that he had the privilege of seeing Yuuri’s wings in the privacy of their cabin, yet Yuuri was always the most striking with his feathers in bloom.

Victor’s clothing was torn off by a siren’s haste. Yuuri’s eagerness was rewarded by Victor seeking out his mouth, swallowing the moan that came when his oil-slicked fingers pushed inside. The heat radiating off Yuuri spilled down his neck, face and chest flushed pink. His parted, panting mouth glistened, wet from their kisses.

Legs falling open, Yuuri’s wings swept out, knocking maps, books, his collected pebbles onto the floor. His spine curved up as he dropped onto the desk, supported by Victor’s hand on his back. Fingers dragged between Yuuri’s feathers, loving how they twitched as Victor worked him open, stretching him until he was loose, expectant, clenching down in silent pleading.

Victor added marks to Yuuri’s skin, from behind the shell of his ear, down his neck, scattering them in the same pattern as the siren markings that adorned Yuuri’s face. He could hear the soft mewls, feel his siren shivering beneath him, the pressure of the heel of Yuuri’s foot on the back of one of this thighs, trying to get him in closer.

“S-stop teasing.” Yuuri’s lashes fluttered shut. He muffled himself, biting his bottom lip to contain the quiet sounds threatening to overflow. Victor’s fingers were deep inside him, yet each time they pushed in, they missed where he wanted them most.

“You don’t need to hold back, lovebird,” Victor answered, fingers tracing around the bundle of nerves inside, smirk wicked. “Let me hear you. You can tell me, what you want?”

Yuuri’s eyes flashed open, the rich brown of his eyes seeping with siren red. His hands bunched at the back of Victor’s head, tugging him down, rough and demanding. With determination writ on his face, he pushed himself down onto Victor’s fingers, forcing them in and against his prostate. Yuuri moaned, loud, spine arching, but his gaze remained locked on Victor. “Fuck me, please…”

Curse dying on his tongue, Victor lifted Yuuri into his arms, hooking his legs around his waist. Yuuri clung, face buried between Victor’s collarbone as he was spun. Glass vial snatched off the desk, Yuuri spilled oil over his fingers. They wrapped around Victor, messily coating his cock and thighs, strokes quick in desperation.

The vial slipped from Yuuri’s fingers when Victor thrust in, a gasp choking in his throat. It clattered across the floor as Yuuri’s back hit the wall, his wings unfurled in full behind him. His feathers spread out, red tips quivering against sleek black. More bloomed off all his markings, silken against Victor’s skin.

Victor had an arm snaked around Yuuri’s back, other hand gripped tight on a hip, watching his cock disappear inside his siren. Yuuri was made for flight, light in his arms and pliant under his touch. Yuuri’s head dropped back against the wall, neck exposed, the love bites Victor had littered there on display. “Ahhh, more, Victor, more.”

Victor gave him more, pulling Yuuri down onto him as he thrust, hips snapping against the backs of Yuuri’s taunt thighs. Yuuri left scratch marks on his skin, clawing at his shoulder blades, unrestrained moans falling from his mouth. Like music, Yuuri sang Victor’s name in an unfading mantra, pleading openly now that there was no fear of how his voice could influence his mate.

Yuuri was art in his arms. From the moment Yuuri had flown into his life, Victor had been ensnared within the confines of his wings, trapped by the melody of his voice. For Yuuri, Victor would sail over the edge of the horizon, shred his sails, sink the whole world if it meant holding that heart-wrenching smile on Yuuri’s lips for a second longer.

Yuuri shook, his legs trembling. His wings furled in, encasing himself and Victor within them. He clasped his hands at the back of Victor’s neck, raising himself up just enough to glimpse a kiss across his lips. “V-… Victor….”

Victor wound his arms tight around Yuuri, lifting him off the wall, Yuuri’s body sheathing down onto his cock. Yuuri’s head dropped, resting in the crook of his neck. The exhales coming off his lips were warm and broken. Victor cradled the back of Yuuri’s neck, fingers spread over the nape as he carried him. Yuuri pulsed around him, body silently pleading, drawing out a groan. “Nghhh, Yuuri… more? Do you want more, lovebird?”

A whimper slipped from him, and a nod. “P-please.”

Swear fouling his mouth, Victor spun them around.

Yuuri clung, his full lashes fluttering, eyes at half-mast, seductive to a fault. His nails imprinted crescents in Victor’s skin, marking him, before snaking up to grip into the short silver strands of his hair. “I want you… I want you deeper.”

With a crashing kiss, Victor dropped Yuuri onto their bed and twisted him round. Folding Yuuri down onto all fours, Victor grasped Yuuri’s hips and plunged his cock into his body, Yuuri’s pleasure-choked cry a gift. Buried deep inside, Victor dropped his face between Yuuri’s spread and trembling wings, mouth sucking a mark into the unmarred skin separating the pitch-black feathers.

Before Yuuri, Victor had been lost, at sea with no shores in sight. Here, now, he had all that he needed against him. His name sat heavy and blessed like a song on his beloved mate’s tongue, burning through Victor like a summer sunset. No gold in existence could shine as brilliantly as his Yuuri, skin gleaming with sweat like diamonds, his feathers like the richest of silks, his flush worth more than the deepest of tyrian inks. Victor would drown in Yuuri’s heat and his beauty, sink into the blissful abyss that was his siren’s love, until eternity wore their bodies down into one.

Yuuri’s feathers were soft against his cheeks as Victor nuzzled in, mouth open over the sensitive joint of Yuuri’s wings, pulling whimper after whimper from his siren. His thumbs stroked down from Yuuri’s hips, tracing the pattern of the tattoo at the small of his back. Yuuri fell apart.

His arms gave out from under him, body shaking under Victor’s touch. “Victor,” Yuuri pleaded, voice cracking, sheets bunched between his fingers. “With you… I wanna–… with you…”

Yuuri’s wings swept across their bed as Victor flipped him over, the black spread stark against their golden sheets. He threw his arms around Victor’s shoulders, weaving fingers into his hair again, pulling him in. Victor’s hands caressed his face, holding him close.

They breathed into the valley between their mouths, temples tipped together, noses brushing. Victor drove in. Yuuri arched, spine a curved bow off their mattress. He cried Victor’s name as he came, untouched, trembling as he sought out a desperate kiss.

Victor echoed Yuuri’s call, drowning himself on Yuuri’s lips. He spilled inside Yuuri’s spasming heat, wrapped up in his arms and his kiss. Panting, Victor let himself rest against Yuuri, eyes fluttering closed as he caught his breath. He felt Yuuri’s lips curl against his own, smile spreading, and smiled back. “I’ll always be with you, lovebird.”

Laugh like wind chimes on his lips, Yuuri curled his wings around them both, keeping them warm in a cocoon of his feathers.

Victor could sense the scolding tease so ready to come out and stroked his fingers through Yuuri’s hair in encouragement, catching the feathered tufts at his ears and tugging on them gently. “What?”

Mischief glittered behind Yuuri’s dark eyes. “Does this mean that your humor is going to get even worse and I won’t be able to silence you?”

Gasping, Victor launched an assault on Yuuri’s waist, fingers skimming just under his ribcage where contact immediately caused Yuuri to squirm, laughter so loud it reverberated through the room. He kicked and locked his legs around Victor’s hips, crushing them together so Victor did not have room to tickle. They swapped kisses instead, until Yuuri whined about the cooling tackiness between them and Victor left him to wet cloth for them to use.

Victor lovingly cleaned Yuuri and wrapped him in the gold silk of their bedding, before presenting Yuuri with another case of bronze, this one with no bullet denting it. Yuuri accepted it with a bird’s curiosity, opening it to find a finely spun gold chain holding a cut and polished geode.

“I want you bathing in gold when I wed you,” Victor said, lifting out the necklace so he could drape it around Yuuri’s neck. Crystals of vibrant, rippling blues stunned against the cream of Yuuri’s skin. “In gold and the most wonderful rocks that you brought me.”

Gazing down, Yuuri admired the new jewelry, his fingers playing with the once rough edges now smoothed. “This was for you.”

“It is for me,” Victor answered, pressing lips against Yuuri’s temple. “I get the gift of seeing how beautiful you are wearing it. Of all the gems and precious metals that you’ve worn before, this,” he touched the necklace and then laced his fingers through Yuuri’s, kissing the new ring on his right hand, “and this, are the first that are truly ours. Not stolen, not robbed, but made with the gold that I purchased and the stones that you found. You and me, together as mates, for better or worse.”

Yuuri was quiet. His brows furrowed at the center, conflict milling across his face as his eyes remained focused on their rings. Sapphire and gold really did look stunning in accent to the dark of his markings. He unlaced his fingers from Victor’s and slid his hand up his mate’s arm, drawing him in close once again. The embrace passed in silence, save for the steady, in-sync rhythm of their beating hearts.

“Come with me.” Yuuri’s voice was a whisper so quiet it could have belonged to a ghost.

“Where?”

“…Home.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri awoke with the morning light, the rocking of the waves gentle against the ship. He remembered how strange it felt, when he had first came to stay in Victor’s cabin. What was meant to be solid floors could shift under his feet, pitch under the mercy of the ocean. Yuuri was used to flying, avoiding the chilled spray of the sea, letting the wind fill his wings.

There had been days when he loved a storm, loved the challenge of weaving between lightning, of when typhoons blew so rough he had to give in to the elements and sprout his tail. The sting of rain on his face, a day to forget that he was alone.

Yuuri loved storms now for a whole different reason. He loved the thrill of how they could toss the ship, how they brought that commanding boom to Victor’s voice when he shouted orders. He loved the ones that were quieter, those that meant Yuuri could hide away in their cabin and draw Victor into his arms. Oil lamps dimmed, he could watch the flash of lightning illuminating Victor’s hair, hear the rhythm of rain on the glass windows as they laid in the warmth of their nest. He could let the waves drive the roll of his hips when he claimed Victor, indulged in the music of their melding voices and the dance of them becoming entangled in the sheets.

He loved the calm days too. The beaming sun warmed their skin, sparking off their sapphire-laden rings. Victor’s hand overlaid his, resting low on Yuuri’s bare stomach. Yuuri turned, nuzzling into Victor’s shoulder, kissing his skin. It was a gift, to have a nest like this, one in which Yuuri could lounge, dry and comfortable, soft beneath him whereas Victor’s body was firm. Yuuri could not imagine ever needing anything more. All he wanted was this, life with his mate, quietly in love. Growing up, Yuuri thought that there would be no worse fate than to be trapped inside a ship. Now he could not imagine life outside it.

When Victor stirred, the first thing was dip his head down to press his lips to Yuuri’s hair. Yuuri instantly tipped up, kissing him and chirping, “Good morning.” How simple and yet the greeting felt so new, so fresh on his tongue, said without worry, without fear that his words might somehow command Victor to have a morning which was good, even if he were unwilling. It was silly, irrational, yet Yuuri felt so free that he threw his arms around Victor and kissed his face repeatedly, chirping another good morningafter good morning until Victor was laughing against his mouth and repeating each one.

They laid together, Victor tracing the lines of Yuuri’s tattoos, so familiar with their patterns he did not even have to see to map them perfectly. Meanwhile Yuuri fussed with the strands of Victor’s hair, twirling them between the pads of his fingers. He would need to think hard, to consider how to best decorate Victor in his feathers now that they could no longer be braided in.

“Yuuri…”

Yuuri gazed up, caught the contemplation on Victor, and marked a question into his skin.

“Why did you say that? To forget you?”

Because he thought it would be easier. Forcing himself to be away from his mate would have destroyed Yuuri, but it could have been worth it if it kept Victor safe. Yet if Victor chased after him, Yuuri would never have been able to resist. He had not. Within a minute, Victor had shattered through his resolve.

“There are humans who are hunting sirens,” Yuuri replied, hiding his face in the crook of Victor’s neck. “There’s… a rumor, amongst the sirens too, of a ship that has a siren for a pet…” Victor stiffened against him, his hold tightening, but Yuuri was not done speaking and Victor let him continue. “They don’t understand, they don’t understand what we are, they think t-that– that…”

“That you’ve been tamed.” Victor picked up for him when Yuuri could not find the word. “I heard the same, there was the same talk at the port. Yuuri, you’re not a pet.”

“I know I’m not!” Yuuri wouldn’t care about such stupid ideas, if some human or some siren wanted to insult him and call him that, let them. He knew what he was to Victor.

“Then why does it matter, let them try so they can get torn apart. I have no patience for fools that think you are anything less than my equal.” Victor cradled Yuuri close, taking his hand and pressing a kiss to Yuuri’s fingers, to his palm. “If anyone dares to try, we’ll hunt them down together. Lovebird, I’ve seen you sink three ships with a single word.”

“It doesn’t work anymore,” Yuuri said. “My sister was almost caught. She said the ship she chased was deaf to her voice, that they fired silk nets at her. She said she met another siren who’d experienced the same thing, ships that know how to fight us…”

Victor’s lips set into a thin line, expression morphing from displeasure to anger. His brows furrowed, face in a scowl. “He shared the sketchbook.”

Yuuri nodded. “I thought… if I left, maybe they’d stop chasing you… and stop chasing other sirens. If I wasn’t a pet anymore, they wouldn’t think they could get one for themselves…”

The laugh that scoffed off Victor was bitter. “Humans don’t think like that. You’re not stripping them of their fantasy so easily.”

“Then what do we do?”

Victor was quiet. Both Yakov and Lilia had come after him, both seeking Yuuri. Whether they thought Yuuri was his pet or he was Yuuri’s, they needed to disprove both. As well show that a siren could not be caught, before by some luck, one was. “We talk. We talk, and we plan, and we demonstrate to the navy and anyone else who might think themselves grand that sirens are to be as feared as they ever were. That no bit of wax in ears or silk nets are going to stop their throats from being torn out.”

“How?”

“With a bit of help.” Victor smiled and took Yuuri’s face in his hands, thumbing at the markings around his ears. “I have really been looking forward to meeting your parents.”

Chapter Text

“You went to see your family, when you left.” Victor had avoid asking Yuuri about it directly before, allowing him privacy. He had wondered, where it was Yuuri had flown when he came back with strange medicine and honey, where it was Yuuri felt like he needed to go after hearing Victor’s stories from childhood. Victor had faith that when the time was right, Yuuri would tell him. It made sense, where would anyone go when looking for aid in a time of crisis? Home.

“I wanted to tell them about you.” Yuuri still seemed hesitant, even after he had offered a navigation guide for his family’s island. They had stopped briefly while traveling up the coast, Victor insisting. He traded a new items in the port market, purchased fabric to mend the sails which had been shredded in the fight with JJ. Stores of powder and ammunition were filled to the brim. If there were ships hunting sirens, they would need to be prepared. “I didn’t last time, I didn’t think they’d accept.”

“Did they?”

The ship sailed slower than Yuuri could fly, taking a few extra days to be in sight of the cove. It was strange, approaching by ship instead of on his wings. Yuuri found himself apprehensive, fretting, unable to hold still. He plucked at the feathers around his wrists until Victor drew him in and soothed him. He half-expected to hear a song, beckoning the ship to run itself aground or awake to the screams of the crew as they were ripped apart by attacking sirens.

There were a watch in the crow’s nest at all times, Minami volunteering to serve out his apologies up there. Victor had refused to let him climb so high with an arm in a sling and sent Freckles in his place.

“Not at first. But after I explained…” Yuuri trailed off. And then his sister had come crashing down. He could not fault them for worrying, for being suspicious. In their position, he would think the same, regard himself as mental. But Yuuri wanted them to understand, wanted them to meet Victor and see how wonderful he was. Yuuri was proud of his mate. He did not want to lie or defend himself for his choice in loving Victor.

“Not completely?”

Yuuri shook his head.

“Well,” Victor adjusted his clothing, smoothing down the front. He wanted to look his best when meeting Yuuri’s parents. Yuuri thought it was only a shame that his hair was short, but Victor had found a way to still wear Yuuri’s feathers. He had clipped a couple behind his ear, the black and red vibrant against his silver. "I’ve already charmed one siren into falling for me. Surely I could manage a couple more?“

Laughing, Yuuri slid against him, reaching up to trace the shell of his ears. "Cover them?”

The ship had stopped its approach, just in view of the island. The crew had blocked their ears, in case sirens took note of their presence. Victor had refused. “How am I supposed to talk with them if I can’t hear, lovebird? I know you’ll keep me safe.”

Yuuri didn’t know. He could not envision his family doing anything to harm Victor, knowing them to be mates, but unease constricted around his heart. “But if–”

“How are we supposed to build trust if I go in showing a lack of it?” Victor pulled Yuuri’s hands down from his face, squeezing them in assurance. “Please, Yuuri. While we’re there, I’ll do whatever you say, but I need your faith in me too. Now…” He held out his arms, smile wide on his face. “Fly me?”

As if Yuuri could refuse.

The gifts Victor had insisted they carry were secured in a satchel on his hip. Yuuri gathered Victor in his arms and spread his wings, taking them both to the sky. Victor had teased that morning, asking if he should paint himself with gold markings again. Yuuri had turned him down. After all, he had told his parents that his mate was of silver.

When they reached the beach to the cove, Yuuri set Victor down in the sand but kept hold of his hand. If his family or any other siren saw Victor, they would see Yuuri with him and hold any commands. Or so Yuuri hoped.

That hope was dashed the moment they set foot at the entrance of his family nest. A sharp voice cut through the calm, spitting an order.

“Drop! On your knees, human slattern!”

Chapter Text

“Slattern?” Victor mouthed at Yuuri as he dropped to his knees, the command compelling him. It was a strange feeling, his body being pulled down on its own, like there was an invisible weight dragging him. The force of a siren’s command was something that Victor had not felt in a long time. Yuuri had always chosen his words carefully and anything he asked of Victor, Victor was always happy to do regardless.

Yuuri didn’t answer, stepping in front of Victor with his wings spread as a shield. “Mari, release him, he’s my mate!”

“You brought a human here?!”

Still on his knees, Victor tilted sideways to catch a glimpse of the siren approaching them. She had the same dark markings on her arms and legs as Yuuri’s, wearing robes also stitched with gems, though hers dropped down from her shoulders to loop her waist. One of her wings, feathers colored a deep red, dragged along the beach, the other nowhere in sight.

“You know about what’s happening and you brought one here, of all places, I should–”

“He won’t say anything, just listen to us.”

“No, he won’t, I’ll make sure of it!”

There was a flutter of feathers, Yuuri’s black sweeping up and clashing with the red of his sister’s as she tore around Yuuri. Birds’ screeches rolled across the waves, wings clashing as Yuuri attempted to block his sister from getting to his mate. Even injured, Mari came out triumphant, talons around Yuuri’s neck, holding him back.

She seized Victor by the collar, pulling him off his knees to raise him up, eye to eye. “You will not tell anyone about this island. You will not leave unless you’ve been permitted. And you will not harm any siren that you encounter here and anywhere, for as long as you live.”

“Of course,” Victor replied, offering a smile even as Mari’s commands wove into him, like ropes binding his limbs in their spell. “I had no such intentions.”

With a humph, Mari dropped them both onto the beach and turned her tail. “…Hurry up. Mom and Dad have been worried about you.”

Chapter Text

Victor did not know what to expect when he entered the siren cove. The image that myths wove of siren’s nests was a grim one. Based in bones, with skulls of their victims as decorations, sharp rocks so stained with red that even the waves could not wash it away. The treasures they gathered were to be laid out like bloodstones, a temptation for any which may have survived crashing on their cliffs. To give into the temptation was to become a feast for the siren itself.

Instead, the white sand beach gave in to lush greens, to blooming flowers that wafted their subtle scents. At the center of a small clearing was a hearth, over which boiled some sort of sweet smelling concoction.

Yuuri nudged him over, quiet, hands trembling. Victor reached out to take hold of one, curling his fingers around Yuuri’s to calm him. He heard the rustle of feathers and saw two sirens emerge. He held back his surprise. Somehow, he had expected sirens to look young forever.

Yuuri’s parents were aged, with grey peppered through his father’s hair, and crow’s feet pulling at the corners of his mother’s eyes. Yet a siren’s beauty had not left them, present in the way they carried themselves and the iridescence of their feathers, radiant off their entire forms.

“Kneel!” Mari snapped.

This time, Victor was prepared for the command and when it hit him he let it guide him, not fighting how it compelled. Instead, he moved with it, kneeling down with all the respect and poise that he had been taught to present in Lilia’s court, bowing to Yuuri’s family as if he were before the Queen herself.

Yuuri knelt down beside him, seated neatly with his hands folded in his lap. Yuuri’s parents said nothing, observing. Victor was able to see the hesitation in them, with how slowly they sat, holding back words. Mari hung behind them, her arms crossed over her chest, scowl permanent. Her glowing red eyes tracked each of Victor’s movements, as if she was waiting for him to spring up.

Victor opened the front of his coat, fanning it out behind him. He carried no weapons with him, guns missing from his sash, sword left in their cabin on the ship. The knife normally strapped to the inside of his boot was gone as well. He wanted to show that he posed no threat, that he trusted Yuuri’s family, like he hoped they would trust him. And if a family of sirens decided to tear him apart, Victor doubted any gun or sword would be able to help him.

Birds chirped in the branches above, rustling the leaves they flew from. Victor took the satchel they had brought from Yuuri and removed the gifts. A music box, gilded with gold and carved with flowers that had gems for leaves, for the parents. He placed it in front of them, before offering Mari a small case. Inside was tobacco, rolled and spiced with tropical herbs, a recipe which had recently gained popularity on land amongst those who could afford it. Yuuri had mentioned that his sister would sometimes smoke yarrow root, and Victor had figured it was as good a gift as any.

“For you, a small token of my gratitude,” Victor said, sitting back with posture straight and proper,“for allowing me the privilege of meeting a wonder as great as your son.”

He saw Mari roll her eyes, but Yuuri’s parents leaned forward to accept the music box.

“If you open it and wind it…”

They did. As the lid lifted, two songbirds of blue crystal emerged. The gears and springs that played the twinkling of sweet melody also turned them, so that the two twirled around each other, as if flying in a courting dance.

“Oh.” Hiroko smiled, inspecting the birds.

“Yuuri told me you heal those who are injured. I find that for my crew, a bit of music helps to soothe the soul and make recovery come quicker.”

Toshiya traced the gold, rubbing his thumb over a corner, testing to see if it flaked. “Is this meant to be a symbol of what kind of wealth you think you can provide for Yuuri? More than a siren could for him? Or that he could obtain on his own?”

“This gift is something that Yuuri and I brought for you together. The treasures that we collect, we collect as mates.”

Yuuri clutched his own hands together, all the rings on his hands catching the light. “Our nest is gold too…”

Hiroko set down the music box, shutting the lid with a snap. “Tell me honestly, do you know what it means to mate a siren?”

The magic of her words barbed around his tongue, compelling his answer. But it was one Victor had already prepared. “I do. I know that it means Yuuri is my mate for life and that I am his. I know how he would suffer if I ever abandoned him, and there could be nothing further from my intentions. I am also aware that our relationship may seem strange to many, that it will be questioned, but there is no one else for me in this world. I want him by my side, and only him, which is why I intend to marry him.”

The looks he received in response were blank. “Marry?”

Mari clicked her tongue. “It’s like a human mating ceremony. Where they vow to keep one mate for life.” Even Yuuri seemed surprised by her sudden explanation, tilting his head curiously. Mari wasn’t finished. “Except unlike us, the slatterns break their vows regularly.”

Yuuri’s fingers dug into his robes, feathers bristling off his hands, about to snap. Victor cut in to stop him. “I can’t speak for the slatterns of my species, but I assure you, Yuuri is my one and only mate, and I intend to keep it so until I breathe my last breath.”

Intend,” Mari repeated. “Humans always intend for things.”

“Mari, let’s calm with the language and be civil,” Toshiya said, waving his daughter down. “But she is right, how can we trust that you won’t break your promises?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Yuuri interjected. “We’ve already mated, whether you trust him or not, this isn’t your decision to make. I’m his mate and I trust him.” His trembling only calmed when Victor reached out, laying a hand over his.

Victor cast Yuuri a smile, helping him steady his nerves before continuing. “The only thing I can offer is my word and I know that doesn’t hold the same power as a siren’s promise, but I cannot think of a single reason why I would want anyone other than Yuuri. However, if it assures you, I am prepared to let you command me to keep my vows.”

Yuuri’s eyes went wide but before he could protest, Hiroko spoke up. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Mother–”

“Hush, Mari, this isn’t about you. If they had wanted, Yuuri and his mate could have kept their relationship secret from us. Yet… Victor, was it… Victor has come here in good faith. If Yuuri trusts him as a mate, we should too. Right, dear?”

Toshiya nodded. “Unless you intend to break your brother from his mate, Mari, there is nothing that we can do other than accept this. Are you prepared to fight him for this?”

Victor kept his appearance calm, his expression relaxed and open, even as his pulse jumped, hand tightening around Yuuri’s. He did not want for Yuuri to fight his family for this. As sirens did mate for life, he had expected that even if Yuuri’s family did not approve, they would do nothing to prevent it, not wishing to separate Yuuri from his mate… Unless it turned out that since Victor was human, the mate’s bond was not genuine, meaning Yuuri may still be able to find another mate if Victor was turned into a siren’s stew. That, he had not considered.

Mari glared embers at him, stepping forward, her form looming over them. Talons out, she swiped down and snatched the case of gift tobacco off the ground, tucking it into her robes. “Just remember what I said before, human.” She flopped down onto the ground beside her parents, though she did not look happy about it.

With that, the previous quiet of the cove ascended into chatter, as Yuuri’s parents shuffled closer, eagerly beginning to ask all manners of questions.

Chapter Text

The day had grown long with their conversations, the sun retreating.

“How many birds?”

Victor could see where it was that Yuuri got his sweetness. His mother was positively bubbling with energy, filling the conversation with questions and comments, remarks on how nice it was to see Yuuri smiling once the tension had begun to clear. She had blended tea from dried flower petals, while her mate prepared food. Freshly caught fish cooked over the hearth, roasted roots pulled from the ground nearby. Victor was surprised with how genuinely it suited his taste.

“Seven, with the chickens,” Victor responded, laughing when she lit up.

“Yuuri, you didn’t tell me you already had so many peeplings!”

“They’re not technically peeplings…” Yuuri muttered, focusing on his food, making Victor chuckle at his pout. Yuuri had been sporting one ever since the talk had turned to Hiroko excitedly telling Victor all manners of stories about Yuuri from when he was young. How Yuuri had once painted his feathers to mimic his mother’s, when he had been too small to change colors in spring. How Yuuri had been convinced he’d befriended a jellyfish, only to cry when it stung him. How after Yuuri learned how to fly, he had spent an entire week raiding the mango trees until he was sick of them and refused to even look at the fruit for months.

Victor had been overjoyed, turning to Yuuri in question of where the trees grew. After Yuuri had pointed in their direction, Victor teased him about getting one. It prompted a command from Mari to fetch. Victor obeyed to a fault, chuckling to himself about it being a classic.

“They’re as peepling as I am going to get, don’t crush your mother’s dreams.”

“Yuuri did hatch the chickens,” Victor said. “And he mama birds the crew at times.”

Hiroko seemed happy with that information. She asked about the crew and how Yuuri got along with them, about how had they reacted to a siren on board. Yuuri and Victor both reassured her, making the offer for formal introductions. Hiroko and Toshiya were hesitant, with Mari starkly opposed, warning her parents off more humans on the island. The topic was left behind.

Toshiya asked Yuuri about where he had traveled with Victor, what kind of humans things he had found of interest. Instead of something of interest, Yuuri recited stories about the horrifying hell beast that Victor had rode on and that Yuuri had managed to tame in the end! He talked about the port town markets and about the toy boats that he regularly received as gifts.

Mari was not impressed by any of it, shucking the peels off the mangoes and carving them with her talons. “How many ships have you sunk this year?” she murmured.

“Oh…” Yuuri glanced at Victor, lips pursing together. Victor could only shrug. He did not know of how many ships Yuuri had sunk when out on his hunts. Yuuri did not always talk about them, sometimes preferring to keep quiet.

Mari was expectant, his parents also holding out for his response.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said, shaking his head. “I’ve lost count. The most was… six in one go?”

A slice of mango tumbled out from Mari’s hand. “Six?!”

“In one go?” Hiroko supplemented, her tone of disbelief.

“Was that during the raid?” Victor asked.

“No, I think I only did a few then, I was more focused on getting to you, I only sank them on accident.”

Mari gaped, while Toshiya chortled, beginning to clean up from their meal. “Is this the same Yuuri who was worried about being able to sink a single ship for his mate before he left home?”

Blushing, Yuuri held his head high with pride, until his sister grabbed him, pulling him close to whisper questions into his ear. The two fell into quiet discussion. Victor sat back, offering to help Toshiya but was waved off.

“It’s getting late. We still have Yuuri’s nest here, you can ask him to show you so you two can set it up for the night.”

“Together?” Victor had expected to return to the ship for the night, or be relegated to sleeping on the beach.

“Of course,” Toshiya said, “Same nest is best.”

Victor could agree with such a philosophy. When Yuuri and Mari had finished their exchange, Yuuri retreated back to Victor. The island had grown dark, the main lighting coming from the fire in the hearth and the half-moon overhead. “What were you talking about?”

“Hunting techniques,” Yuuri replied, leading Victor further into the cove. His nest was a short walk away, under the protection of woven banana leaves. Victor could not help laughing, because it was an actual nest. Rounded and concave like a bird’s, made atop a raised platform of piled white sand. It was formed with vines, leaves off nearby trees and wilted blossoms. The inside was lined with fabrics the color of which had faded with time.

Victor reached it to pick one up, rubbing his fingers over the material. “Are these off ships?”

Yuuri nodded. “We learn to make nests as we get older, from things around where we live and soften them with the plunders off ships. I thought this was a good nest growing up.” His nose scrunched as he gazed down at the nest, obviously displeased with its appearance now. “…Wait here.” He flew off.

Victor did, sitting down on its edge. He sorted through the fabrics there, smiling when he found silk wound and tucked to form a thin pillow. There were some gems, some precious coins slotted into the nest and Victor left them there, imagining a younger Yuuri placing them there with dreamed ambitions of more.

Yuuri returned before long, carrying with him a couple pillows and sheets from the ship. Victor smiled, and helped Yuuri line the nest in the new fabric before he was pulled into it, Yuuri settling in against his side.

“Thank you…” Yuuri said quietly, “for coming here.”

“Thank you for bringing me.” Victor answered, bunching Yuuri’s hands in his. “I like your family.”

“Good.” Yuuri laid his head on Victor’s shoulder, sighing as he closed his eyes. “They’re yours now too.”

Chapter Text

Loop and Lutz perched in Hiroko’s lap, chattering with a combination of loud squawks and whistles that mixed into half words and phrases. Axel, meanwhile, was making attempts at stealing fruits from Mari, who refused to surrender any. Yuuri had brought the triplets over with the morning, much to his parents’ delight.

Victor helped Toshiya feed the hearth and prepare a morning meal. The topic of discussion stayed light, focused on the triplets before fading when Hiroko stood in order to tend to Mari’s injured wing.

She guided her daughter through stretches, helping her move the wing joints little by little. Mari hissed when it pulled out too straight. Yuuri looked away, unable to watch, and Victor did the same to give her privacy. Memories of Yuuri’s healing wings ran though his mind… If they wanted to stop this from happening again, this was a good of a time as any.

“I wanted to discuss the problem that seems to have arisen,” Victor started, catching attention with his change in tone. “Yuuri told me that there’s ships which are pursuing sirens, that have gone deaf to commands and have learned how to spin netting. I heard the same from my side, of sailors who have gotten it into their heads that sirens are something that can be caught and kept.”

“How did they learn if you didn’t tell them?” Mari questioned, jaw clenched as her wing was slowly rotated. On Toshiya’s shoulder, Axel stretched out one of her wings in mimic.

“One of my crew is fond of all manners of birds and he kept notes on Yuuri. It appears that during our previous landing, he lost his book and it got into the hands of someone who had been pursuing me. The book has been recovered and the individual who had it has been disposed, but it seems he shared the information.”

“You let someone keep notes?!” Mari snapped, hissing when Hiroko jerked her back into position. Axel jerked as well.

“It’s my fault, I didn’t stop it….” Yuuri muttered. “I thought it was flattering…”

“Neither of us stopped it, lovebird. It was an accident, none of us thought it would ever be something that left the ship.”

“Fools,” Mari muttered.

“We acknowledge that,” Victor confirmed, “and we apologize for not having the foresight, but that is no longer the issue. The information is out and we cannot bring it back. So it’s a matter of controlling the damage.”

“And how do you suggest we do that?”

“The problem is humans don’t know how many ships are brought down by sirens, because there are so few survivors. Occasionally you’ll hear a sailor brag about how he fought one off but it’s all fish tales. We need people who live through siren attacks.”

“Why?”

“Because dead men tell no tales. Survivors tell real stories. They might embellish them with time, but let me tell you, as a captain, if I hear word of siren after siren sinking ships and eating men, my first thought would not be to pursue one. For a long time, the rules of the sea were two. One, avoid harpies at all costs or prepare to fight to the very last man. Two, avoid sirens or you won’t have a man left to fight with. When sirens hunt, you’re too efficient. You leave no one left alive. Which means people have forgotten about the powers sirens possess and have let the deluded fantasies of old men dominate the tavern talk. Combine that with the whispers of me and Yuuri, and the Queen’s apparent desires to have a siren for herself, and that’s how we’ve come here.”

“Then what do you propose?” Toshiya asked, quieting the coals in the hearth. They burned down to embers, reflecting in the eyes of the sirens sitting around them. Lutz rubbed against his wrist and he scratched her head in return.

“First, we need to get word out to as many other sirens as we can,” Victor said. “Tell them not to chase deaf ships on their own. Every sailor knows a siren flies alone. But if sirens started flying in pairs with their mate and taking out ships that thought they knew how to fight… Well, it would scare me and put me right off pursuit, no matter how much gold was being offered.”

“Sirens don’t fly in pairs for a reason,” Hiroko replied, her concentration wandering from treating Mari’s wings to Victor’s plan. “You want us to change our ways. Leave our nests vulnerable, allow for survivors.”

“Not permanently,” Victor answered. “But the choice stands between that and risking others being caught. Yuuri escaped, Mari escaped, but what happens when some ship brings back a siren? When others realize it isn’t a fantasy but a real possibility? There will be no stopping or scaring them off then.”

Quiet settled. Hiroko finished guiding Mari’s wing, giving her daughter directions to continue exercising it on her own. Mari heeded, scowl on her face. She glared at Axel, who quickly ducked her head, pretending to preen under her wing. Toshiya looked over from Victor to Yuuri. “We’d have to explain to them all about your mate, Yuuri. Are you prepared for that?”

Yuuri nodded. “I have to be. It’s better if it’s known. There won’t be more misunderstandings like with the macaw. Even if they disagree with my choice, I’d prefer that to letting rumors of me being a pet mount.”

“How will we do this?” Hiroko asked softly. “We can’t wait for sirens to come here… And they won’t listen to Yuuri if he’s with Victor.”

“One of us can go, fly to the nests we know, hope those we meet will help us spread the word,” Toshiya replied, patting Hiroko’s hand. “Been a while since we stretched our wings.”

“No,” Mari interjected, pushing herself up. Her second wing unfurled from the tattoos at her back, presenting her full form. “That won’t do, you need to stay here. If more sirens come back injured, they’ll need your help. I’ll go.”

“Mari, your–”

“My wing will be fine, give me a day and I will be able to move it. I know where most nests are and I still need to find that macaw. Yuuri can go north to the Nishigoris and spread word there, they’ll trust him.”

Toshiya and Hiroko muttered to each other, chirping at their children who both nodded.

“Two days. Stay and heal for two more days, then we will try,” Toshiya said. “We need to make sure you can fly before you go off.”

“Fine,” Mari huffed, stretching out both her wings at once. The one on her right trembled and strained as she did. “Besides… We should get these two fools wed before they lose their lives trying to fix their mistake.”

Chapter Text

Mari stretched her wings at the lip to the beach, going through the exercises assigned to her by her parents. The music box was open and playing not far away, but the most impressionable thing was the sight of the triplets behind her. Axel and Loop both had their wings out, doing their best to copy her stretches. Lutz bounced between them both, nipping at their wings if she judged they weren’t out far enough.

Victor bit back his laughter, managing to hold it until Mari lifted a leg to hold a new pose. Because Axel and Loop did the same.

The siren snapped around, sending the birds scattering in quick reflexes. Lutz bounced after Axel, chasing her sister, while Loop tipped her head from side to side pretending to look for crabs in the sand. “What do you want?”

Victor did not expect to gain favor quickly, he had been surprised Yuuri’s parents settled without more effort. “I need to go back to my ship.”

Mari shrugged her shoulders and carried on with her stretches. Axel shuffled closer to her side and restarted the mimics. “So?”

Victor was not sure he wanted to know what would be the result of attempting to resist a siren’s command. He could picture Yuuri flying him off the island and the magic controlling him to leap out of Yuuri’s arms back to the beach. “I’d like to be permitted to leave.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Without Yuuri?”

Victor glanced over his shoulder, where Yuuri was with his mother. After the morning discussion, Hiroko had called both of them over to help her gather flowers from the surrounding area while she asked Victor questions about how it was humans held weddings. Mother and son were finishing hanging strung white flowers from tree branches, to dry. “I understand why it may be hard for you to trust me, but I would never wish to be anywhere without Yuuri.”

“Have you sunk ships for him?”

“I’ve brought him ships to sink.”

“And if it came down to it, would you sacrifice a human life to save his?”

Victor did not smile in response, a tightness in his chest preventing it. “Undoubtedly.”

Mari’s wings dropped behind her. Whatever reponse readied to spit off her lips, she restrained.

Victor took his chance. “I know that gifts will not bribe my way into your trust, but…” The music box continued to play, tinkering notes across the sand. “If there’s something I can do, please let me know.”

Following his gaze, Mari smirked. “You really are a fool… Fine, you want to do something for me?” She pointed at the music box. “Then dance.”

Surprise evident, Victor’s body moved on its own. But if Mari wanted a fool’s dance, she would not be pleased. Victor took the sweet music of the gift box and let it carry him back to the entrance of the cove, just as Yuuri was landing. A chirp slipped from Yuuri as he was swept up into his mate’s arms and twirled into a waltz.

“Fancy running into you here, do you come often?” Victor asked, making Yuuri laugh. He led them in light steps across the beach, their footprints littering the sand. Axel abandoned Mari’s side and soared over the two of them, perching on Yuuri’s shoulders to ride along with their dance.

“I didn’t mean with Yuuri!” Mari called, huffing at having her command reinterpreted.

Victor winked at his mate and broke away, instead going to Mari. She yelped and jumped back, but Victor caught her. Taking caution of her wings, he grabbed one hand and slipped the other around her upper waist, whisking her into a continuation of his waltz with Yuuri. “Did you think I don’t know how siren commands work?”

“Let go!”

Victor let go, only to come back the next moment, lifting her into the air in a spin before dipping her. “Let me go back to my ship, please.”

“Fine, you can go!”

Victor set her back down and bowed down low, sweeping the ground with his hand. “Thank you.” Turning to face his mate, Victor held out his hand in offer to Yuuri. “Shall we, lovebird?”

“I don’t think that’s going to help her like you,” Yuuri giggled as he accepted, waving to his sister when Victor began to lead him down the beach. The triplets flapped to follow.

“I know. But maybe it’ll stop her from bossing me around.”

Chapter Text

Victor and Yuuri had returned to the ship after he was released from Mari’s command. Victor held a round table with the crew, explaining the circumstances and the decision to turn the ship north. Not everyone was pleased, concerns expressed about heading straight to the nest of unfamiliar sirens. Minami had hung his head the whole time, but when objections were raised, he stepped forward. The encounter with JJ was not the first time they were ambushed by the navy, in search of Yuuri. He argued that it would not be the last, and if more and more ships chased after sirens, they would face more and more battles. How much plundering would be stalled and replaced by fights with ships seeking out their winged shipmate? They had a chance to put a quick end to it, not through their own brute power but the resources of sirens. And, he pointed out, if sirens marked them as an ally as a result, it could only be an advantage.

Victor had offered an out to any that did not wish to continue, a drop-off at the nearest port and a solid payment with no bitter feelings. He understood the risk, even with Yuuri as his side, of what could happen if the sirens they met were not receptive. A few hands raised, accepting the offer. Victor took note, his focus drifting to Freckles. The boy remained steely, determined, and kept his own down.

Before then, there were other matters at task. Victor maneuvered his ship toward the cove, anchoring it in the shallows. Close enough to take boats out to the island, though they wouldn’t. Yuuri’s parents had trusted him and he was not about to start testing that so quickly. The island formed a backdrop at the port of the ship, beautiful and serene, with coral reefs decorating the crystal blue leading into the white sand beach. Close yet far away enough.

“So how was it over there?”

“I can’t say.”

“Well you came back with your head and no chunks bitten out of you that I can see, so I assume you won the parents approval?” Chris questioned, eyebrow arched. On the main deck, the deckhands worked to scrub the wood, the whole ship cleaned and cleared in preparation for the upcoming ceremony.

“No, I genuinely can’t say,” Victor repeated. He helped to change out the sails, from the heavy fabrics that had taken them to the island at top speed, to the those light and often meant for naval celebratory cruises. They were of a white that blended into the clouds, stark against the sky.

“How– oh, commanded?” Chris guessed and laughed in good-nature when Victor nodded in confirmation. “Guess I’ll need to ask Yuuri. How were his parents, are you able to talk about that?”

“Quite pleasant. You’ll see for yourself.”

“I’ll see? I thought you said none of us were permitted to go to the island.”

“That is correct.” Victor gave his best smile, securing the last of the sail rigging. “Yuuri’s invited them here.”

Chapter Text

The shadows cast by three sets of wings engulfed the entire ship. Those on deck went rigid, faces up, observing the sirens circling overhead like hawks ready to catch prey in their claws.

Yuuri rushed forward, his wings spread. A piercing cry sounded from him, directing the others to the stern. Their landing shook the entire ship, sails quivering, wood trembling underfoot.

Mari separated from her mother, who had helped support her, standing tall and proud as she overlooked the ship. If the graceful movement with which she furled her wings behind her pained her, she showed none of that on her expression, her arms filled with blossoms that her parents likewise held.

The accents of their feathers created a kaleidoscope of color. They gazed out at the crew, taking in the humans staring back. The sails ceased billowing, wind receding, quiet as the two species took each other in.

The sirens’ hands and feet had taken human form, feathers faded into markings. Likewise, the crew’s grips remained off their weapons, but the air between them laid heavy. Yuuri chirped at his family, to try to draw them forward so he could guide them along. They stood their ground, shoulders and wings stiff, ready to take flight.

It was the fall of wood on wood that broke the tension. Mila stepped forward, her posture straight, and bowed low in welcome. “If those are meant for decorations, we can start with them right here,” she stated, indicating towards the flowers the Katsukis held.

“Oh, yes, they are,” Hiroko shuffled forward, depositing some in Mila’s arms when she held them out in offer. “If there’s not enough, we can bring more.”

“Let’s start with this and see how it goes,” Mila smiled kindly and then snapped around to glare at the crew behind her. “If you’re not finished with your duties, get back to them! Minami, Freckles, come here and help!”

The entire crew jumped, scrambling to return to their tasks. Mari’s eyes went wide, almost impressed at the efficiency of the command. Minami tripped running up, bouncing on his heels in excitement before dropping to his knees in the deepest bow possible. He squeaked when Toshiya handed him part of his share of the white blossoms, face burning bright red.

Guang Hong was slower on the approach, fingers trembling when he reached out to accept some from Mari. He ducked under her glare, wincing but relieved when she turned away without granting him any. He trailed behind, sticking close to Minami’s side.

Mila spoke calmly with Hiroko, making introductions as they began covering the railings of the ship with the flowers the sirens had brought. Yuuri had expected to first show his family around the ship, but this was fine as well, allowing them to get accustomed without becoming overwhelmed. He made sure to keep a close eye on the two boys, to avoid the stirrings of any trouble, fairly certain he heard a mumble from Minami, a blissed-out, “bestdayever.”

Chapter Text

The flowers the Katsukis brought ended up not being enough, but by the third run, Mari did not need her mother’s support to fly the short distance. The entire ship was covered in flowers, wound around the railings and twisted into bouquets in the netting. Gold wove like vines, interlacing the blossoms, and when sunset hit, the scene was painted like it belonged in a royal court.

The ceremony was to be held the following morning. Before they departed, Hiroko circled Victor, her eyes narrowed, inspecting. She stole his coat without an explanation, chirping to herself in satisfaction, and then stole Yuuri. Victor did not even get a kiss before his mate was whisked back to the island, though he could laugh at Yuuri’s crestfallen expression.

The reactions from the crew had been varied. Some buzzed, full of talk and claps on the back meant for congratulations. Those who expressed their desires to be taken to port remained cautious, retreating whenever the sirens grew near. Yurio had muttered about the ship becoming a siren’s den, but helped out all the same. When evening fell and the sirens departed, he plucked a few of the excessive flowers off the decorations and whistled the triplets over. “Don’t eat the petals,” Victor heard him instruct, training the birds to drop them like rain from their beaks.

Oil lamps lit, Victor sat on the deck with Chris, his companion having brought up a good bottle of rum from the food stores. They clinked their cups together, spilling some rum into the sea.

“Your plan is dangerous,” Chris said with the second drink, after the good-natured toasts to love had been made. “You’re lucky you have such a loyal crew.”

“If you want more of a payout, all you need to do is say.” Victor sat atop the figurehead, facing inward toward his ship. He held his cup by the lip, dangling off his fingertips.

“I joined because I wanted to sail, not because I wanted to stay safe.”

“Then what’s your complaint?”

“I just wanted to say that not everyone may be willing to fight a war on behalf of sirens, even amongst those that stay aboard.”

“And like I said, they’re welcome to jump off at the next port.”

Chris frowned, setting his cup down on wood. “Have you considered the information they might carry? Or sell?”

“All they know is that we’re heading north, nothing more.”

“You’ll be risking dividing the crew if something goes wrong.”

Victor knew. Not everyone on board was there because they carried a personal vow to serve him into Davy Jones’ Locker. Pirates came and stayed loyal in exchange for the fair shares and fair treatment not often provided by merchants or the navy. Fights were expected, but Victor’s reputation meant that his crew had faith in his skills. Having Yuuri on board had been an asset as well. He had lost count of how many ships surrendered simply at the sight of Yuuri’s wings. A siren on board was more than worth it, helping so many accept his presence. This was different. Victor was asking his men to risk their lives to keep the entirety of Yuuri’s species safe. If he were a sailor, he would have doubts. Sirens were a threat, why protect them? “Then I get a new crew. One that’s not yellow.”

Chris sighed at the response, but picked his cup back up and held it high in front of him. “I want a new stove.”

“Done.”

“And Yurio wants a cat.”

That had Victor tilting his head, glancing toward the powder monkey who was still working with the parrots down the deck. “What’s wrong with yours?”

“He wants his own.”

“Then why doesn’t he ask?”

“Because you’re busy getting shot and married.”

Victor chuckled, shrugging in acknowledgment. “Anyone else harboring secret desires that I should be aware of?”

“That’s a fool’s question.”

“I don’t mind spending coin on my crew.”

“You know that the only thing a pirate likes more than the sight of gold is drink and a good party.”

Victor knew exactly what Chris was implying. “You’ve my permission to crack the barrels open in the morning.”

Chris leaned forward, chin cupped in his hand, blinking his cow lashes. “Drunken sailors mixing with a family of sirens? Is that wise?”

“If Yuuri’s family drinks like he drinks, I think our main concern is going to be about being run dry.”

“Truer words never spoken.” Chris tipped back his drink, lips wet by the rum. “Is the great Captain Nikiforov ready to be wed?”

“I’ve been wed in all but the name already,” Victor replied. He did not consider himself and Yuuri as anything less. But what joy would it bring, to correct any drunkards in taverns, insisting that they respect the proper title of husband. Victor would hold that with utmost pride.”Yuuri’s shared every part of himself with me, all of his culture, now his family. I want to share the same with him, to be his mate as entirely as I can.”

“If I had known you were such a sap when I’d met you, I wouldn’t have robbed you blind.”

“Lies, you would have made sure to fasten me in tighter.”

Chris laughed, head thrown back, then straightened. “Speaking of lovebirds.”

A chirp rang across the waves. Victor leapt to his feet, drink abandoned. A shadow caught on the light of the lamps in the pattern of feathers, the small dancing flames nearly blown out by a gust of wind. Yuuri dropped into Victor’s open arms, happy bird noises chirring from the back of his throat as he tipped their foreheads together, tips of their noses brushing. His arms went around Victor’s shoulders, finger delving into silver hair by habit, overjoyed to be back with his mate despite only a few hours of separation.

Not a second’s tick later, the triplets descended, dropping flowers all over their heads. Victor and Yuuri both looked up, white petals tumbling off them. Their birds squawked in accomplishment, circling the two.

“Not yet, bird brains!” Yurio ran up, scowling, calling them back. Nevertheless he fed them each a slice of fruit when they flew to him, having technically completed their task correctly.

Chris pushed himself off the deck, picking up both his and Victor’s cups. “I’ll leave you two to your last night of premartial bliss. Try not to rock the ship too much.” With a wink and a tip of an invisible hat, he strode off, grabbing Yurio by the collar to drag him kicking along.

Victor turned his attention back to Yuuri, hitching him up in his arms. Yuuri clung on, face nuzzling into the part of Victor’s shirt collar. “I think the bridal carry is meant for after the wedding, but we’re not ones for tradition, are we?” Victor asked.

Yuuri shook his head, eyes sparkling up at his mate.

“I thought your family was keeping you on the island for the night.”

“I ditched.”

“You missed me so much?”

Nodding, Yuuri laid a kiss on Victor’s skin, content to be carried to their cabin. “Same nest is best.”

Chuckling, Victor pressed his lips to the top of Yuuri’s head. “Same nest is absolutely best.”

Chapter Text

Victor carried Yuuri across the threshold, refusing to let him walk despite the playful wiggling of his legs and toes. Yuuri kicked a foot up on Victor’s shoulder, smiling when it granted him a kiss to the ankle.

“So are you going to tell me what your family has planned? Why was your mother circling me like a hawk today?” Victor questioned when he set Yuuri down on their bed, stripping him of his robes. The fabric was soft under his fingers, clean. Yuuri always took care of them well, but Victor suspected that the trip home might have yielded some secret siren methodologies. Emil had never figured out what medicine it was that Yuuri had given him to cure his infection so quickly.

Yuuri undid the sash around Victor’s waist, laying it down at the foot of the bed, with guns and sword still woven in. Coat already gone, Yuuri lifted the shirt over his head and set that aside, hands dropping to the waistline of Victor’s trousers. It was not nightly that they undressed each other, sometimes with Yuuri too tired after a long flight to wait for his mate to settle in. Other days, even when they bedded together, it was simply easier to take care of themselves. But Victor did love the intimacy of it and he knew Yuuri did too, taking it as a form of preening.

“She wouldn’t tell me either,” Yuuri replied, fingers skimming the back of Victor’s calf as he helped him in stepping out of his clothing. “I think Mila gave her some ideas, they were talking about weddings all day.”

Victor had noticed. If there was anyone he could call fearless under his command, it was Mila. She showed absolutely no sign of concern toward a ship full of sirens, not even under Mari’s red glare, and had charmed the entire family faster than he had. He was admittedly envious, certain that there had not been a single occurrence when Mila had been commanded, not by Yuuri’s parents, not by Mari. Minami and Freckles, however, had been run ragged by orders from all the women. He had seen them passed on out each other’s shoulders at dinner.

“Did you learn anything?” Victor sat down on the edge of the bed, slotted between Yuuri’s legs, his back to the siren’s chest. Yuuri’s fingers immediately went to his hair, to comb through it. The loss of Victor’s locks had not stopped the daily ritual, though Yuuri fussed with it a lot more now, if that were possible.

“That humans host celebrations for the male before the wedding?”

Victor smiled. “Sometimes.”

“Did you want one?”

“What’s a party without you, lovebird?”

Yuuri chirred into the nape of Victor’s neck, kissing there. “Will you…” He paused and Victor felt the intake of breath behind him, Yuuri fixing his words. “Tell me about them.”

Victor smiled, squeezing Yuuri’s knee in encouragement. They were both still adjusting, but Yuuri more than him. “I went to one, for a fellow sailor while I was in the navy. You’ve seen how pirates can drink, imagine that ten times over. I’ve never seen an inn get so wrecked by a friendly crowd. There were breeches hanging from the chandeliers.”

“Yours?”

Gasping, Victor turned and seized Yuuri by the waist, knocking him down into the covers. Yuuri kicked again as Victor blew air against his stomach, his laughter glorious in its echo through the room. It was infectious, the melody sinking into Victor’s heart and curling into the place where it had always had a home. The raspberries turned to kisses which Victor dotted over Yuuri’s stomach and up his chest, on both halves of his clavicle, the hollow of his throat, his neck, his jaw, before catching his lips. “They might have been mine,” he confessed.

Laughter still chirping from him, Yuuri wound his arms around Victor and pulled him close, rolling them under the bedsheets. “She also said that it was tradition for the couple not to spend the night together… to avoid temptation.”

“Is that why you were pulled off the ship?” Victor asked, stroking strands of Yuuri’s hair back to tuck behind his ear. “Am I a temptation?”

Teeth biting in his bottom lip, Yuuri gazed up at Victor with the sweetest eyes through the fullness of his lashes. He did not need to say anything for Victor to read the admission.

“We’ve already broken a couple traditions,” Victor murmured, leaning in. His lips traced the feathered markings beneath Yuuri’s ear, hands slipping around to do the same with the tattoo on Yuuri’s lower back. Yuuri shivered under his touch, already arching for more. “Let’s break one more?”

Nodding eagerly, Yuuri hooked his legs around Victor’s to close any remaining gap between them.

Chapter Text

Victor and Yuuri spent the first portion of their morning getting scolded by an actual huffy Mamabird. The magic behind Hiroko’s irritation sunk into Victor, making him feel the guilt she intended, but he was still smiling when she pulled the two of them apart.

Overnight, winds had blown some of the flowers off the railing, so Minami and Freckles spent their time running around fixing it all. Hiroko returned Victor’s coat to him, and laid new clothing atop it. “Wear this for the ceremony,” she said and so he would.

The Katsukis tended to Yuuri, while Victor was led back under deck. He changed his clothes, from his usual wear into what Hiroko had gifted him. The circling and stealing of his coat had apparently been done in order to get his measurements. A siren’s talents would never stop amazing him. Chris helped smooth down the lightweight material of ruffled shirt the type of which Victor was certain he had seen worn by men in the royal court. The both of them admired the handiwork on vest he had been given and again with that on the coat. Patterns of roses and island flowers were stitched in gold against white fabric. Victor chuckled at the silken feel of them against the pads of his fingers, wondering if perhaps the sheets Yuuri had lined his nest with had been repurposed. The sleeves had feathers embedded into them, and as did crest of his shoulders.

Victor would need to make his next gift to the Katsukis an entire fleet of ships to sink, because unfurled down the back of the coat was a pair of golden wings. Victor would recognize the feel of the feathers anywhere. They were Yuuri’s, perhaps from the wings Victor had made to imitate Yuuri’s mating dance. He slipped into it with reverence, the fit exact, and tugged on the sleeves.

“I now see how it is Yuuri keeps those gems in his robes through storms and battles,” Chris muttered, admiring. “If all sirens can do this, they don’t need to sink ships to make their gold.”

“I think this might be the result of them sinking ships and stealing from them,” Victor said, gazing down at himself. “How do I look?”

“Like you’re about to make a siren very happy and all those back on land who ever dreamed of marrying Victor Nikiforov very sad,” Chris answered, hands steeling Victor’s shoulders from behind him. “Hold still.”

Victor held still, Chris’s fingers running up his back. His companion wheeled him around, holding up two feathers of gold, plucked out from what Victor hoped would be an area not so noticeable.

“Can’t have you going up without your signature.”

Smiling, Victor walked to the mirror of his vanity, clipping the feathers behind his ear. Gold suited his silver hair well. He hoped Yuuri would like it just as much.

On deck, the crew had gathered and Victor’s heart leapt a little. He could remember few times when such had happened for a happy occasion. To be fair, Victor did not quite know what to do. He was used to leading and here he was being led. Down the deck, up the stairs, to the stern of the ship where darkly colored wings obscured his husband to be, but Victor needed the moment to calm his heart.

In all fairness and honesty, when Victor had first held Yuuri in his arms and went in for that kiss, he had not known that he was claiming a mate for life. Back then, it had been a foolish action, drunk on Yuuri’s song and his beauty, on that smile that never failed to make the very stars above shine brighter. But he had seen no other action to take. Even then his soul ached for Yuuri, felt incomplete without him, his nerves screaming that this, this was what he had been seeking for all those years out at sea. His treasure, his compass, his mate. And Victor would not change a single thing in their first meeting, not the pain, not the distrust, not the fear that his own fascination with the wonderful creature in his bed could sink his whole world. Because to change it would mean to be without Yuuri now, and life without Yuuri wouldn’t be worth living.

The Katsukis’ wings furled in, and Victor saw Yuuri.

The markings on his arms and legs that Victor so adored had been dyed white, turning his bold patterns to a vision of snow. Just as Victor had been given a gift of ceremonial clothing, so had Yuuri. Robes of white draped him beautifully, cinched at the waist with a golden sash. Over his shoulders he wore a veil lined in the same threaded gold that patterned Victor’s coat, and Victor wondered if that was another detail that the Katsukis had pulled from Mila.

Victor always went to Yuuri like he was being pulled on a fishing line, snared and unable to consider the notion of ever wanting to break away. Yuuri’s fingers bore all of rings he had stolen from Victor, while Victor wore all the ones Yuuri had given to him. The necklace Victor had gifted Yuuri shone, centered over his skin, bathing him in gold just as Victor had wanted.

The salt on the breeze, the fragrance of flowers coming off the sails, the sky bright and blue, and yet Victor was left breathless. He could not move, stunned by the vision before him, and then Yuuri smiled, leaving Victor to crumble.

The sweetest chirp beckoned him, and Victor finally stepped forward, wanting only to be closer to Yuuri. He lifted Yuuri’s painted hand to his lips, kissing his skin and the sapphires on what would always be their wedding ring. “Last chance lovebird, still want to be my mate, my husband?”

If Victor had stars in his eyes, Yuuri held the whole galaxy in his. He nodded and laced their fingers together, holding strong. “For life.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s hand stayed in Victor’s, thumb stroking gently over his. Victor was unable to restrain his smile, unable to take his eyes away from Yuuri. He hardly heard the words that Mila spoke as she officiated the ceremony as his second-in-command, dressed in her finest. All that was in front of him, all that caught his attention, all that mattered was Yuuri. He promised, pouring everything into his words, to be Yuuri’s forever. Why would he want anything else?

Yuuri was the reason he awoke in the mornings, before the light like an early bird, wanting an extra moment to watch his mate doze. He cherished how Yuuri’s jaw would hang slack, cheek bunched into Victor’s shoulder, how Yuuri would curl into his side to avoid the rays of the rising sun greeting them through the windows. Yuuri was the reason Victor had found fun in the chase again, loving the grace with which Yuuri flew overhead and wrecked through ships with the same ease that he smashed his little toy boats. Yuuri was the reason Victor kept himself safe through fights, wanting to witness his smile just once more, and Yuuri was the reason no nightmares plagued his mind at nights, safe within the confines of his siren’s wings.

Victor only let Yuuri’s hand slip out of his so he could throw his arms around Yuuri’s waist, his mate, his husband leaping into them. Victor kissed Yuuri with all the love coursing through him, smiling against his lips when Yuuri’s fingers twisted in his hair. The strands were short but through them Victor could feel the warmth of Yuuri’s wedding ring against his scalp, imprinting on him like a soul mark.

Applause and cheers from the crew thundered through the sails. The triplets soared over them, dumping flower petals with loud squawks that had the both of them laughing. Victor hung onto Yuuri, ducking his face to hide it in Yuuri’s neck when they were pelted with more flowers from everyone else. Mari and Yurio seemed to agree on a couple particularly hard throws.

The sun had yet to peak in the sky, but the entire day was to be dedicated to this. Barrels of rum were cracked open, drink poured openly into cups. Yuuri laughed at his sister, who tried some on offer and proceeded to knock the rest of the portion into the sea, shocked at how it bit her tongue.

Those with instruments started to play and others to sing, startled with Yuuri’s joined in. The screeches of birds exhaled deep from their lungs and the whole island behind them vibrated with bird calls in response, even catching Victor by surprise before they mellowed into harmonizing song that left them all enchanted.

Victor glimpsed scarlet fins coming for them, Phichit nearly bowling them over in a celebratory embrace. Later, when the mer dried out, Yuuri giggled into Victor’s coat at the sight of Chris chasing after him in the attempt to make Phichit put on a spare pair of trousers.

From their island, the Katsukis had brought a tower of tropical fruits and helped serve meat that Chris assured everyone was simply wild boar. Victor fed mango to a chirping Yuuri, off his fingers to the siren’s lips before swooping in to steal a sweet kiss for himself.

By the time the blue of the sky began to darken, more than a couple of the sailors were already out of commission, several barrels of rum drained. The white dye painting Yuuri’s markings had begun to rub off and Victor kissed every spot of black he could see breaking through. Yuuri had drank a few servings himself, his cheeks flushed and pink under the sunset, and his lips moving quiet words of love against Victor’s ear.

At the front of the ship, Emil picked up a fiddle, the tune harping off the strings one of merriment. Victor was whisked away by an eager siren. Yuuri’s laughter bubbled across the deck as he led Victor through fast-paced steps, their hands clasped and their feet stumbling but that was fine when they had each other to fall into.

Not far off, Chris danced with Phichit, who looked very unsteady on his legs. Some brave crewman was commanded away by Mari, while Minami rushed forward to ask Toshiya if he could dance with Hiroko. A kind soul, Toshiya smiled and waved them forward.

The very breath was swept from Victor’s lungs when Yuuri dipped him and he returned the fondness by lifting Yuuri into the air, spinning them for a step. When Yuuri slipped back down, eyes alight, he slid one arm over Victor’s shoulder, holding them close together. His other hand grasped Victor’s, keeping it between their chests where they could feel the joyous, rhythmic beating of both their hearts.

They swayed to the music, with love on their lips as they remained lost in each other until the last note faded and the sun set. Their hands stayed clasped, gazes unwavering, smiles endless like the dedication between them.

What a beautiful feeling it was, knowing they’d never have to let go.