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the heart of a siren

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Rain battered against the deck of the Black Trident like thousands of bullets, slicking up the wood and drenching the lot of them to the bone. Relentless, unpredictable waves ruled by the howling wind rocked the ship, sending the occasional unsteady sailor toppling over. Streaks of brilliant lightning lit up the dark gray sky, electrifying the horizon and causing deafening rumbles of thunder that drowned out the clashing of swords and hollers of men onboard.

Jungkook drove his sword through the nearest pirate, the water on the deck running red with his blood, and barked out another order to his navigator at the helm. His soaked hair clung to his forehead and cheeks, and his sopping clothing weighed him down, but the sheer adrenaline of battle made him as good as invincible.

Sea battles during a lightning storm were the source of dread for many a pirate, but for Captain Jeon, they were a thrill.

“A storm like this is a bad omen,” a voice called out over the din as another nearby pirate was stuck through with a sword.

“Everything is a bad omen to you, Taehyung,” Jungkook laughed, tossing a dagger into the neck of a pirate who had been sneaking in on the navigator. “I see it as a challenge from the sea.” He struck down another intruder and turned to grin at his disgruntled first mate. “To see who is worthy of sailing upon her waters.”

“You say everything is a bad omen to me,” Taehyung yelled, “But everything is a challenge to you, Captain.”

Jungkook grinned and looked over to one of his own crew members boarding the Black Trident with a chest under one arm and a sword in the other, slashing his way through a crowd of enemy sailors. “As it should be!”

He didn’t give Taehyung an opportunity to respond, hopping down onto the main deck and lending a hand (and a sword) to his crew, protecting the treasure they’d just successfully pilfered from the other ship.

“Is that everyone?” he asked, and at the grunts of confirmation from his crew, Jungkook roared over the commotion, “Sink them!”

“Captain, I would advise against that,” Taehyung said. “This storm is growing fiercer by the minute, and if we linger—”

“And if we run off and leave them to nurse their wounds, what are we, then? Cowards who flee from battle.” Jungkook turned to his crew, stepping over the body of a dead sailor, and said, “Man the cannons! Keep her steady until we can sink the bastards.”

Taehyung sighed and shook his head but protested no further, merely watching as the cannons turned toward the other ship and fired all at once. The sound of splintered wood and screaming men was deafening, louder than even the thunder and waves crashing against the side of their ship, which was still rocking dangerously with the force of the storm.

“Another ship approaches,” one of his crew members warned, pointing toward a hazy blur on the horizon that was clearly another ship even without the use of the spyglass at Jungkook’s belt.

It was an instinct buried deep inside him, intertwined so deeply with his psyche that Jungkook’s first thought was to keep the ship steady and wait for them to approach so that he could watch as their ship sank beneath the storm-battered waves as well.

However, winning that first battle and procuring the young lord’s stolen jewels had left him well-off enough that he was better able to control his urge to conquer, to be the last ship left standing. Regrettably, he turned away from the incoming enemy and called to his crew to sail full speed ahead in the opposite direction.

Taehyung repeated the order, appearing relieved that they were not staying behind to begin another battle as Jungkook knew he had been expecting.

The main sails turned to ride with the wind rather than fight it, and they picked up speed away from the wreckage of the other ship.

“Will we lose them quick enough?” one man asked, a newer recruit that they’d picked up at the last port, a young lad who had been eager for adventure and the smell of treasure.

“I would like to see them catch up to the fastest ship in the seven seas!” Jungkook roared over the rain, raising his sword to the rolling clouds and tumultuous storm above.

His crew erupted in exhilarated cheers, mirroring their captain’s actions and pointing their swords skyward.

Sure enough, in no time at all the other ship was lost to the fog and rain, and the only thing visible on the stormy gray horizon was the occasional flash of lightning sending vicious streaks of purple through the clouds. Despite Jungkook’s disappointment that they’d had to turn away from another battle, he still had the adrenaline rush from a battle well fought and the thrill of sailing through the storm.

The wind picked up in speed, whistling in Jungkook’s ears almost like a song. The harder it blew, the more it seemed like music, a song from the sea made audible thanks to the storm.

“Do you hear that, friend?” Jungkook asked. “The wind itself is serenading our victory.”

Taehyung shivered and shook the soaking hair from in front of his eyes, staring solemnly out at the sea. “Never a good sign when you hear voices in the breeze, Captain,” he muttered.

Jungkook paid him no mind; storms always pass, after all, so how bad could a simple song in the wind be?

“The voices in the breeze have to be far better omens than the voices you hear in your daft head, Taehyung,” he said, giving his first mate a good-natured clap on the back.

Sure enough, within a matter of hours, the Black Trident had sailed through the worst of the storm, emerging on the other side of the blackened sky to a much calmer part of the sea, with only a light shower and a thinner stretch of fog.

The showers became more of a mist, and the crew relaxed a bit more, dispersing to clean the ship of any signs of the battle that had occured, while others gathered below deck to gamble their new spoils away in a game of Bone or Boon.

The chest they’d stolen from the other group of pirates had belonged to a young lord from the Empire. It was filled with jewels and silks, precious sugar and documents that could be sold and traded for a decent fortune, but it wasn’t the coin that Jungkook was after. As Captain of the Black Trident, it was his right to examine the contents of their spoils before the others, and so along with his share of the treasure, he slipped a map fragment hidden at the bottom of the trunk in with the rest of his portion, keeping it hidden from the eyes of his crew.

“Fools and bastards, the lot of them,” Jungkook said, once his own share of their loot was carefully locked away in his cabin and the map tucked in his pocket. “They’ll have nothing left to sell by the time we make port.”

A wry smile crossed Taehyung’s lips. “You’ve never had the urge to join them, then? You do seem to like the occasional gamble here and there.”

“In life, Taehyung,” Jungkook replied, shaking his head at the ruckus his crew was causing, accusing one another of cheating or peeking at a loose hand of cards. “What good is wasting all my gambles on a silly game when there is the entire ocean, the world at my helm? No, I’ll save my coin, sail through maelstroms, capture a mermaid, battle the navy, trek through uncharted waters instead.”

“Those are bold dreams, Captain.” One of the men, Junho, was roaring now, slamming his fist against the table and sending gold pieces flying. “For now, though, perhaps our focus should be on where next to make port?”

“The storm has set us back a bit. Come, we should look at the maps before setting a course to nowhere.”

The wooden stairs of the ship creaked with every step, still glistening wet from the rain that had soaked through even below deck. It was pitch black the further away from the crew’s quarters they walked, but Taehyung unhooked a lantern nearby and stopped to strike a match to light it, illuminating the gloomy hallway.

Directly ahead were Jungkook’s quarters, but the room they needed was to the left, with maps and diagrams hung from every wall, some marked with ink or knives stabbed into the parchment while others remained untouched.

Jungkook remembered the hassle he had gone to procure some of these maps, the bloodstains on a few of them a testament to how valuable they had been; some poor saps had given their lives protecting them from pirates, and yet they had fallen into his hands nonetheless.

He removed the map fragment from his pocket and for the first time was able to give it a closer look. The parchment was soft to the touch with age, the ink fading and splotched in places, but the seal of the Dragon was still clearly stamped in gold. Jungkook held the fragment up to their maps, scouring them for anything that matched the outline on the piece in his hand.

“The navy have been on the prowl lately,” Taehyung noted, tracing his finger across the coast of China after examining the map piece Jungkook was holding. “We should be careful what colors we fly close to shore.”

“It takes a fool’s fool to fly pirate colors at any port, even near Devil’s Cove. How are the Empire’s flags faring since our last battle?”

“I believe Woohyun stitched them up.”

“Good. We’ll sail with those when the time is right. No one would attack a navy ship.”

Taehyung smiled. “Except you, Captain.”

Jungkook stopped his finger at an island port just south of Singapore, a pirate hotspot called Turtle Bay, and said, “Except me.” He paused, then, in a lower voice, “Any word from the storytellers on the Dragon’s location?”

“None as of yet,” Taehyung murmured. “You know the rumors. It either doesn’t exist or is so well hidden that no one will ever find it.”

“It exists,” Jungkook said, without any hesitation. “The Dragon existed, and his seal is still found scattered across the sea, so his treasure must, too. It may be long-lost, but we are going to ensure that it is found.”

“I will keep my ear to the ground, but I doubt that anyone at our usual stops will have the information we need. Drunks and vagrants don’t often hold the secrets of the sea.”

“Some might,” Jungkook said. “I won’t discount anyone who might be able to point us to the treasure left behind by the Great Dragon of the East. The problems arise when others hear word of us looking for it.”

“Which is why you are choosing to keep our quest secret from the crew?”

Jungkook nodded. “Exactly. I know that they elected me as their captain, but I am not convinced that they would not let greed cloud their judgment. I will tell them when the time is right, but for now, it is best that this remains between us.”

“Keeping secrets from your men is not going to help you gain their trust, Captain,” Taehyung said quietly. “That has never worked in the past.”

“I am nothing like him,” Jungkook said, fixing Taehyung with a hard stare. “How could you compare this to—”

“I wasn’t— I wasn’t referring to… to him. I meant that in general, a captain being dishonest with his crew never turns out well.”

Jungkook breathed out in relief, shaking his head. “My apologies. I didn’t mean to bring it up like that.”

“It’s alright,” Taehyung said, though his lips were pressed more tightly together than they had been before, almost like a grimace. “In any case, the map looks as though it may be part of Turtle Bay, here.” He guided Jungkook’s hand that was still holding the fragment and pointed to the similarities between the two. “I doubt that the treasure is there, but this may be leading to a clue that could place us one step closer to finding it.”

“Perhaps you’re righ—”

A loud crash from above made Jungkook tear his eyes from the map, looking up to where drops of rainwater were dripping down from between the floorboards.

“Something wrong with the crew?” Taehyung said.

“Appears so.”

Jungkook left Taehyung to continue examining their maps, heading back out into the main hub of the ship. There were still lanterns lit in the crew’s quarters, but the table and their game sat abandoned while the ruckus above deck continued.

As Jungkook had suspected, a fight had broken out between his crew members, Tanaka and Junho at each other’s throats while the others watched from a safe distance.

“Go for his eyes!”

“Jab ‘im in the throat!”

Tanaka appeared as though he had the upper hand at first, but with the goading and jeering from the crew, Junho broke out of the chokehold and slammed Tanaka against the mast, reaching for the dagger at his hip.

“Tell me again you didn’t cheat, you nasty little rat,” he hissed. “I saw you slip that card into your sleeve when you thought no one was looking.”

“You didn’t see shit,” Tanaka spat.

Junho roared with rage and whipped out his dagger, aiming it for Tanaka’s neck, and that was when Jungkook charged at them.

“Hey!” Jungkook bellowed, grabbing Junho by the lapel and wrenching him away from Tanaka. “That’s enough!” Junho fought back for only a moment before realizing who had grabbed him. His arm fell to his side and he stopped moving, but he didn’t lessen his grip on the dagger or wipe the scowl from his face.

“He tried to kill me, Cap’n,” Tanaka said. “Over a game o’ cards—“

“Bloody fucking rat was cheating,” Junho interrupted, spinning around to snarl at him. “Trying to swindle me out of my hard-earned loot.”

“Shut it, both of you,” Jungkook snapped. “I have enough to worry about without my crew going for each other’s throats like children.”

Junho stood up straighter. “Children? I’ve lived two of your lifetimes, boy.”

“And you elected me as your captain,” Jungkook shot back, standing his ground and staring Junho directly in the eyes. “So you will respect my authority, or you can try your luck on a different ship. Do I make myself clear?”

Junho didn’t respond, his glare murderous and his lips curled in a sneer. He glanced around at the others, but none of them made a move to take his side or speak out against Jungkook.

“What was that?”

“Yes, sir,” Junho grumbled, sheathing his dagger and stepping down.

Tanaka and the others stood there in silence for a few moments, uncertainty on each of their faces, so Jungkook tore his gaze from Junho and instead fixed it on the rest of his crew. “Well? What are you all standing around for? The ship won’t sail herself. Get back to work!”

Instantly the crowd dispersed, the pirates keeping their heads down as they passed Jungkook, returning to their duties or disappearing back down below deck, probably to clean up the evidence of their game.

Junho stayed behind, looking as though he were weighing his options, until finally he shook his head, muttered something incoherent to himself, and stalked over to the hatch before climbing below deck.

Once the tension had cleared from the air, Jungkook sighed, his eyes closing briefly. It wasn’t very often that he had to deal with internal conflict on the ship, and it certainly wasn’t something he enjoyed doing. Exerting his authority as captain made his skin crawl, but with these men, it was necessary to remind them who was in charge.

Tanaka and Junho would no doubt return to their usual stoicness around each other after this, but Jungkook knew that the relationship between himself and the crew changed a bit each time he had to reprimand one of them.

They were pirates, after all. This wasn’t a navy or merchant ship. They were supposed to be free men who did as they pleased, without any rigid hierarchy that awaited them back on land.

It was that freedom that drew Jungkook to a life of pirating in the first place, freedom and the promise of sailing the seven seas, but when he’d become Captain Jeon Jungkook, he found that he’d lost some of that freedom. Now he had to worry about infighting on his ship, about maintaining the trust of his crew, about keeping everyone content enough that they wouldn’t stage a mutiny against him.

That was why he needed the Dragon’s treasure. That was why he was risking it all to go behind his crew’s back to seek it out. In the end, he’d have that freedom he’s been looking for all this time.

The evening carried on as if the events earlier hadn’t happened at all, but Jungkook was unable to find the time to continue his discussion with Taehyung without raising suspicion from the others. For now, he simply gave word to the navigator to set sail toward Turtle Bay, and they would figure things out once the crew was sated after trading their newly gotten spoils on land.

Despite the storm they had just sailed out of, the night sky was unusually clear above them, millions of stars twinkling overhead, free of any cloud cover. It made for much easier navigation, but at that moment, Jungkook wasn’t thinking of his ship.

His arms were crossed over the side of the Black Trident, his chest leaning against the wood in a more relaxed stance than he’d been able to take in a long while as he traced patterns in the stars with his eyes, his mind drifting.

If he could, he would stay like this forever, just looking out at the sea and the sky, with no one else on the entire horizon. He would have the salty sea breeze caressing his skin, the sound of the waves drowning out everything else, the glow of the sun and moon on the surface of the water the only thing he could see.

Taehyung quietly joined him, but his presence was enough to bring Jungkook back to his reality as captain of a pirate ship sailing dangerous waters. “You seem lost in thought, Captain,” he said.

“At times I wonder how the sea can be so beautiful,” Jungkook mused. “It hardly seems real.”

“It’s best to be wary of things that seem too beautiful to be real,” Taehyung responded. “More often than not, they usually are.”

Jungkook breathed out a laugh. “The sea is real, Taehyung. Real as the salt in the air and the rocking of the waves keeping us afloat.”

“I wasn’t talking about the sea,” was all Taehyung said, though his eyes were still fixed out on the water. “Good night, Jungkook.”

Taehyung retired to his quarters shortly after, but Jungkook didn’t feel like sleeping just yet. It wasn’t often that he had moments like these, when the sea was calm and the night was peaceful, with no battles or storms or thrashing waves dogging them to the ends of the earth. There was no other ship on the horizon, and most of his crew had already gone to sleep, leaving just a few bleary-eyed sailors above deck.

Jungkook tore his gaze from the dark ocean and returned to his nightly rounds, clutching a lantern and inspecting the parts of his ship that had been most affected by their earlier battle. The fresh nicks and stains on her aging wood weren’t things that could be buffed out or repaired, but he rather liked it that way. The ship had scars, same as them, and he liked that she wore them proudly.

He brushed his fingers along a particularly deep gash in the mast, left behind by a sword, and that was when the voice returned.

It was a distant melody, a song carried by the breeze that was similar to the one he had heard earlier, only this time there was no storm or high winds or crashing waves to drown it out. It was clear as day, growing louder by the second. Someone was singing.

The words were not in any language he knew of, but it was perhaps the most beautiful melody he had ever heard. It was as if the sea herself had begun to sing, her voice wrapping itself around him and pulling him toward the side of the ship, beckoning him closer.

He held out his lantern to the darkened waters, searching for the source of the song, but the dim light illuminated nothing but the gently shifting waves lapping against the side of the ship.

Perhaps he’d been imagining things, having had one too many swigs from the flask at his hip, but no sooner had that thought crossed his mind than the lantern’s light fell upon a face staring back at him.

Jungkook nearly dropped the lantern overboard in shock. There was a man in the water, visible only to his bare shoulders, his eyes hooded and dark, and his hair a soft gold that Jungkook had never seen on any human before. His skin was smooth like porcelain and gleamed with an almost blueish green shimmer, as if he were part of the ocean itself. His dark eyes were unblinkingly fixated on Jungkook’s, and his impossibly pink, plump lips were moving in time with the song that had Jungkook entirely enchanted.

His face was somehow more beautiful than the song itself. Too beautiful to be real.

Taehyung’s voice wormed its way into his head, his warning from earlier and his constant cautionary tales of sailors falling victim to things at sea that appear too beautiful to be of this earth interrupting the song.

Ignoring all of it, Jungkook leaned over the edge of the ship and held the man’s gaze for what felt like ages, just standing there and allowing that unearthly voice to envelop him completely. It was almost suffocating, the way it invaded every last part of his mind, slipping into his consciousness until he could no longer form a coherent thought. The only thing he could focus on was getting as close as possible to this man in the water, to hear more of his song, to do whatever he asked.

“Do you need help?” he heard himself asking in a voice that certainly sounded like his own but felt as though it had come from someone else’s lips. His jaw felt slack, and he could not remember speaking.

The man shook his head slowly, the lantern light dancing across the iridescence of his skin and the gold sheen of his hair. Without stopping his song or taking his dark eyes off Jungkook’s, he swam further away, the blackness of the sea still disguising any part of his body below the shoulders.

“Don’t leave,” he called out, panicked that the boy in the water would swim away and take his song with him. Jungkook grabbed a loose rope ladder and tossed it over the side of the ship, leaving his lantern behind and climbing down to the surface of the water where he could be closer to the singer.

The man stopped and resumed staring at him from his fair distance away, his song dancing across the waves and making it difficult to concentrate on keeping his grip on the ladder. Jungkook extended one hand toward him. “I can help you,” he said. “Climb up with me.”

“I don’t think so,” the man said, though he was swimming closer. He was no longer singing, and yet his speaking voice had the same effect on Jungkook, sending a shudder down his spine. It was low, reverberating across the dark surface of the water as if the ocean in all of its depth were speaking through him. “What is your name, sailor?” he asked when he was close enough to touch, close enough that Jungkook could see for himself that the man had not a single imperfection.

“Jeon Jungkook, Captain of the Black Trident.”

The man smiled and tilted his head slightly. “Good to meet you, Captain Jeon Jungkook. You can call me Jimin.”

Somehow the name was almost too plain for his overwhelming beauty, but it rolled off Jungkook’s tongue like a prayer all the same. “Jimin,” he repeated, still in a trance. “I- I can help you. Take my hand.”

Jimin’s grin widened and he lifted his hand from the water. “I know you can help me.” His fingers brushed across the top of Jungkook’s hand, sliding up his wrist and gripping his forearm with a greater strength than Jungkook would have thought he possessed. He lifted himself up, bringing his impossibly perfect face mere centimeters from Jungkook’s, and then his dark eyes glinted with the light from the moon and stars above, and Jungkook felt a monstrously strong pull.

In the time between his fingers slipping away from the rope ladder and his body being yanked under the waves, he was briefly able to regain his senses, Jimin’s hold over his mind having faltered.

Once they were underwater, however, Jimin began to sing once more, and his voice filled every space around them, echoing from the depths to the surface, choking out any last bit of common sense he may have had.

He couldn’t even struggle. He’d gone limp in Jimin’s arms, and could only stare groggily at the light above him as he felt himself being dragged further and further downward into the bitingly cold blackness below. His eyes burned with the salt of the sea and his lungs screamed for air as bubbles escaped his lips in a desperate attempt to seek any form of a breath.

The last thing Jungkook heard before he lost consciousness was Jimin’s song as it deepened its hold on his mind and heart.

Chapter Text

Cold. Wet. Numb. Endless.

That was all he felt, floating through nothingness as if he were in a dream. Was he underwater? He couldn’t tell. All he knew was that he couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything except stare at the shifting spectrum of grays and greens and blues passing in front of his vision.

“That which you have stolen must be returned.”

The voice came from nowhere and everywhere, as disembodied as Jungkook felt in that moment. It was both powerful and gentle, unfeeling and yet full of emotion as it boomed and whispered in Jungkook’s ear.

“Something precious is gone. Return it, else the wrath of the sea will follow you until the ends of the earth. I will bleach your bones while bottom feeders suck out the marrow.”

Jungkook couldn’t respond. He couldn’t move. Even if he could, he didn’t know what the voice was talking about, or if it was even speaking to him at all. The threat was severe, but it meant nothing to him in that moment, because for all he knew he was dreaming, or perhaps he had died and this was to be his punishment.

“Return that which you have stolen, lest you suffer the same fate as your kin.”

A scream rushed by Jungkook’s face, filling his eardrums until his vision became white and his mind was so numbingly dizzy that he thought this must be death, and then all at once it came to an abrupt silence.

With as much force as if something had punched him in the gut, Jungkook jolted upright, his throat seizing and his eyes swimming with stars as he spat seawater onto what he recognized as the deck of his ship.

His lungs and throat burned with every wheezing cough, his pruned hands clutching at his own neck, every part of his body numb with cold. Shivering, he blinked up at his crew and croaked, “What happened?”

The last thing he could remember, he was drowning. Jimin— if that was his real name, and not a moniker for whatever demonic entity had dragged him underwater— had a firm grip on his arm and his mind, and Jungkook had been entirely helpless to fight back. He’d had some sort of nightmare, and then...

“You were nearly killed by a siren,” Taehyung responded. “You’re lucky I was near enough to hear his song, or we may not have made it to you in time, Captain.”

“Took the lot of us to pry ‘im off you,” Junho added. “Feisty little bugger. He was no match for the crew of the Black Trident, though.”

“A siren?” Jungkook repeated, incredulous. Sirens were the subject of many cautionary tales, stories told to scare children away from the docks, and sailors away from beautiful women, but having never encountered one himself, Jungkook was half-convinced that they didn’t exist. “So then… he is dead?”

“No,” Taehyung said quickly, but Tanaka cut him off before he could continue.

“We filled one of them basins up with water and chained him up in the brig,” Tanaka said.

“He’s onboard?” Jungkook said incredulously. “Why didn’t you kill him?”

“You know the legends, Cap’n,” Junho said, ignoring Taehyung’s disdainful look. “Drinkin’ the blood of a siren is s’posed to make you live forever. Me, I reckon it’s a load of shite, but if we sell ‘im on the black market…”

“Killing a siren is a sin against the sea,” Taehyung interrupted, unable to keep silent any longer. “What good is a damned pirate who can’t even sail for fear of the sea herself trying to sink you? He shouldn’t even be on the ship. We should release him now, or there will be hell to pay.”

“You’re mad,” Tanaka scoffed. “Completely lost it. You want to toss him overboard? Might as well toss all our spoils over while we’re at it, then.”

“A living, breathing creature is far different than a chest of stolen jewelry, Tanaka.”

Tanaka narrowed his eyes and curled his lip. “You talk too much, fairy. We should’a left you with your friend Captain L—“

“Enough!” Jungkook cut in, keeping one arm held over Taehyung, whose eyes were flashing dangerously. “We will not be killing the siren. We’ll keep him in the brig until I can figure out what to do with him.”

“Keeping a siren on board will bring nothing but misfortune, Captain,” Taehyung said quietly, still keeping his eyes firmly locked on Tanaka. “We should release him and continue on our way.”

“I won’t simply let someone walk free who has wronged me, Taehyung. He’ll just go and drown some other sailor if we set him loose.”

“We kill just as many men,” Taehyung replied. “How are we any different?”

Jungkook didn’t have a response for that. Taehyung was right, in a way. It was in a siren’s nature to drown sailors, just as it was in a pirate’s nature to pillage and plunder.

“I will think about what you’ve said,” Jungkook said finally. “For all that I tease you, my old friend, I do trust you.”

Taehyung let out a small sigh of relief, his shoulders slumping slightly. “Thank you.”

Tanaka looked as though he wanted to say something, but changed his mind and simply glared at Taehyung. Though Jungkook did trust his friend, and he didn’t agree with his crew drinking the siren’s blood for a shot at immortality, he knew that he was treading in dangerous waters. One wrong move, and he would lose his crew’s trust in him; perhaps next time, they would simply let him drown.

A decision had to be made, and so he reasoned that his best option at the moment was to see the siren himself.

The brig was a gloomy section of the lowest deck on the ship, tucked away in the stern with a row of three cells that were teeming with rats and mildew. Fresh air seemed like a distant memory when one spent too much time inside, the stifling heaviness of disease and rot and agony practically oozing from the stained wooden walls. One cell in particular bore jagged gashes dotted with long-since dried blood from one man who had been locked inside for a mere three days. The Black Trident rarely took prisoners, but when it did, they made sure that it was hell.

Jungkook descended the steps to the brig, his heart pounding in his chest with the prospect of seeing the creature that had nearly claimed his life. He’d had brushes with death before, much like any other in his profession, but never before by something that was not human. Perhaps if he were living a different life, it would make a marvelous story to tell at a pub surrounded by drunken sailors and fresh-faced youths eager to hear tales of supernatural beings and the secrets of the sea.

But this wasn’t just some tale to tell. This was a decision he had to make, a grave one that would affect himself and his crew. Taehyung’s words battled with Jungkook’s own instincts in his head as he approached the brig, the smell becoming almost unbearable. His time to think had come to an end; now he had to face the thing that tried to kill him.

Taehyung had warned him that the siren had assumed a human form, but he hadn’t mentioned that he was naked.

His skin glistened from the saltwater, though it had lost its iridescence, and his once brilliant golden hair hung a damp dirty blonde in front of his narrowed eyes that still held all the fury of the sea. His bare legs were tucked underneath him as he sat there in a shallow basin of water, his thin wrist shackled to the wood. He looked human.

Vulnerable.

He said nothing at first, but his eyes never left Jungkook, even as he walked to the far end of the room to grab a set of clothes left from an old prisoner that may as well be rags now. “Wear this,” Jungkook said, holding them out. When Jimin made no move to take them, Jungkook dropped them in his lap to at least cover his exposed lower half and then took a step back, preparing to leave. The siren was pathetic like this, a prisoner away from his element, and it would be pointless to slaughter him. He wasn’t even putting up a fight or attempting to escape.

“I am going to kill you.”

Jungkook turned back in surprise at hearing him speak. The siren was glaring at him, stormy gray irises boring into his own, his voice a low, dangerous echo of what it had been in the water before he’d tried to drown him.

“You tried that once before, if I recall,” Jungkook said. “Clearly it didn’t work out very well in your favor.”

“Your arrogance will be your downfall,” the siren replied.

“It appears as though the arrogant one is you, assuming you can kill me while your hands are in chains.”

To Jungkook’s surprise, Jimin’s lips turned up in a smile. “And your assumption is that I need my hands to kill you.”

Jungkook took a step back, suddenly unsettled by the energy in the room; something in the way Jimin’s voice seemed to come from not only his mouth but also from in between the floorboards and the rotted wooden cells sent a shiver down his spine. Tearing his gaze from Jimin, he kept silent and left the brig, carefully locking the door behind him.

He knew that Jimin’s threat had to be an empty one; he was out of the ocean now and completely trapped on Jungkook’s ship. And yet, for some reason, Jungkook no longer felt completely at ease with letting Jimin go. Perhaps this time, Taehyung was wrong.

Regardless, he still was finding it difficult to come to a decision, so he tracked down the nearest member of his crew, a tall, muscular man named Woohyun who lost his hearing during battle and would therefore be immune to Jimin’s voice.

“Guard the siren,” Jungkook signed to Woohyun. “Make sure no one tries to harm him, and make sure he doesn’t escape.”

Woohyun nodded and signed back, “Understood, Captain.”

Jungkook clapped him on the back and headed off away from the stifling confines of the lowest deck of the ship.

“Captain, did you see the siren? How does it look?” Haechul asked eagerly when Jungkook returned.

“Like a fish out of water,” Jungkook replied, though his throat still felt tight as if he were breathing the moldy air of the brig. “He can’t, ah… Can’t escape.” Speaking was beginning to prove difficult, and his vision was blurred, out of focus.

“Captain,” Taehyung’s voice appeared beside him and a pair of arms kept him upright. “You nearly drowned last night; you’re ill. You need rest.”

“I’m f...fine,” Jungkook insisted, though his voice was beginning to rasp. “I was fine a moment ago. It was the siren, he—”

“Nearly drowned you, yes.” Taehyung supported his arm and carefully lead him back to the hatch. “Get some rest. I will make sure the crew is on track.”

Jungkook conceded and allowed himself to be taken to his quarters, his clammy hands and unrelenting dizziness providing enough proof that he had, indeed, fallen ill.

“I think the siren did something,” Jungkook croaked once he was lying in bed, his fingers gripping Taehyung’s wrist to stop him from leaving. “I was f-fine before. Taehyung, I think we n-need to kill him.”

“Even if he had done something, killing him will not fix things. The sea will make it worse,” Taehyung responded, his answer unsurprising. “Get some bed rest, and I assure you that by the time we make it to Turtle Bay, you will be well enough to search for the Dragon’s map.”

Jungkook shivered and let go of his friend’s hand, his limbs so weak that they were difficult to move.

“I will bring you some herbs later, when the others aren’t around to accuse me of witchcraft,” Taehyung continued in a lower voice. “I still have some left from our last visit to Turtle Bay.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook murmured, though his thoughts were as far from Taehyung’s healing herbs as could be. All he could see every time he closed his eyes was the face of the siren, his plump lips curled in a grin and his dark, inhuman glare that seemed to bore directly through him. Jimin had something to do with this; he was sure of it.

Taehyung must have left shortly afterward, though Jungkook couldn’t recall when, or if he had even been in the room at all. His mind slipped in and out of consciousness so groggily that he could no longer differentiate reality from dreams.

A familiar voice whispered in his ear every so often as he shook from both the cold and heat, though he couldn’t for the life of him place where he had heard the voice before.

“That which you have stolen must be returned,” it repeated, sometimes sounding like a sultry croon as if from a lover, and other times appearing as a sinister hiss.

“Return it.”

Each time it spoke, it sounded more and more like an order, a command, a barking voice urgent to get its point across until at last it reached a shrill screech that rang in Jungkook’s ears, filling his mind with nothing but a high ringing until at last his eyes snapped open and it came to a stop all at once.

He was sweating profusely, his shirt clinging to his damp skin and his lungs gulping for air. The room spun, and it took him a moment to recognize his surroundings as familiar. He was in his own quarters, he was on his own ship. There was no screeching, no disembodied voice, nothing but the sound of the waves and the occasional muffled shout from his crew above deck.

Everything had simply been a feverish dream.

Breathing out a shaky sigh of relief, Jungkook settled back into his sheets and fell into an uneasy but uninterrupted sleep.

From then on, the only times he awoke were to Taehyung’s blurry figure crushing herbs in a small bowl and forcing it into his mouth. The herbs made his body temperature even out, which caused him to slip back into unconsciousness quite easily, never staying awake long enough to even speak.

Finally, he was able to open his eyes long enough to blink at Taehyung until he came into focus, and his throat opened up to allow him to form words again.

“Taehyung.” His voice sounded strange now, almost as if he were hearing it from underwater. “How long have I been bedridden?”

“Three days, Captain,” he responded without looking up from the herbs he was crushing. “You had quite a high fever.”

“Three days?” Jungkook yelped, attempting to sit up and immediately regretting it once the nausea and dizziness caught up with him. “Shit. How fares the crew? Have we reached Turtle Bay?”

“No.” Taehyung shook his head and held out the bowl for Jungkook to lift the herbs to his mouth on his own. “There have been awful storms. They set us back so much that it may be a while still before we can make port. The crew is getting restless; no one likes having the siren on the ship with us, Jungkook.”

“Shit,” Jungkook muttered again. “Damn it all. The siren must have done this somehow. First my illness, then random storms to keep us stranded? It must be his doing.”

“Then shouldn’t we set him free? I don’t know if it is him or the sea causing our misfortune, but either way, he should be released.”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Taehyung.” Jungkook swallowed the last of Taehyung’s healing herbs, his shoulders relaxing as they soothed his sore throat. “Let me regain my bearings, and then I will decide what to do with the siren once we reach Turtle Bay.”

“I fear we may never reach it,” Taehyung said quietly, but he didn’t push the subject further.

Falling ill at sea was at times deadly; lack of resources and access to a doctor being the biggest challenges to recover from even the most mild of illnesses. Though Jungkook was still convinced that the siren somehow had a hand in his horrid fever, it didn’t seem to be one that would claim his life.

After a day or two more of feeling groggy and unwilling to leave his quarters, Jungkook finally felt well enough to rejoin his crew on deck to see what their progress was.

The moment he stepped foot outside, however, a haunting voice echoed in his ears, a sorrowful mourn coming from below deck that didn’t stop even as he emerged on the upper deck among the shouts of his crew and the cawing of gulls.

It was brighter than Jungkook was used to after being holed up down below for so long with only candlelight to see, but even he could tell that it was a gloomy day at sea. The overcast gray above them stretched all the way out to the horizon, making it appear as though they were sailing into nothingness, the fog dispelling any chance of them being able to see an island or port in the distance.

The voice continued singing, and though it sounded different now that he was cut off from the ocean and trapped in a ship, Jimin’s song had just as much ability to keep Jungkook from thinking clearly.

Determined not to let the siren win, however, he approached his crew with his shoulders squared and his expression calm so as to remind them that although he’d had a moment of weakness by falling ill, he was still their fearless captain.

“Back up and at ‘em, Cap’n?” Tanaka asked, peering at his face as if to check if his eyes were out of focus.

“Of course. Not much can keep me down,” Jungkook replied.

“Might be speaking too soon. We’re running low on supplies, and the gods only know how long it’s gonna take before we make port again.”

“Are we no closer to Turtle Bay?” Jungkook asked. “Surely we should at least be seeing land on the horizon by now.”

“Aye, Captain,” Tanaka said grimly. “It’s the damn siren. Whatever he’s doing, it has us turning in circles. Can’t even follow the stars no more ‘cause of all this cloud cover.”

As if on cue, Jimin’s voice drifted up around them, momentarily making Jungkook forget what he had been talking about. “Just… keep her steady, Tanaka. Pay no mind to the siren; he can’t harm us while he’s rotting in the brig.”

“Can’t even keep focused on my damn job,” Tanaka muttered. “Damn voice has my head all fuzzy. Should just kill him already.”

Jungkook didn’t respond, and in the following days, he tried his damndest to think about anything else.

For the most part, his crew had done a decent job keeping up with the ship while he had been incapacitated, but there remained the issue of the weather slowing them down and Jimin’s constant singing making the crew’s heads foggier than the horizon.

When at last it appeared as though they had begun to approach land, coming across a small island, no one was able to keep their heads on straight long enough to avoid a rather large outcropping of rock on the island.

Jimin’s voice was in all of their heads, calling their attention away from the danger, away from the prospect of marooning themselves on an island in the middle of nowhere. He was so far away, locked in the brig in the bottommost part of their ship, and yet his voice was as loud and enchanting as if he were standing right there among them.

“We’re going to run ashore!” Taehyung bellowed, frantically pointing over the starboard side of the ship.

His cries were enough to jolt at least some of the crew from their stupor, and before the ship could collide with the island, they heaved at the sails to fight the wind and steered the ship away just barely in time. A sickeningly loud screech like that of nails on rusted metal cut out over the ship, and Jungkook looked down over the starboard side to see what had become of the Black Trident.

Though it wasn’t terribly large, there was a jagged hole in the side of his ship, a hole that, were it any lower, would have begun to fill the ship with water.

“Fuck,” he cursed, and abandoning his shaken crew, he stormed to the hatch to descend to the lowest deck. Jimin was trying to sink them. He was trying to sink them and escape on his own, and then most likely drown the lot of them as revenge for capturing him.

Jungkook wasn’t going to let that happen.

For all of his anger, he could hardly smell the stench of the brig as he brushed past Woohyun and unlocked the door with the key hanging from the cord around his neck. The door swung open and Jimin’s voice stopped all at once, blinking innocently at Jungkook as if he were oblivious to what he had done.

“Is there a problem, Captain Jeon?” he asked, shifting his position so that his legs were tucked beneath him and his body was bent in what could only be a seductive pose.

“Enough with your wicked voice, siren,” Jungkook snapped. “You will not sink us.”

Jimin tilted his head to the side and continued blinking slowly, his lips slightly pursed as he began to hum instead, a haunting melody that made Jungkook’s knees suddenly feel weak.

“What are you… What are you doing?” Jungkook murmured, swaying slightly as he attempted to remain upright even as the song filled his eardrums and made it impossible to tear his eyes away from Jimin.

He forgot why he’d come to this part of the ship. What had he been doing before? It didn’t seem to matter now, not when Jimin was sitting there in front of him. Still unsteady on his feet, he approached Jimin’s basin of water and kneeled down in front of him, entirely entranced by his song and his eyes and the slight smirk on his perfect lips. They weren’t underwater, but Jimin looked as though they were, his skin glistening and his hair sporting a golden sheen once more.

“You want to let me go, don’t you, sailor?” Jimin crooned, not breaking eye contact with Jungkook even for a second. “Hmm?”

Jungkook nodded, Jimin’s words replacing every other thought in his mind. He reached his trembling fingers out to touch Jimin’s bare skin, breathing out in surprise when it was soft to the touch. Jimin smiled and continued humming, so Jungkook splayed his fingertips out across Jimin’s chest, warmth blooming on his palm as he slid his hand down his torso.

Their faces were close, now; at some point Jungkook had leaned in so close that he could feel Jimin’s soft breaths on his face, and could see every fleck of gray, blue, green, brown, black in Jimin’s eyes, like tiny oceans that he couldn’t look away from.

“Take your key,” Jimin whispered, nudging Jungkook’s cheek with his nose. “Unlock my chains, Captain Jeon. Then I can touch you, too.”

Something inside him, something buried so deep down that it was barely audible, was screaming at him to leave, to stop, to get out, but Jimin’s song and voice was louder, and that was telling him to take his key and unlock the shackles keeping Jimin prisoner.

Slowly, Jungkook took his free hand and reached beneath his shirt where the rusted key was hanging from a thin black cord, but then he stopped abruptly, jolted back to reality as if his head had been dunked in ice cold water.

“No,” he gasped, bolting upright and stumbling backwards, his heart racing in his chest as he slowly regained his senses. “No, you will not have me.”

“Won’t I?” Jimin purred. “You have desires, Captain.”

“Shut it,” Jungkook spat, ripping his silk belt from around his hips and shoving it into Jimin’s mouth, tying it tightly behind his head. “You are my prisoner, and I will not fall victim to your hellish voice again. This is my ship.”

Jimin could no longer respond, and so he merely glared.

Now that his voice was trapped in his wicked throat, Jungkook left him once more, though now he had a different kind of determination in his stride. No one made a puppet of him like that and lived to see another day.

It was particularly frustrating how helpless Jimin had rendered him, and for the second time, no less. Jungkook had swore when he gave himself to a life of piracy that he would never again bow to someone other than himself, and yet a mere siren had brought him to his knees with only his voice.

Taehyung was the first to accost him once he returned to his crew on the upper deck, concern etched in every part of his tanned face.

“What happened?” he asked. “Did you speak with the siren?”

“No. He gave me no such chance. That creature is evil,” Jungkook said, anger still pulsing in his chest as his stomach churned.

“Captain—“

“Fuck it all, we should just kill him and be done with it,” Jungkook scowled. “Better him than us.”

“No,” Taehyung said immediately, his eyes widening. “You know what sirens are, don’t you? Creatures born of the sea, like her children. If you kill one of her own, she won’t ever let you back in her waters.”

“He is no child of the sea. He is a demon, a wicked creature who deserves to rot. We may as well make some coin off him.”

Taehyung gripped Jungkook’s shoulder and stared at him earnestly. “Jungkook, I am not speaking to you as your first mate. I am speaking to you as your oldest, dearest friend. Please, I beg of you, please trust me.”

Jungkook looked to the others, who were waiting for his response with baited breath, most of them probably salivating at the thought of draining Jimin of his blood and becoming immortal, or selling it and never having to work another day in their greedy lives.

Despite being outnumbered, Taehyung continued earnestly, “Like the sea, sirens are fluid, unpredictable. He will find a way to escape on his own eventually.”

Jungkook simply narrowed his eyes and grit his teeth. “I would like to see him try.”

 

 

Now that Jimin was gagged and unable to speak or sing, the atmosphere on the ship had changed. The crew were no longer in a daze or moving slower than normal, and the heavy cloud coverage above them had begun to clear up, revealing the sky and stars beneath.

They laid anchor at the island to repair the hole in the ship, but there weren’t nearly enough supplies to fix it completely, making Jungkook all the more anxious to reach their destination. The longer they mucked about, the more chance there was that someone else could stumble upon whatever the Dragon had hidden in Turtle Bay, and the more restless his crew became as their supplies grew scarcer and their stolen jewels burning holes in their pockets.

The siren had set them back quite a bit, but now that they had their wits about them once more, they were able to set sail in the right direction without the fear of becoming lost again.

As they sailed further onward, Jungkook’s thoughts frequently drifted back to the fate of the siren still bound and gagged in the brig. There were many times that his residual anger at being made to be so weak took over, and he felt that the only solution was to kill the siren and sell his blood to make some quick coin off desperate fools at Turtle Bay. Siren’s blood being sold would certainly distract the other pirate crews long enough for him to not have to worry about competition for the Dragon’s treasure for a while.

But more often than not, it was thoughts of guilt and turmoil that lingered in his mind. Taehyung trusted him with his life, and he in turn trusted Taehyung; it would be a foul betrayal if he were to kill Jimin after Taehyung had pleaded with him to spare him. While Jungkook was a pirate, he couldn’t afford to lose his closest friend when loyalty seemed to be a wavering concept on the Black Trident as of late.

Unfortunately, sparing Jimin was not the most popular mindset on the ship, not by a long shot. The closer the Black Trident grew to port, the more whispers Jungkook began to hear around the ship, whispers that would fall silent the moment Jungkook walked by, whispers that clustered together and loomed over every corner like a shadow that Jungkook couldn’t escape from.

Jungkook was the Black Trident’s captain, but he was no longer certain that he could trust his crew.

“You decide what to do with the fish, Captain?” Haechul asked one morning.

“That is the least of my concerns right now,” Jungkook lied.

In truth, he had been unable to sleep the night before, tossing and turning in his bed with echoes of the disembodied voice that had haunted his dreams and Jimin’s song keeping his sore, bloodshot eyes open.

A glance toward the helm showed that Taehyung was speaking to Junho, gesturing with his hands and not paying any attention to what Jungkook was doing. He had been avoiding Taehyung for the time being, unwilling to have yet another conversation about the fate of the siren that would inevitably just leave him with even more guilt clawing at his insides.

Jungkook had to decide on his own what to do, and he had to decide before they made it to Turtle Bay. He couldn’t afford to be distracted once they made port, not with so much on the line.

And so he slipped off to the brig, making his way through the ship while acting as though he were simply making the usual rounds, checking in on his crew without really paying attention to what they were doing.

Woohyun was still stationed outside the door, nodding at Jungkook as he passed, but holding out his hand to stop him from unlocking the door and going inside.

“He hasn’t eaten anything,” he signed to Jungkook, his expression neutral as usual, betraying no sign of actual concern for the siren’s wellbeing. “Should you give him some food before he starves?”

“We are low on supplies as it is,” Jungkook shook his head as he moved his hands. “We cannot afford to give up anything for his sake.”

“He may die,” was all Woohyun replied, crossing his arms over his chest to show that he was finished speaking.

Jungkook reached for his key, but his hand stayed, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Taehyung’s needling at the back of his mind. At last he let out an exasperated sigh and turned on his heel, heading off to the storage instead. There was a box of dried sardines that they had pilfered from another ship, and while he didn’t know what sirens ate, he had to imagine that it would be fish of some sort.

Woohyun said nothing when Jungkook returned with the bundle of fish in his hand, but his normally blank face did betray him when the corners of his lips turned ever so slightly upward.

Jungkook ignored him and unlocked the door, once more facing Jimin, though this time he knew he had the upper hand thanks to the gag in his mouth.

“Do sirens eat food?” Jungkook asked. “Just nod yes or no.”

Jimin didn’t move, still glaring unblinkingly at him.

Jungkook held out the sardines. “I’ll take that as a yes. Eat these. I don’t want to find your starved corpse on my ship.” He set the sardines down next to Jimin’s basin and nudged them closer to his hand. Jimin still didn’t move, not even sparing a glance at the fish.

“Fine. I will remove the cloth, but the moment you try anything, I will put it back on,” Jungkook warned, hesitantly reaching his hand out to the back of Jimin’s head to untie the gag.

He stiffened once Jimin’s mouth was free, but Jimin didn’t begin singing. Instead, he spat at him, his glare positively murderous.

It missed Jungkook, but Jimin’s message was quite clear. Jungkook pocketed the cloth and shook his head, turning to leave the room. If he was too proud to accept the food while Jungkook was in the room, then so be it.

Once outside, Jungkook handed the gag to Woohyun. “When you see that he’s eaten, go inside and put this back around his mouth. If you see that he starts to sing, pay no mind to the fish and gag him again anyway.”

Woohyun nodded and took the cloth from him, glancing through the small window in the door. Were Woohyun not such a dedicated and loyal member of his crew, Jungkook would have been significantly more nervous to leave Jimin in there with his lips free to form his haunting tune. He couldn’t even trust himself not to fall victim to Jimin’s spell, and that was more terrifying than anything he’d faced in his years of pirating.

The hold that Jimin was able to have on him… he shuddered even thinking about it.

“Where were you, Captain?” Taehyung asked when Jungkook joined him above deck, looking out to the sea to attempt to console his anxious mind.

“Patrolling the ship,” he said. “All is well.”

Taehyung followed Jungkook’s gaze, hugging his arms to his chest as if he’d felt a chill. “Something is amiss,” he said. “I can feel it in the air. Be careful, my friend.”

“Careful of what?”

Taehyung’s voice quieted, his eyes shifting to the others scattered about the deck before settling on Jungkook to give him a meaningful look. “Not everyone has the same goals as you,” was all he said, and whatever chill Taehyung had felt ran down Jungkook’s spine as well.

By the following day, the ship’s supply of rum had run dry. The grumbles of discontent were abundant, and even Jungkook found himself reaching for the flask at his hip only to remember that it was empty.

“How much longer ‘til we make port, Cap’n?” became a frequent question being asked, even though it was common knowledge among the crew that Jimin’s song had set them back several weeks at least, and it would still be a while yet before they could stretch their legs on land.

“Could be faster if you all would quit your crowing about the rum,” Jungkook finally snapped. He was growing impatient as well, spending most of his time holed up in his cabin, where he had stashed the map of Turtle Bay as well as the tiny fragment that would point him to the Dragon’s treasure. Fed up with his irritated crew, he returned to his quarters once more, poring over the map that he had scoured so many times by now that he could trace it with his eyes closed.

He didn’t remain there long before his mind began to wander back to Jimin. Somehow the siren had commandeered his every thought nowadays. Being as he had no ability to concentrate on the map, and wasn’t interested in being around his crew, he descended to the lowest deck to check on him.

By now, he could scarcely even notice the rotted, grimy air in the brig; he supposed he had gotten used to it from his frequent trips to this part of the ship. Woohyun was asleep in his chair, his arms crossed and his head drooping to the side, though he’d tied some twine to the doorknob, the other end knotted around his finger.

“Stupid bastard,” Jungkook chuckled to himself, simply untying the other end of the string from the door and making to unlock it, but once again he found himself hesitating. Instead, he peered through the small window in the door and watched Jimin from a safe distance. He could see that he was gagged once more, though he wasn’t sure if it was because he had begun to sing or if Woohyun had simply felt that it was too dangerous to leave him with the ability to.

Whatever the case, the most important thing to Jungkook was the fact that the sardines he had placed beside Jimin’s basin of water were now nothing but a small pile of bones.

At that realization, something akin to relief settled over him, relief that was quickly replaced with confusion. He was glad to see that Jimin had eaten, glad even though he did not care for the siren in the slightest.

Woohyun was stirring, so Jungkook pushed the thought to the far recesses of his mind and quickly tied the twine back onto the doorknob, retreating from this moldy hallway that always seemed to leave him confused and anxious nowadays.

Now, more than ever, he thought that perhaps the only option was to simply release Jimin back into the ocean, and allow their interactions to become nothing more than a distant memory.

 

 

Night fell in an unusually slow manner, the sunset lasting what felt like ages before the stars finally blinked into the sky one by one, then all at once as the darkness fell over the sea and the Black Trident. The waves were oddly calm as well, the ever shifting water hardly making a sound, creating an eerie illusion of silence on the ship.

Perhaps in other circumstances it would have been calming, peaceful, even. Jungkook, however, couldn’t stop pacing around his cabin. It was nothing short of unsettling, the sudden calm over the sea and the crew, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that it had something to do with the siren. He had no proof, nothing but a hunch to go on, but it was enough to drag him from his maps to see if there was truly anything to be worried about.

It was so quiet. Deathly quiet, as if he were the only person roaming around, as if there was not a single other soul on the ship save for him. Every hair on the back of Jungkook’s neck stuck straight up, the light from his lantern flickering across the empty wooden halls and casting a long, ominous shadow in front of him.

Something was wrong. Something was off.

The former captain of the ship was lying at the bottom of the sea, his bone marrow being nibbled at by bottom feeders, and Jungkook had taken his place. Perhaps it was his paranoia at work, but he didn’t think it unreasonable to think that if a crew were to mutinize one captain, they would have no qualms with doing the same to the next.

He could not trust his crew.

Jungkook’s heart was pounding, threatening to leap from his throat when he finally came to the brig, only to have his fears realized when he saw the door hanging ajar and Woohyun unconscious on the floor, the twine tied around his neck.

He set the lantern on the chair and burst through the door, his hand already on the dagger at his hip before he could even see what was happening.

In front of him were three members of his crew, all of them surrounding Jimin. One, who Jungkook recognized as Haechul, had Jimin held against the wall by his neck while another held a jagged knife to his bare chest, the third of them clutching an empty jar beneath the knife as if to catch any spilled blood.

Without thinking, without so much as taking a breath, Jungkook charged at them. He had the element of surprise, which gave him the upper hand, and he was able to knock the knife to the ground. It left a long sliver of red down Jimin’s chest, and his face contorted in pain, but Jungkook had no time to make sure he was alright before Haechul and the others had regained their senses and turned to face him.

His vision became a blur of limbs and a flash of silver as he lost himself in the battle, his only goal being to stop these men from murdering Jimin in their greed for his blood.

The traitors had a clear size advantage on him, but he was faster, more agile, and was able to dodge most of their attacks while doing far more damage to them with his dagger. With two of the men unconscious or dead at his feet, only Haechul remained, panting and bleeding from his shoulder, the dagger back in his hand from where he had snatched it back up during the scuffle. Jungkook prepared to face off with him, but none other than Jimin lunged forward, wrapping the chain from his shackles around Haechul’s neck and tugging, hard, cutting off any source of air.

His lips were turning blue, his eyes bugging as he fought to breathe and his knees buckling with his loss of energy. The gag had come loose during the fight, and Jimin muttered something in a language that Jungkook couldn’t understand into Haechul’s ear before he finally collapsed, overturning the basin of water that Jimin had been sitting in.

Neither Jungkook or Jimin moved for a moment, both of them standing there staring at each other while Jungkook caught his breath, his head pounding and his arm stinging from where he had been swiped with a knife.

“You… you saved me,” Jimin said quietly, at last showing an emotion other than rage or his unsettling smugness; his eyes were wide with something almost akin to innocence, his lips parted and his eyebrows high on his forehead.

Jungkook said nothing, the reality of what had just happened settling over him and his brain entering a panicked state. People who he’d sailed with, people who had sworn to follow him had betrayed him. He had to do something about this. He had to move Jimin somewhere else, somewhere closer so that this wouldn’t happen again.

He could only think of one place.

Leaving Jimin standing there awestruck for a moment, Jungkook dragged the unconscious forms of the traitors to the cell next to Jimin’s, fixing them each with a set of shackles and locking them tightly after making sure that they all still had a pulse. His arm was dripping blood now, though that was nothing compared to how Jimin looked.

The wound he’d received from the dagger stretched across his chest, blooming red with blood and running down across his bare skin, making him seem so human that Jungkook could nearly forget his true nature. He was gentle in removing Jimin’s shackles, binding his hands together with the cloth he’d used as a gag before and lifting him up to take him back to his cabin. He was lighter than expected, with the size of a grown man yet the weight of someone like a child, and he put up no fight as Jungkook left behind the mess of the brig.

Woohyun’s eyes had rolled to the back of his head, as Jungkook could now see that the twine had strangled him, a harsh red wound encircling his neck and his lips open in what must have been his final gasp for air.

“He is dead,” Jimin said.

“He was a good man. He did not deserve this sort of fate,” Jungkook replied, and he meant it. He had been murdered by his own crewmates for something that Jungkook had assigned him to. It made him ill.

Taehyung had been right. He had been right all along. Keeping Jimin onboard had brought them nothing but misfortune, and it now had a body count. As the blood from Jimin’s wound seeped into his clothes, Jungkook at last came to a decision. Jimin would remain in his cabin until they reached Turtle Bay so that Jungkook could keep a closer eye on him, and then once they made port, he would release him back to the ocean while his crew was distracted with selling their plunder.

He did not share any of this with Jimin, who was still cooperating rather suspiciously in Jungkook’s arms.

“This is where you live?” Jimin questioned at the doorway to Jungkook’s cabin, looking with wide eyes from the unlit lantern on the desk to the bed to the wardrobe in the corner. “You have brought me to where you sleep?”

Once more, Jungkook ignored him, closing the door behind them with his boot and setting Jimin down in a clear space against the wall. His wound, which had previously been bleeding rather profusely, now appeared to have begun stitching itself together, leaving nothing but a thin scar and dried blood across his skin.

The pity Jungkook felt from earlier dissipated upon seeing that, and he rummaged around for something to bind Jimin with so that he would be unable to escape. He managed to procure a long rope from the floor beneath the wardrobe, and replaced the cloth around Jimin’s hands with the much more sturdy material, threading it through the empty sconce on the wall to keep him in place. It was long enough that Jimin could move his arms around, but not enough that he had any chance of reaching something that could help him escape.

“Why did you save me?” Jimin asked, eyeing Jungkook suspiciously. His legs were drawn up to his chest, his hands resting on his knees. “I tried to kill you.”

“But you didn’t.”

Jimin narrowed his eyes. “I would have if your friends hadn’t captured me. Do not mistake my failure for mercy, sailor.”

“You had plenty of time before I was rescued,” Jungkook retorted, quickly slipping back to his familiar state of animosity toward the siren. “Why did you hesitate?”

“I did not hesitate.”

“I see. You are just terrible at killing people, then.”

“You like to provoke,” Jimin said, baring his teeth. “It will not work on me.”

“Ah, but I think it will,” Jungkook grinned, leaning forward to peer at Jimin’s face. “You’re becoming quite flustered.”

“I am not weak like you,” Jimin said, turning away from him and resting his head against the wall. It was clear that he had no interest in continuing to bicker, so Jungkook left him alone and returned to the remainder of the problem at hand.

The uneasy silence in the ship had been broken by now, so he left his cabin and pounded on the walls in his crew’s bunk area, shouting for them all to get up and join him on deck.

Within minutes, his groggy, annoyed crew were surrounding him, Taehyung leaning against the mast to his side, his eyebrows furrowed and his lips slightly pursed.

“Woohyun is dead,” he announced.

Whispers drifted from the crowd, shocked and horrified, but Jungkook didn’t wait for the information to sink in before he continued.

“Three of you decided to let greed into your hearts and murdered him to take the siren’s blood for themselves. They did not succeed.”

More murmurs, this time with an angry tone.

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear to you lot before. If another of you betrays your ship, your captain, and your crew, I will personally see to it that you end up at the bottom of the ocean with Captain Li.” The anger built up inside him had come bursting out, leaving no whispers after his words this time. They all knew he meant it.

“Now go back to sleep, and in the morning we will give Woohyun a proper burial at sea.”

The crew dispersed, all of them returning to their bunks except for Taehyung, who lingered behind to speak to Jungkook.

“You moved the siren?” he asked, staring at the blood on his clothes. It always took Jungkook aback the way Taehyung always seemed to know what was going on behind closed doors and away from his own line of sight, but he would never voice that out loud.

“Yes,” he said. “To my cabin.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows shot up on his forehead. “Is that wise?” he asked. “He holds power that no human could possibly imagine.”

“He bleeds like the rest of us,” Jungkook said simply.

It was only until the first rays of light on the horizon welcoming the dawn came that Jungkook realized the cloth he’d been using to keep Jimin gagged was still shoved in the corner of his pocket.

Yet, even still, there was nothing but the distant call of gulls and the light lapping of waves against the bow to be heard.

Chapter Text

Quiet was odd.

No, no, that wasn’t quite it.

It was the absence of particular sounds that was odd. There was no grumbling about the lack of rum, no griping that the trip was taking too long, no cursing at the fact that they would have to repair the ship when they made port, no gambling below deck. For the most part, Jungkook’s crew were keeping to themselves.

Stranger still was the silence coming from Jungkook’s own cabin, where Jimin was still tied up, but not gagged. He had several chances now to take control of the ship again, to sink them before they could even regain their bearings to make port.

And yet he hadn’t.

More than anything else, it roused Jungkook’s suspicions and kept him on an even higher level of alert than normal, to the point that it became too difficult to sleep most nights. Of course, it didn’t help that he was now sharing his living quarters with a creature that up until quite recently, had been actively attempting to kill him.

When Jimin had been down in the brig, there had still been that distance between them, between prisoner and captor. Now, although Jimin was still bound and confined to one small space, he was sharing Jungkook’s living space, sitting there while Jungkook was at his most vulnerable.

Jimin continued his refusal of clothing and only ate when Jungkook was not present, so not all that much had changed, but it still felt oddly as if a line had been crossed when Jungkook had moved him here.

Things were tense with his crew and even more tense with Jimin, but the difference was that at the end of the day he could slip away from his crew and take some time to himself in his cabin. With Jimin there now, there was nowhere he could go where he didn’t feel as though he had to be constantly glancing over his shoulder.

Something was going to give one way or another, and he just hoped that he could take care of the Jimin situation before that could happen.

“We’re a good few weeks out from the port, yet,” Taehyung said one night, gazing up at the stars. “Haven’t even seen another ship in ages; feels like it’s just us and the sea out here.”

“Wish we’d come across a merchant ship at the least,” Jungkook sighed. “Supplies are so low we may have to start netting up sea turtles and surviving off those.”

“I don’t know about that. Jaejoon said there’ve been no fish anywhere near the ship for days, almost like they’re avoiding it.” Taehyung gave him a knowing look. “I think you know why.”

“You think it’s the siren’s doing? He hasn’t been singing.”

“No, I think it’s the sea. Haechul and the others hurt Jimin, didn’t they?”

“He healed himself. Fuckin’ siren magic or something, I don’t know. He barely has a mark left.”

Taehyung shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. He was hurt. The sea isn’t happy.”

Both of them fell silent as Junho passed by, all three of them eyeing each other until he was out of earshot again.

“All I am saying is that if you aren’t going to be releasing Jimin until we reach Turtle Bay, you should at the very least be keeping him content so that the sea doesn’t sink us before we can even make port.”

“He is my prisoner,” Jungkook reminded Taehyung. “I am not at his mercy.”

“He may be your prisoner, but you are at the mercy of the sea herself, Jungkook,” Taehyung responded. “Keep Jimin from harm or I fear she may do much more than cause a slight fever and deprive us of fish.”

Jungkook was the last person to think of underestimating the power the ocean held in its depths, but he didn’t dare to allow Jimin any more comfort than he was currently risking, not when he had to worry about his suspicions regarding the loyalty of his crew and the prospect of having to scour Turtle Bay for whatever the Dragon’s map was pointing him to on top of it all.

“He will be safe in my cabin,” Jungkook said. “That I can assure you.”

Jungkook only hoped that Taehyung could not sense the uneasiness in his voice when he bid him good night and retired to his quarters, anxious to make sure nothing had happened in his absence.

He wasn’t surprised to see that nothing had changed, but being on deck with Junho’s eyes on him and the overwhelming tension that was present among his crew had been stifling, and he was grateful to be back in a situation that he had direct control over.

Jimin was toeing at the bones left on the ground from the fish Jungkook had given him that morning, but once he saw Jungkook enter, he kicked them away so that they scattered across the floor.

Jungkook ignored him and headed for his wardrobe to change out into something more comfortable; perhaps a full night of sleep would calm his constantly troubled mind, or at least give him a brief break before he had to wake up and dive back into the thick of it.

“Why did you save me?”

He spoke so quietly that at first Jungkook thought he had been imagining things, but when he turned to face Jimin, he saw that the siren was looking at him expectantly.

Jimin’s eyes carried none of their usual malice; instead he simply looked as though he had been pondering the answer to his question ever since he had posed it the first time.

Jungkook still had no real answer for him aside from the honest one of ‘I don’t know,’ and so he countered it with a question of his own: “Why did you stop singing?”

Silence fell as Jimin thought for a moment. Finally, he responded, “The gag was uncomfortable.” He paused, then added, “The rope is… uncomfortable as well.”

That brought a laugh from Jungkook, and he sat on the edge of his bed, shaking his head at Jimin. “If I remove those, you will escape and kill me while I sleep.”

“I have already shown you that I am capable of killing you with my hands tied,” Jimin argued. “If I were going to kill you, I would have done so already.”

“Would you?” Jungkook said, a smirk playing on his lips. Jimin was clever, but Jungkook was no fool. “Do you remember the first time you tried to kill me? You were foiled by my crew because they had heard your voice, and now here you sit as a prisoner on my ship. If you had your hands free, you could kill me silently, and escape undetected.”

Jimin averted his eyes and kept his mouth shut, affirming Jungkook’s suspicions.

“Just as I thought.”

 

 

After that, Jimin did not ask to be freed again, but he did make it a habit to ask Jungkook a new question every night. He would wait until Jungkook had changed into his sleepwear, and before he could extinguish the flame burning inside the lantern, he would open his mouth to ask something new.

“Why do they call you ‘Captain’?” he asked one night, his head tipped back against the wall and his legs tucked beneath him, the gentle rocking of the ship making the lantern light dance across his skin.

“Because this is my ship, and they are acknowledging me as their leader,” Jungkook responded.

Jimin said nothing, just nodding and then quieting down, allowing Jungkook to continue about his business and go to sleep.

The next night it was “What do other humans think of pirates?” to which Jungkook said, “They fear us.” Then, “What do you do with the treasures you steal?” and then, “Have you ever lost a battle?” It came to the point that Jungkook didn’t even attempt to settle in for a night’s rest until Jimin had asked his question, such a routine it had become.

Finally, on a rather clear night when Jungkook had stayed out on deck later than usual to stare up at the stars, Jimin asked, “What do pirates do aside from killing sailors and stealing treasure?” before Jungkook had even closed the door to his cabin behind him.

Jungkook glared at his perceived snark, countering with, “What do sirens do aside from luring people to their deaths?”

Jimin didn’t bicker back as he normally did. “It was an honest question.”

“Oh.” Jungkook locked the door and rolled his neck to stretch his sore muscles. “Well, many are former sailors and merchants who wanted to make a living wage. That isn’t always possible on a navy or merchant ship.”

“The people on land?”

“Right. Many sailors face unfair working conditions. The captain on those ships is like their own little emperor, taking most of the profits and leaving the sailors with hardly enough to get by. The hierarchies that exist on land carry over to those ships, so if you are not from a wealthy family, you are treated like scum.”

“Hierarchies?”

Jungkook smiled bitterly. “Humans are foolish creatures, creating social hierarchies amongst ourselves to dictate society. Men over women, elders over the young, wealthy over poor. But none of that exists with pirates. Every man is equal out on the sea, and we answer to no one but her.”

“But you are their captain,” Jimin said.

“Yes, to keep order,” Jungkook explained, gathering his nightclothes while he spoke. Their conversations usually didn’t press on for this long. Jimin was pushing him, prodding for as much information as Jungkook would give him. Normally he would be suspicious, but he couldn’t possibly see how any of this information could benefit Jimin other than satiating his curiosity.

“One of your men died because those others betrayed you,” Jimin said. “Does that sort of thing normally happen?”

“No. There isn’t normally a siren onboard a pirate ship.”

Jimin tilted his head to the side as he processed the information he was given, and he didn’t speak again for several moments. Jungkook turned away from him, assuming that he was finished with his questioning, and shrugged out of his clothes to change into his silks.

“Were you always a pirate?” Jimin piped up again, prompting Jungkook to turn around.

“No,” he said. “I worked on a merchant ship a long time ago.”

“Did they give lashings?”

Jungkook froze. “Sometimes.”

Jimin’s eyes were wide, dark, unblinking. “Is that where you got those scars on your back?”

His blood running cold and his heart rate increasing, Jungkook quickly yanked his shirt over his head and squared his shoulders when he faced Jimin. “That’s enough out of you,” he snapped. “No more questions, or I’ll put the gag back over your loose lips.”

Jimin said nothing else, but he didn’t tear his gaze away from Jungkook for even a second.

His blood curdling and his stomach churning, he knew that he would be unable to sleep that night, and so he left his quarters dressed only in his nightclothes. He found himself drifting to the edge of the ship as if he were a ghost, gazing out at the stars and the deep black of the sea around him, willing it to whisk those cursed memories away from him so that they would stop replaying in his head. Old wounds felt raw again, long since healed scars splitting open as if the pain was trying to escape from inside his body.

He shuddered and closed his eyes, letting the smell of the sea and brine and wood invade his nostrils and take over his senses, pushing any other thoughts from his mind. The gentle sway of the ship on the waves calmed him like a gentle touch from a loved one, and the wind blowing in his ears sounded like home.

In a way, however, the sound of the wind was mournful, empty and hollow, as if something was missing. His thoughts wandered back to Jimin and wondered if perhaps the sea was longing for something lost.

Something stolen.

 

Jimin’s questions stopped after that night, and he resumed his usual silence. It was a bit odd for Jungkook to get used to after expecting a conversation every night, but he supposed it was better this way. His questioning had made him seem more human, and feeling anything close to empathy for the siren he was holding captive was the last thing Jungkook needed.

“A storm is coming, Captain,” Taeha called out to Jungkook the moment she spotted him emerging through the hatch above deck, making her way down from the crow’s nest to report to him. “A bad one.”

Jungkook shook his head, lifting his gaze to the sky in the distance, where gray clouds were rolling closer at a frightening pace. The wind was beginning to pick up, and it threatened to set them back perhaps another week or two if they suffered any damages from the incoming storm.

“We can’t outrun it, Cap’n,” Jaejoon said. “Not with the wind fighting us like this.”

“Should we lay ahull, Captain?”

“No,” Jungkook snapped. “If we let the wind carry us through, we’ll be set back even longer and run out of supplies before we can make it to Turtle Bay.” He turned to his crew and began preparing them for the storm, barking out, “Reef the sails! Lash down the supplies! Go, move it!”

His crew rushed to work, reducing the sails to help navigate the stormy waters and roping off the supplies so that the violent waves wouldn’t send everything toppling. He and his crew had made it through storms before. He had every confidence that they could handle this, but he feared that time was slipping through his fingers the more obstacles they ran into on the way to their destination.

The light drizzle turned into a full downpour once the sinisterly dark clouds rolled over them, crackling with lightning and killing every last ray of sunlight that might have been attempting to peek through. The storm was not quite as vicious as the last one, and the wind was proving to be their biggest foe now, relentlessly whipping at them in gusts strong enough to keep them stagnant.

It was times like these that Jungkook reminded everyone why he had been elected as their captain. He stayed strong at the helm, directing his crew and keeping them steady as the rain battered down around them, his clothes soaked through to his skin and his hair clinging to his face so that he could hardly see.

They were weak and foul tempered and suspicious of each other, but for the duration of that storm, they worked as well as a crew that had just set sail.

Within hours, they had fought through the worst of the storm, finally breaking past the clouds and wall of rain and emerging into clearer, calmer waters. The rain didn’t let up, but the wind had died down long enough that they could relax, and Jungkook took the opportunity to return to his cabin while his crew’s spirits were still high.

Jimin was curled up against the wall, his eyes closed but his finger lightly tapping against his knee; Jungkook had to wonder if he ever slept. Walking past him, he took a book of matches and lit the lantern hanging from the sconce on the far wall above his desk, then removed his water-logged coat and tied his damp hair out of his face with a spare bandana.

The map of Turtle Bay and its surrounding area, as well as the letters from the young prince they’d stolen from and the Dragon’s map fragment were arranged across the wooden surface, his pot of ink and brushes weighing the parchment down so that it would stay unfurled.

There was most likely no new information he could glean from any of this until he actually reached Turtle Bay, but there was always the possibility that he could have missed something, some small detail that could change everything.

Turtle Bay was a relatively small island port, with the harbor town accounting for most of its population, but beyond the town, through a little forest, was a marsh teeming with wildlife and insects. The air was always hot and heavy, the humidity making one feel as though they were sinking into the ground, and the way the muddy earth pulled and squished beneath a pair of boots was as if the swamp were trying to swallow them whole.

Not many strayed beyond the harbors, but from the faded map laid out on his desk, the mark looked as if it was pointing even beyond the marsh, to a part of the island Jungkook had never set foot in before.

He knew Taehyung would be able to get them to the marsh itself, but beyond that, they would be going in blind.

Jungkook breathed out a heavy sigh, letting his head droop as he attempted to clear his mind enough to focus on what he would have to do. It was possible that there would be traps. No, it was almost certain that there would be traps. It would be in a place so unreachable that the treasure remained lost to this day.

If the map was, in fact, pointing to the treasure itself and not simply another clue to its whereabouts. Maybe the Dragon’s treasure never existed at all, and the rumors had simply been rumors, and all this map will lead him to nothing but disappointment and utter failure.

“Fuck,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head.

His mind was so clouded with doubts now that focusing seemed impossible. A steady drip, a leak in the ceiling thanks to the storm had drawn his attention away from what was important and he fixated on that simple drip, drip, instead.

Each drop was landing near Jimin’s feet, drawing Jungkook’s eyes toward him, from his curled toes to his knees drawn up as close to his chest as they would go, to his arms pricked with goose pimples held tight against his body and his hunched shoulders, his lips quivering as his teeth chattered.

He was freezing.

Jungkook lifted himself up from where he had been leaning against his desk, abandoning his maps to walk toward Jimin. He snatched up a spare set of clothes from his wardrobe on the way and thrust them at him. “Here,” he said forcefully. “If you would wear some clothes you wouldn’t be cold.”

Jimin looked at him and then immediately looked away, his entire body trembling.

Frustrated, Jungkook dropped down beside him and held the bundle out again. “Why are you being so stubborn?” he demanded. “I don’t want to listen to you shivering, so just put the damn clothes on.”

Jimin sniffled, his nose running slightly, the tip tinged pink. He still refused to move or even look at Jungkook.

“You…” Jungkook was about to curse again, and then the realization slowly dawned on him. “You don’t know how, do you?”

He still said nothing, but the way he pulled at his lower lip with his teeth and ducked his head ever so slightly lower all but confirmed Jungkook’s theory. Jimin was embarrassed, and he was allowing Jungkook to see that side of him after all of his built-up bravado.

Perhaps it was that bit of humanity poking through this siren masquerading as human that drove Jungkook to getting to his feet and tugging at the rope he’d fashioned to the sconce on the wall, then carefully removing the other end from around Jimin’s wrists. He grabbed him by the crook of his arm and lifted him upright, scarcely able to believe that he was about to help dress the creature who tried to kill him.

Jungkook’s clothing was too big even on himself, and as Jungkook helped a trepidatious Jimin into his trousers and then his shirt, he saw that Jimin was practically drowning in the fabric. His hands trailed down Jimin’s sides to adjust the trousers so that they would stay around his waist, but when Jimin exhaled and Jungkook could feel his breath on his skin he became all too aware of how close they had become and took a step back, pulling his hands away.

The two of them held an odd sort of gaze between them, Jungkook’s eyes locked onto Jimin’s stormy gray ones, and then Jimin moved so quickly that Jungkook had hardly blinked before he was being knocked backward.

“Shit,” Jungkook cursed, scrambling to get back to his feet, one arm around his middle where Jimin had punched him, leaving him gasping for breath. He’d let his guard down, he’d let Jimin trick him without even using any siren nonsense, and Jungkook had fallen for it.

There was no time to dwell on that, however, not when Jimin was gearing up for another punch. Jungkook ducked away and swiped out his foot to kick Jimin’s legs out from under him, but he was too fast and darted in the other direction.

Stars burst in Jungkook’s eyes and a sharp pain exploded in his side when a fist connected with the side of his head, sending him toppling into his desk. He slammed his palm down on the wooden surface to right himself, only to touch something wet. He had just enough time to look over and see that the pot of ink had been overturned before he had to stumble away to avoid another of Jimin’s punches.

His hand dripping with ink, he grabbed the collar of Jimin’s borrowed shirt and slammed him against the wall, desperately reaching for anything nearby that he could use to restrain him. He managed to slide the rope closer with his boot, but Jimin reached up to grab hold of the sconce above his head and kicked Jungkook in the chest, breaking free of his hold.

Clutching his bruised torso, Jungkook steadied himself as a cough ripped through his throat. If he kept up like this much longer, Jimin was going to win, and he would certainly kill him. Jungkook had fought off five armed men at once with nothing but his fists before, and yet somehow this one siren was evading him, without even the use of his voice. He was just so fast, only allowing Jungkook to get a hit in once for every five that he took.

Jimin moved so fluid and fast, but ultimately he was out of his element here surrounded by walls instead of water and dwarfed in clothes that were too big for him. One small slipup was all it took, one brief misstep was all Jungkook needed to regain the upper hand. He finally knocked Jimin face first to the ground, wrestling his arms down and breathing heavily.

He shoved Jimin’s shoulder against the floor, hard, pressing his knee into the small of his back to keep him from squirming. Jimin struggled for an admirably long time, his strength far greater than Jungkook would have expected from his size and appearance, but eventually his thrashing stopped.

“Are you finished?” Jungkook asked, peering down at him.

Jimin just glared back, refusing to speak. He didn’t put up a fight when Jungkook grabbed for the rope and bound him again, fastening it once more to the sconce on the wall. The ink that had been on Jungkook’s hand was smeared all over Jimin, his hands and shirt now stained black, with a small smudge on his cheek as well. Any injuries he might have sustained had repaired themselves, but from the way Jungkook’s back, arms, and eye were smarting he knew that he had not come out of that fight similarly unscathed.

Unsure of how he would explain this to his crew, he shook his head and turned away from Jimin, returning to his desk to fix the mess that had become of his maps. The ink pot had completely ruined the wood, staining its beautiful oak finish with uneven black splotches, and some of the letters had been entirely stained through. The map of Turtle Bay stood out to him, however, with an ink stain that appeared to have originated from the very center and worked its way out to the edges of the parchment.

There was no way that the stain could have come from the ink pot itself, not from the way it had fallen, and the appearance of the unnatural black spot over his map sent chills down his spine. He tidied up, leaving the map where it was, and glanced over at Jimin for a second only to find that the siren was staring directly at him.

“Stop that,” Jungkook said, unsettled, but Jimin didn’t look away, his dark eyes following Jungkook even as he prepared for bed, extinguishing the lights and doing his best to keep the image of the map from his mind.

It was silent in the cabin save for the rain still hitting the outside of the ship and the continuous dripping of the leak in the ceiling, and then Jimin finally spoke. “It was worth a shot,” he said, and Jungkook could not tell if he was actually joking with him or not. Did sirens understand the concept of jokes?

He couldn’t determine Jimin’s expression in the dark, and so Jungkook simply closed his eyes and fought to relax his racing heart.

 

 

“Island! Island ahead!” Taeha hollered from the crow’s nest early the following morning. It was a small one, but sure enough, in the distance there was a mound of land that felt like an oasis amidst the endless sea. Jungkook wasn’t particularly keen on leaving the ship, preferring to stay on board as long as he could, but repairs had to be made, supplies had to be gathered, and his crew needed a break from the weeks of sailing.

“Never seen sand so beautiful,” Junho sighed happily, kicking off his boots and digging his toes into the beach.

“Think there’s any locals? Maybe they’ll have rum,” Jaejoon said, greed glinting in his eyes.

“Focus,” Jungkook commanded. “We have no time to be wasting here. We need to fix up and set sail again before sundown.”

“Why the rush, Cap’n?” Tanaka asked, his eyes slightly narrowed.

Before he could panic, an alternate explanation jumped to Jungkook’s mind. “Obviously there’s no locals here to steal from,” he began, glaring at Jaejoon, “so if you lot want more rum, we need to hurry to Turtle Bay.”

Tanaka paused, but in the end Jungkook’s answer seemed to suffice, and so he and the rest of the crew got to work repairing the breach in the ship as well as the minor damages that had occurred during the storm.

While his men hauled wood from the tiny forest to board up the hole, Jungkook rowed back to the ship to deal with a different matter entirely.

Taehyung remained on board as well, and was carefully examining star charts when Jungkook found him. He’d stopped in his cabin first to retrieve the ruined map of Turtle Bay, and it was the first thing Taehyung’s eyes went to once Jungkook walked in the room.

“What happened?” Taehyung asked.

“I spilled some ink on the map last night. I’m going to draw up another.”

“You spilled it?”

Taehyung’s eyes gaze was steadfast, but Jungkook held onto his lie. “Yes,” he said. “I do miss Woohyun. He was a talented bastard with a brush.”

“He needn’t have died the way that he did,” Taehyung said quietly, then held out his hand. “May I?”

Jungkook handed it over and watched as Taehyung unfurled it and held it up to the lantern light, exhaling softly when he saw the full extent of the stain. It was a circle of black on the parchment, far too perfect to have come from any normal spill from an ink pot, and Jungkook knew that Taehyung saw through his flimsy excuse.

“This is a bad omen, my friend.”

“It’s just spilled ink, Taehyung,” Jungkook reminded him, even as goose pimples pricked down his arms. “Perhaps if the ink were spelling out ‘You are going to die,’ I would feel threatened, but this is just a mere stain.”

“On its own, maybe you would be right, but hasn’t everything else convinced you by now? Your fever, the storms, Woohyun’s death, and now a black spot?” Taehyung set the map down on the nearby desk and approached Jungkook, lightly touching the bruise on his brow bone with his fingers. “And this. What happened here?”

Jungkook swatted his hand away and turned his head. “Nothing. I fell.”

“You fell? Was this at the same time that you spilled your ink pot?”

“Very well,” Jungkook sighed. “Jimin escaped and I had a bit of a struggle restraining him again, but it doesn’t matter. Soon he won’t be a problem any longer.” If it were anyone but Taehyung, Jungkook never would have admitted his near defeat, but it was pointless to keep anything from his friend. Sooner or later, he would find out regardless.

“He escaped? How?”

“I was following your advice to keep him content,” Jungkook said. “He broke free when I was helping him get clothed.”

Taehyung raised his eyebrows. “So you untied him?”

“Briefly.”

“And you fought.”

“Briefly.”

“And he is now restrained again?”

“Very much so.”

Taehyung opened his mouth again, most likely to reprimand Jungkook for keeping him here on the ship for as long as he had, but before either of them could speak, a voice called up from below.

“Cap’n! Somethin’ you should see.”

Jungkook and Taehyung peered over the side of the ship, where a few crew members were hanging from a series of ropes so that they could repair the breach. Tanaka hoisted himself back up, barnacles crusted on his boots and grime coating his hands and face.

“The wood rotted, Cap’n,” he said, breathing heavily. “Down to the brig. Haechul ‘n the others escaped.”

“What?” Jungkook said, everything else leaving his mind as he burst through the hatch and thundered down to the lowest deck of the ship, tearing open the door and coming to a dead halt when he saw that the brig was, in fact, empty.

“The door was still locked,” he breathed, holding up the key still hanging from the cord around his neck. “They must have gone overboard. Any dinghys missing?”

Tanaka, who had followed after him, shook his head. “None that we saw, Cap’n. They must be dead for sure, else they’re somewhere on that island.”

Jungkook cursed and kicked over a crate. “Get back to work. We need to set sail again as soon as we can,” he barked, facing Tanaka again with a fire burning in his veins.

He knew that they could not have made it to the rest of the ship with the only door out of the brig still locked from the outside, but just in case, Jungkook still made a few rounds of every room and crevice to make sure that nothing was missing. The maps and supplies were all still as they had been when he’d last checked, and the only dinghys missing from the deck were the ones currently in use by his crew on shore.

His own cabin was the last thing he checked, his heart racing at the thought of either his treasure hoard or the clues he’d collected for the Dragon’s treasure going missing, but both were still just as he’d left them.

Jimin was also exactly as Jungkook had left him, though the ink smudges that had been on his skin had vanished.

“The sea claimed three lives,” Jimin said, making Jungkook freeze where he was standing.

“How did you…?”

“She will not rest,” Jimin continued, not giving Jungkook any time to properly respond. “Not until what is hers is returned.”

Ignoring the chills creeping down his spine, Jungkook crossed his arms. “So will the sea claim me, next?” he asked, not expecting a serious answer.

“Maybe,” was the response Jimin gave him, along with a small shrug.

Jungkook’s eyebrows shot up. “You don’t seem sure about that,” he said. “I would have thought you would say something cryptic.”

“You continue to surprise me, Captain Jeon,” Jimin replied. “I have a feeling you will surprise me again. So no, I am not sure.”

Unsure of how to respond, Jungkook fell silent, simply staring at Jimin with his eyes still wide and his lips parted in shock.

Finally, Jimin spoke again, this time with a more accusatory tone. “What do you plan to do with me when you arrive at your destination? I know that the men you imprisoned wanted to kill me and sell my blood.”

“I am not going to sell your blood,” Jungkook said.

“So you plan to keep me captive here until I die, then?”

“No.”

Jimin’s expression soured, his eyebrows furrowing and his eyes narrowing. “If you have no plans to release me, I would rather you kill me yourself.”

“I am not going to kill you—”

“Keeping prisoners is cowardly,” Jimin spat.

Jungkook bristled. He had been called many things in his life, but a coward was not one he was accustomed to hearing. “I would release you right now if I knew that you would not simply continue to kill other sailors,” he said.

“You kill other sailors, too. How is that any different?”

He was right, and Jungkook knew it, so he changed gears. “How do I know that you won’t target my ship again, and kill me or my crew?”

“I can give you my word,” Jimin promised. “Though I don’t know what the word of a siren is worth to you, Captain.”

Jungkook shook his head. “Not much. Do you remember the last time I trusted you? I will not make that same mistake again.”

“You saved my life once. You had many chances to kill me already. You know that the sea will come for you if you keep me here any longer, so perhaps you need to weigh the risks against each other,” Jimin said, and though he was not using his siren voice, Jungkook found himself enraptured by his words all the same, unable to keep his gaze off Jimin’s lips. “Would you rather take your chances with a vengeful ocean, or a mere siren?”

Jungkook hesitated. He hesitated, having actually begun to consider what Jimin was saying, forgetting that he was a clever creature who would perhaps have said anything to be released from his binds.

Luckily, Taehyung’s voice calling his name was all the excuse Jungkook needed to leave his cabin without giving Jimin a response, without letting him know that he’d succeeded in planting the seed of doubt in Jungkook’s mind.

“Captain, you need to see this,” Taehyung said, using his title while surrounded by the other crew members. While Jungkook had been speaking with Jimin, the entire crew had returned from the island, grim-faced as they stared at him expectantly.

The figurehead, a brilliantly sculpted depiction of the god of the sea with gleaming black onyx stones for eyes, his hands clutching a trident, was the part of his ship that Jungkook took the most pride in. When the Black Trident sliced through the waves, riding the wind and leaving nothing but froth in its wake, he knew that the black eyes of that figurehead and the pointed tips of its trident would haunt the nightmares of any poor soul that found itself in their path. It was the part of the ship that pointed forward, and now it was the part of the ship that everyone was gathered around.

Jungkook moved through the crowd of his fellow pirates, Taehyung following close behind, and stopped abruptly when he saw what they were all looking at.

There, on the wooden rails that looked out toward the figurehead, were deep, jagged cuts in his ship crusted with congealed blood and broken fingernails that spelled out ‘Return what was stolen.’

“D’you think it was Haechul?” Junho asked, making a face at the grisly scene before them.

“It must be, right?” Taeha agreed. “Must’ve done it before he went overboard.”

“What does he mean, then? Return what? The loot?” someone else chimed in.

“He means the siren.”

Everyone fell silent after Jungkook spoke, and he cursed himself for mistakenly voicing his thoughts out loud.

“He’s bad luck, Kim was right,” Jaejoon said. “He’s bad fuckin’ luck.”

“The siren’s in the Captain’s cabin, aye?” Junho said, leaning closer to inspect a particularly large smear of blood on the carved message. “Why don’t we just kill him now, and sell his blood once we reach Turtle Bay? We’re not far off now.”

There were murmurs of agreement in the crowd, many in his crew nodding to themselves, but all Jungkook could think of were the words he and Jimin had shared down in his cabin earlier.

“No,” he said, then repeated himself, louder this time. “No, we will not be killing the siren. Haechul and the others died because of their disloyalty, not any nonsense with bad luck. If you don’t want to end up like them, stark raving mad and carving rubbish final words into the ship, I suggest you follow my orders.”

A tense lack of sound followed Jungkook’s statement, but eventually the others began to agree, though the tension remained. He began to fear that the only sincere response was from Taehyung, who had been the only person he was willing to trust unconditionally in the first place.

“Come on, now,” he said. “Gather the remaining supplies and let us set sail again. We have lost enough time as it is.”

Everyone dispersed, leaving Jungkook and Taehyung to clean the bloody mess left behind. In the end, the carving would not be able to be repaired until they made port, but they were at least able to clear away the gruesome scene that it had been before.

They worked without speaking, Taehyung most likely doing some sort of silent ritual to cleanse the ship of impurities caused by the mess, while Jungkook was entirely preoccupied with thoughts of Jimin.

The message left behind by his now dead crew members echoed what Jimin had said to him in his cabin, and yet Jimin had said he was unsure if the ocean would succeed in claiming him. ”I have a feeling you will surprise me again,” he’d said, and Jungkook was beginning to have the feeling that he was right.

Later that night, long after the ship had been patched up and departed the tiny island, Jungkook returned to his cabin with a tumultuous mind and an odd tightness in his chest. Jimin had stopped asking him questions, but tonight, it was Jungkook who had a question for him.

“Jimin,” he said, the siren’s name sounding odd now leaving his lips. He had only ever called him by his name once before, on that first night when he had been entranced by that mysterious voice in the fog.

“Captain,” responded Jimin.

“I want to ask you a few things about sirens.”

“Oh?” Jimin said, his lips pursing in amusement. “What brought this on?”

“Curiosity.”

“Very well, then. What are you curious about, Captain Jeon?”

“I want to know why you kill sailors,” Jungkook said. “I… I need to know.”

“Does the ‘why’ matter?”

“It matters to me.”

Jimin’s stance relaxed a bit, his shoulders deflating and his eyes opening up just enough to make his stormy gray irises seem less intimidating. “I suppose it is only fair, since you answered my questions.” He closed his eyes and tipped his head back, breathing out slowly. “Sirens learn our songs from the sea. She is our songwriter and our composer, but she has a voice of her own as well. Just as humans fall victim to our voices, sirens have no choice but to follow the whims of the sea when she sings.”

“So the sea forces you to kill sailors?” Jungkook gaped, entirely unexpecting that sort of response.

“She doesn’t force us. We were created for that purpose, so is it truly against our will if we have no will to begin with?”

“You have no free will?”

“I suppose not. I am not following the ocean’s song now, but I am not free. Beyond your little ropes, the sea is my true prison, and it is one I can never escape.”

“Oh,” Jungkook said softly. “I had no idea.”

“Does it change anything?” Jimin asked. “In the end, you are still a sailor, and I am still a siren. Our purposes clash with each other.”

“You may be right,” Jungkook admitted, though he left out the part where he now was feeling pity for this siren. He pitied Jimin, knowing all too well the feeling of being trapped, of his prison following him no matter where he went.

Something shifted in his mind, then. Jimin stopped looking like a creature fished from the sea that had tried to kill him, and started looking like a creature who was not acting of his own free will, a creature who had only ever known the feeling of shackled wrists.

It reminded him of a boy he knew many, many years ago.

“I am going to try something,” Jungkook said slowly, unable to believe what he was about to do. “Would you keep still?”

Jimin blinked at him but obliged, moving only his head to watch Jungkook approach him and pull out his dagger. He flinched, drawing his legs in closer and tensing his shoulders, but he relaxed once Jungkook lifted his hand to tug at the rope, cutting it until the fibers snapped and there was no longer anything connecting Jimin to the wall. The ends of the rope fell to the ground with a soft thud, the frayed ends curling out, one of them brushing against the heel of Jungkook’s boot.

Carefully, hesitantly, Jimin got to his feet, stumbling a bit as Jungkook was sure that his legs were numb and bloodless. Jungkook held his arm to steady him, neither of them saying a word even now. Once Jimin had regained his balance, Jungkook took his left wrist and carefully fit the blade of the dagger beneath it so that the dull side was touching his skin, and sliced at the rope until his hand was free, then did the same for the right.

There were angry red burns and marks left behind by the rope, bloody patches marring his delicately beautiful skin, but he didn’t appear to be in pain. He massaged his wrists, a curious look in his eyes as he peered at Jungkook, waiting for an explanation.

When none came, because Jungkook had none to give him, he opened his mouth. “Why?” was the simple question that left his lips.

“I don’t know,” Jungkook said honestly. “I suppose I...would just like more people to trust.”

“You must not have any at all if you are resorting to the trust of a siren,” Jimin replied, though the corners of his lips twitched upward ever so slightly as he spoke.

Jungkook nodded, amused that Jimin was beginning to make jokes. “Yes. That’s probably true.”

Jimin exhaled, glancing at the wooden floorboards and then brought his gaze back to Jungkook. “Pirates must lead such lonely lives,” he said softly. “Though I suppose I am one to talk.”

Jungkook, now aware of the closeness between them, and confident that he would not attempt to attack him again, moved toward the bed and crawled under his blankets. “You don’t see other sirens?”

Jimin shook his head.

“If you are all children of the sea, does that not make you all siblings? Why do you not travel together?”

“Sirens do not have the concept of family. We were not born of flesh and blood and bone; we were created, made from the sea’s tears of loneliness and frothing foam of her angry waves.”

“Then you must be even lonelier than pirates,” Jungkook said, surprised that he spoke with sadness in his voice.

Jimin smiled, though this time it didn’t reach his eyes. “Why do you think we are made to drown sailors, Captain? The ocean is lonely.”

Jungkook sat there without saying anything for a few moments, Jimin’s words soaking into his mind and leaving him speechless as he stared at this siren who had seemed so monstrous at first, but now had exposed every bit of his vulnerability.

“You know,” he finally began, “human loneliness can be cured without needing to drown people.”

“I am starting to realize the truth in that.” Jimin’s gaze fell again, but this time he didn’t look back up, and sat with his legs crossed in his usual spot against the wall. He seemed so small just then, so human, that for a moment Jungkook considered offering for him to come up to share the bed.

In the end, he decided to say nothing. That was a different type of loneliness.

 

Morning came, and Jungkook awoke to an empty room.

A large part of him was not surprised to see Jimin gone. He had already been flirting with the idea of simply letting him return to the sea, his crew be damned, so it wasn’t as if he felt particularly betrayed.

He couldn’t blame Jimin for taking advantage of his lack of bonds, he supposed.

A fortnight ago, he would have been on a warpath, furious that his prisoner had escaped, that someone who had wronged him was now walking free, but things had changed now.

Jungkook left his cabin without any intention of looking through the ship to find Jimin; he was long gone by now, and the only thing to do was somehow break the news to his crew in a way that didn’t make them stage a mutiny right then and there.

His thoughts had hardly moved past the thought of telling them what they had been considering part of their loot was no longer on board when he stopped, the faint sound of a familiar melody drifting in his ears.

Following the sound, Jungkook found the source standing among his maps, gazing at each of them with a childlike sense of wonder.

Jimin was there, still onboard and singing lightly under his breath as he examined a map of the Ryukyu islands. However, it wasn’t Jimin that Jungkook noticed first in the room.

“Taehyung?” Jungkook gasped, his eyes landing on the lifeless figure on the ground, eyes closed and limbs sprawled out haphazardly. “Taehyung!”

Jimin had killed him, Jungkook had trusted him and he’d gone and killed his best friend, the only person he could truly trust—

“Be calm, Captain Jeon,” Jimin said without turning around. “I thought it would be troublesome if anyone else onboard found out that you released me, so I sang him a lullaby.”

Jungkook pressed his palm to Taehyung’s heart, sighing in relief when he felt the steady heartbeat and the rise and fall of his chest. “He is sleeping?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you escaped,” Jungkook said. “I awoke and you were gone, so I thought that surely you had slipped away while I slept.”

“I considered it,” Jimin admitted. “But I decided I rather liked the idea of someone trusting me. I’ve never felt that before.”

“I am… glad,” Jungkook said, surprised to find that he meant it. “Though I would not have been angry had you taken the opportunity to escape. I joined the life of pirating to escape a sort of prison myself, so I understand.”

“Now that I am not bound, I no longer feel like a prisoner on your ship,” Jimin said, brushing his fingers along the underside of his wrist, where the ropes had been. “The ocean, on the other hand…”

Jungkook nodded and hoisted Taehyung upright, patting his cheek to begin waking him up. “I will take care of things,” he said. “But you must return to my cabin for now, before someone sees you.”

“Alright,” Jimin said, giving Jungkook one last look before leaving the room.

“Hmm,” Taehyung groaned, his face scrunching up in discomfort as Jungkook finally was able to rouse him from sleep. “Jungkook? What happened?”

“Jimin used his voice to make you fall asleep.”

Taehyung blinked, now fully conscious. “What?”

“I released him last night, and he stayed. He could have escaped, and yet he stayed. Taehyung, I think he may be different from other sirens.”

With the help of Jungkook, Taehyung was able to stand upright again, shaking his head slightly to regain focus. “So you mean to tell me that you released Jimin, but you think he wants to stay? Jungkook, that is the biggest mistake you could make.”

“He doesn’t want to return to the ocean,” Jungkook explained. “He feels like a prisoner there. But if he were to join our crew, his voice could help us in battle, and he would have a place to be free.”

“The crew is loot-hungry,” Taehyung argued. “As far as they are concerned, the siren is just another treasure that they can sell. He may have won over your heart, but I doubt the same will happen for the others.”

Jungkook’s face flushed. “It isn’t about winning over anyone’s heart. I felt for his plight, that is all.”

“That won’t help with your crew, Jungkook.”

“In the end, I am still their captain,” he responded, stubbornness in his tone as he crossed his arms. “If I say that he is part of our crew, then he is part of our crew.”

“Be careful with how you address them,” Taehyung reminded him. “You are not the only captain this ship has seen.”

“I know that,” Jungkook said, once again picturing Captain Li at the bottom of the ocean, fish nibbling away at what flesh he might have left, his bones crusted with grime.

“Not only that, but think of the ocean herself. Do you think she will stop simply because the siren wants to stay here of his own will?” Taehyung shook his head. “Look at what happened to Woohyun. Look at what happened to Haechul. Look at what has been happening to yourself and the ship since the night we stole Jimin away from the sea.”

“I can handle it,” Jungkook said defiantly.

Even so, as he spoke those words, his palm began to burn as if from a scalding hot poker.

Chapter Text

The waves always seemed harsher the closer they got to land. Vicious, crashing, pulling, almost as if the sea were trying to stop them from ever leaving.

Jungkook had to wonder if that was how Jimin felt.

He’d been having strange dreams lately, ones where he was floating on his back in the water, eyes closed peacefully as though he were simply sleeping. He would drift like that for a while, his mind mercifully blank, until a particularly strong undercurrent would tug at him, yanking him under the waves with as much force as if someone had grabbed his ankle and pulled.

He never drowned in these dreams; rather, once he was submerged he would feel a pair of arms close around his middle and hoist him back up to the surface.

He always woke before he could see who had rescued him, but in those moments between waking up and gaining full control of his mind, he found himself picturing them belonging to Jimin.

It was ridiculous, he knew it was, especially since Jimin had told him already that when he was in the water, he was at the mercy of the sea and had no choice but to follow the song she sang to him and the other sirens. Sirens didn’t rescue sailors from drowning; their purpose was to drown sailors.

But sitting in Jungkook’s cabin, curled up against the side of the bed wearing Jungkook’s clothes and nibbling at dried fish, Jimin didn’t look like a siren. He looked almost human, were it not for the storm raging in his irises and the color of his hair.

“We are nearing port,” Jungkook told him one afternoon. “I had planned to release you at this point, but…” His sentence trailed off, his thoughts becoming too jumbled to put into words.

“But?” Jimin prompted, tilting his head ever so slightly to the side as he looked up at Jungkook, his golden hair falling in his eyes.

“But I am considering another option. You could join my crew, if you wish. Someone with your talent would certainly be a welcome addition.”

“You would let a creature like me join your crew?” Jimin’s tone was that of genuine shock, his eyebrows disappearing behind his silky fringe. “The others would not have that, Captain. Would it not be more wise for me to simply stay here?”

“Staying in this small space without being able to leave is no better than being in the brig,” Jungkook said. “Do not worry about my crew. I have made it very clear to them that should any harm befall you on my ship, they will sorely pay for it.”

Jimin blinked at him for what felt like ages, his full lips pursed in a thoughtful pout, his stormy eyes calmer than normal, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm to oppose Jungkook’s erratic heartbeat.

“I can’t imagine the ocean will allow you to sail a ship with me onboard, masquerading as a pirate,” he said finally, though Jungkook caught a twinkle of excitement in his eye, and the corners of his mouth were twitching.

“The sea be damned,” Jungkook said. “Standing at the helm of the Black Trident, the fastest ship in the seven seas, with the wind at your back and the whole world at your fingertips, the sea wouldn’t dream of touching you.”

“You are too bold for your own good, Captain Jeon.”

“It hasn’t lead me astray thus far,” Jungkook replied with a grin he couldn’t contain.

Jimin got to his feet and held out his hand, the sleeves of his borrowed shirt extending to his knuckles. “Then I suppose I will try my luck with you,” he said.

Jungkook grasped his hand and shook it, ignoring the odd burning pain he felt in his palm the moment he touched Jimin. “Welcome to the Black Trident, Jimin.”

The ship rocked with the waves and Jungkook’s palm burned as if with a hot poker, but the gleam in Jimin’s eye and the smile on his lips was enough that Jungkook hardly noticed.

 

The crew of the Black Trident were nothing short of restless as the ship steadily made its way toward the horizon, at last seeing civilization after so long with only each other at sea. It had been ages since they had even seen another ship, to the point that seeing the other ships in the distance making their way to port was almost a welcome sight.

“What’ll you do when we reach port?” Taeha asked, absently rolling a silver piece between her fingers.

“M’not doing a damned thing until I drink Turtle Bay dry,” Junho said with a scowl.

“Hear hear,” Tanaka chimed in. “Been too long since I had me a wench, too.”

“Women at Turtle Bay are old and ugly,” Junho said. “They’ve docked in so many ports you’re better off with a cloth ‘n your hand.”

“Or the fairy,” Tanaka muttered, a filthy grin on his lips as he nodded his head toward Taehyung, who was within earshot but pretending as though he hadn’t heard him.

“Watch your mouth,” Jungkook warned. “Or I’ll make the lot of you gargle enough seawater to drown a turtle.”

The crew quieted down, but the lighthearted atmosphere had been replaced with a tense one, something Jungkook tried his best not to think about. They were almost at port now. If they could just make it there, all would be fine. His crew could blow off steam and he could finally be one step closer to finding the Dragon’s treasure.

And once he had that, well. Worrying about his crew wouldn’t be necessary.

They would make port by morning, and so he decided to spend the rest of the journey down in his cabin with Jimin, who still remained hidden from the rest of the ship. It pained him to continue treating him like a prisoner, but keeping the peace until they could reach land was in the best interest of everyone involved.

“I am sorry to keep you locked away even still,” Jungkook said to him, Taehyung’s healing salves in his hands. “It won’t be much longer before you can roam the ship freely.”

“I don’t mind,” Jimin said. “I have grown rather fond of this room. It is… comfortable.”

Jungkook flushed, distracting himself by lifting the salves. “I-in any case, I brought some herbs. For your wrists. The rope burn—“

Jimin lifted his hands with a small smile, showing Jungkook that the angry red marks had already all but healed themselves. “That won’t be necessary, Captain.”

“Ah. Right.” Jungkook set the salves down on his desk beside his new ink pot. “Siren magic.”

“Magic? Is that what you humans call it?”

“How else would one describe the ability to heal wounds?”

“It comes to me as easily as breathing. Do you consider breathing to be magic?”

Jungkook nodded thoughtfully. “Ah. I suppose that makes sense. I… do forget, sometimes, that you are…”

“Not human?”

“Yes.”

“Odd thing to forget, isn’t it?”

“I…”

Jimin smiled and ran a hand through his golden hair, his normally dark, stormy eyes oddly appearing the color of algae and sea foam, marbled in an unnaturally beautiful sort of way. “Don’t worry, Captain. You don’t need to treat me as you would another human. Just as part of your crew.”

Jungkook had wanted to accomplish both, but he knew it simply would not be possible once he revealed Jimin’s new status to the rest of the crew. Perhaps he had succeeded in seeing Jimin as more than just a siren, but the same definitely would not be said for the others.

Taehyung’s warning was a constant ring in his ears, reminding him again and again that this could end horribly, but for giving freedom to someone who has never known it, he would take that risk.

“I will do that, then,” Jungkook replied. He watched Jimin relax on the armchair that he had begun to sleep on, Jungkook’s shirt dwarfing his lean figure, and thought that perhaps he would stop by a tailor and pick some new clothes out for Jimin, ones that would fit him.

He is not human, he reminded himself yet again, but somehow, it didn’t seem to matter much.

 

The Black Trident had no problems docking in the harbors at Turtle Bay, slipping the harbormaster a few silvers to turn his head at the Empire’s flags that at this distance were obvious in their flaws.

His crew began to disperse, each of them calling upon a woman of the night or heading off to the first pub they could find to get their hands on some rum. Jungkook saw them off, waiting until the ship had cleared of most everyone save for the overnight guards who were to mind the ship before switching off in shifts.

He and Taehyung slipped into Jungkook’s cabin where Jimin was waiting in a cloaked disguise as he’d been instructed, and the three of them left the ship in a small group.

“We must move quickly,” Jungkook said. “I don’t want to run into any of the crew on our way there.”

“Where are we going?” Jimin asked.

Jungkook and Taehyung exchanged glances.

“There is a pirate legend,” Jungkook explained. “It is the tale of the Great Dragon of the East. I’ve procured a piece of a map that he once owned, and I am hoping it will lead me to his long-lost treasure.”

Jimin’s eyes widened. “So is this meant to be my first test? Will I go retrieve it?”

“No, nothing like that,” Jungkook said, resting his hand at the small of Jimin’s back to usher him a bit faster past a group of seedy looking sailors who were beginning to eye them suspiciously. “The Dragon was said to be a man who could control the seas himself. He had some sort of connection to her, a connection far deeper than anyone knows the true extent of. I only thought that having a siren with us might help.”

“I have never heard of this Dragon,” Jimin said, “but I will help in any way that I can. You’ve piqued my interest with your tale of this human who claimed to control the sea, Captain.”

“I don’t know about this,” Taehyung said. “Jimin’s presence may upset the sea even further.”

Jimin surprised even Jungkook by answering first, “Captain Jeon and I trust each other. I believe all will be well.”

“Trust will not protect you from the wrath of a being so large as to make us the size of ants,” Taehyung replied. “But I will not say anything further.”

Jungkook looked to Jimin’s face, shadowed by the large cloak around his body, stunned at how confidently he had declared their mutual trust for each other.

He reached over as if to pat Jimin’s shoulder reassuringly, or perhaps to show that he felt just as confident in their newly formed trust, but then thought better of it and lowered his hand. When his fingers grew closer to Jimin, however, another sudden pain shot through his skin, once more in the same spot.

He examined his palm, and sure enough, a small little pinprick of a black splotch was there in the center, so tiny it could have been a mole. A burn, it must have been for how it flared up with pain every so often, though Jungkook could not remember ever receiving such a wound.

Before Taehyung or Jimin could notice, he shoved his hand in his pocket and continued walking at a brisk pace, passing every shop and tavern until the buildings had grown scarce.

Turtle Bay was a relatively small town, with not much existing past the harbors themselves, though that was mostly due to the large swamp that took up most of the island. The treacherous marshy lands were largely left alone, no one quite willing to slip through the overgrown reeds and sharp brambles to explore the dark, mosquito infested area.

No one but Jungkook, of course.

The Dragon’s map clearly pointed to somewhere deep in the swamp, but before they could even begin to search for it, there was a small detour to be made first.

Croaking frogs and chirping bugs echoed in Jungkook’s ears, mosquitos and weeds tickling the bare skin of his hands as they trudged through the humid terrain, mud squishing under their boots as they walked.

Interestingly, bugs seemed to avoid Jimin, buzzing toward him and then changing their minds, landing instead on Taehyung or Jungkook. Perhaps they could sense that he did not belong here on land, or perhaps there was just something about siren blood that they had no interest in.

“I don’t know if it is wise for all of us to visit at once,” Taehyung said, once the hut came into view, nets draped around the trees to keep away the mosquitoes, and torches lit along the pathway. “Especially…”

“No, it will be better this way,” Jungkook said. “She will know that he is here regardless.”

“Who lives here?” Jimin asked, looking to Jungkook for the answer. “Someone to help find the Dragon?”

“No,” Jungkook replied. “Taehyung’s aunt.”

Taehyung led the way, slipping through the nets and holding them open for Jungkook and Jimin to follow. He motioned to avoid certain patches of mud and moss, trailing his hand across the unnaturally smooth tree stumps that they passed.

The hut itself was small, moss growing up its cobbled stone walls and dimly lit lanterns in each window. A large symbol was drawn across the door with what appeared to be a red pigment of some kind, something that smelled of ash and sulfur.

Taehyung knocked thrice on the door, avoiding contact with the markings, and no less than ten seconds passed before the door swung open on its hinges and a short, hobbled old woman appeared, clutching a wooden cane in her withered hands and fixing her milky, sightless eyes directly on Jimin.

“You,” she croaked in a voice that sounded as though it might leave her throat at any moment, slowly pointing a gnarled finger in Jimin’s unsuspecting face. “You are a creature of the sea.”

“Y-yes,” Jimin replied, after looking to Jungkook briefly. He removed his hood to show his face, but it only made the old woman recoil further.

“You bring misfortune wherever you go. Leave my home now, siren, before the forces that follow you find me as well.”

Taehyung stepped forward, gently placing one hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Auntie,” he said. “It is me.”

“Taehyung,” she whispered, her demeanor changing in an instant. “My dear boy, your aura has faded to a dull hum. I could hardly sense your presence.”

“I am here, Auntie. I need to ask a favor of you.”

The woman’s face fell once more, and though she could not see, her stare bore into Jungkook’s very soul when she turned to him. “You wish to save this one, who has tangled with forces he cannot hope to overcome. It is impossible, my child.”

“I do not need saving,” Jungkook said, an irritable twitch rising in his blood. “I am on a quest that requires some assistance from someone with your abilities. I wish to find the treasure of the Great Dragon of the East.”

The woman exhaled in exasperation, shaking her head slowly. “You do not know what you ask. Nothing I can do for you will counteract the disaster you have brought upon yourself by harboring such a creature with you.”

Jimin pulled his cloak tighter about his form, looking smaller than usual. Jungkook glanced down at his boots, then back up at the old soothsayer.

“Please,” he said. “I wish to liberate him from the shackles the sea has placed on him. But I cannot do so without your help.”

Her milky gaze fixed him with a hard stare. “That is not your motivation for finding the treasure. Perhaps an aspect, but do not fool yourself or him in thinking that this is a noble quest.”

Jungkook flushed. “I did not claim it to be my only motivation.”

“Auntie, please,” Taehyung interjected. “Perhaps you question Jungkook’s intentions, but you know me. Would I follow someone who would use the power of the sea for evil?”

She did not respond, so Jungkook took that to mean that she was considering it. Finally, she gave one last withering look at Jimin, and nodded shortly, stepping aside to allow them to walk inside.

The interior of the hut was covered in oddities, jars with unknown substances on the shelves and odd herbs hanging from the ceiling, moss and other plant life sprouting through the walls as if part of the cottage itself. There was a large cauldron in the corner, an odd fragrance drifting up from its bubbling contents, something smelling faintly of flowers.

Were Taehyung not with them, Jungkook would not have stepped foot inside a place like this. He was not nearly as superstitious as his first mate, but everything about the soothsayer’s home made him uneasy. He didn’t like things that he couldn’t explain.

“I cannot give you any charms to protect yourself from the sea’s wrath once you sail with the siren on your ship,” she said, “but I can give you something to aid you in your quest for this pirate’s treasure.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook said. “The sea’s wrath does not scare me. I am going to make Jimin a member of my crew no matter what happens.”

The soothsayer shook her head. “You are a foolish boy,” was all she responded with. She disappeared behind a high shelf filled with various scrolls and more jars of what appeared to be elixirs and preserved animal parts. There was some rustling around and a few muttered words, and then she returned with a small bundle in her arms.

“Here,” she said, aggressively shoving a blue stone in Jungkook’s pocket. “This is aquamarine. It is for protection out on the sea. It will not do much for you once you depart, but it may help with whatever protective seals lie over the treasure you seek.”

Jungkook hardly had time to examine the stone before the woman was tugging him down to eye level and looping a string of what appeared to be sunset orange coral around his neck.

“Coral?” he asked, looking at her incredulously.

“For protection,” she said.

“Is this true?” Jungkook turned to Taehyung.

“Many things have mystical properties,” he explained softly. “Auntie knows what she is doing.”

Next, she held her hand out for Jimin, and he took it hesitantly. She pushed up his sleeve and, using a red mixture in a bowl next to her, drew a rune on his inner arm.

“This should conceal your true nature from those who may recognize you as one who is not human,” she said. “Though it will not hide you from your creator.”

Jimin examined the rune in awe. “Will it not fade?” he asked.

“Not for several days.”

“Then we must be swift here before we depart again,” Jungkook said. “Though I doubt anyone will be able to tell that he is a siren here in Turtle Bay. They can hardly tell each other from a barrel with the rum that flows through their veins. He looks human even to me now.”

“You are too cocky, pirate.”

Jungkook opened his mouth to argue, but Taehyung quickly interjected. “Thank you, Auntie. We will leave you now.”

The soothsayer sighed and approached Taehyung, resting a hand on his shoulder. “You know how to use the charms I have given you. Be careful.”

“I will.”

She spoke next in the ancient tongue that Taehyung used to pray, and Taehyung responded in kind. Jungkook never could understand, and Taehyung had always told him that it was a language impossible to teach to anyone who had not grown up already learning it.

Looking wholly unsatisfied with Taehyung’s answer, the soothsayer bid them farewell, the wooden door swinging shut behind them, leaving them once more in the muggy, bug-filled air.

“What did she say to you?” Jungkook demanded.

Taehyung looked him in the eye when he responded. “She told me that I should come home and stop following someone with a cursed fate.”

Jungkook’s lip twitched in annoyance and he didn’t look away, waiting for Taehyung to continue speaking.

“Friend, I am here with you now, am I not? I told her that I pledged my loyalty to you long ago, and our fates are intertwined. I wouldn’t abandon you.”

Jimin looked over at the two of them upon hearing that, his silent gaze fixated on Taehyung, but he still didn’t say a word.

Once they had made it back through the overbearing foliage outside the soothsayer’s hut, Jungkook fished the map portion from inside his pocket, his fingers brushing against the aquamarine as he did so, and held it up to the light of the moon.

“It should be farther into the marsh,” he said. “What do you think, Taehyung?”

Taehyung examined the map carefully, squinting in the faint light. “It looks to be on the coast farther north,” he said, pointing straight ahead. “But this area is so thick I don’t know if we will be able to keep a straight path.”

“I can lead us to shore,” Jimin said, finally breaking his silence. “I can hear where it is from here.”

Jungkook looked to him in surprise. “You can?”

“The sea calls to me always,” Jimin said with a bittersweet smile. “I can hear her no matter where I am. She is much more faint here on land, but her presence is there.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said. “Then lead us onward.”

Jimin did lead them onward, deeper into the marsh than any other had probably gone before, some areas so thick and swampy that they were near impossible to navigate. At times they had to make severe detours, but Jimin never once seemed as though he’d lost his way, confidently leading the three of them through the muddy terrain.

“Is it much farther?” Taehyung asked, his skin glistening with sweat, his eyes slightly out of focus. He looked dehydrated, his breaths coming out in short gasps.

“Not by much,” Jimin assured him. “I can hear the sea much more clearly, now.”

At last, the land beneath their feet began to turn from thick mud that squelched unpleasantly under their boots to much drier sand and grass.

“Finally,” Taehyung breathed when the sea was within view.

Jungkook was relieved as well, his entire body drenched in sweat and his feet feeling heavy, making it difficult to even lift them.

He looked at the map once more, noting that the marked location was only slightly inland. The entire shore was surrounded by tall, angular outcroppings of rock that kept it concealed and unreachable by ship. Further past the scattered trees was a small cave, its opening barely large enough to fit a human inside.

“This must be it,” Jungkook said, holding the map up and comparing it to the outline of the shore. “It must be hidden somewhere inside.”

Taehyung peered into the cave, uneasiness written all over his face. “I don’t know about this,” he said.

“I can venture inside,” Jimin said. “I am smaller than both of you.”

Jungkook didn’t like that idea, reluctant to send Jimin into what could very well be a trap set by the Dragon to prevent anyone from stumbling across his treasure, but when he attempted to fit inside the cave, he was forced to bend at an awkward angle and could hardly squeeze inside.

“Very well,” Jungkook said. “Be careful.” Then, before he could think better of it, he handed Jimin a dagger from his belt. “Use this in case you need to protect yourself.”

Jimin took the dagger, the blade glinting in the moonlight, and nodded. “I will be alright.” He ducked into the cave, just barely able to fit, and disappeared into the darkness.

“Do you think he will be alright?” Jungkook asked, restless as he was forced to do nothing but sit and wait for Jimin’s return.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung confessed. “I do not know what preventative measures the Dragon set up, or even what lies within the cave. Perhaps there is nothing at all, and this has all been a waste of time.”

“No, no, the Dragon’s seal is on the map. It must be here.” Jungkook said it with confidence, but truthfully, he wasn’t sure.

Time passed with an excruciating slowness and no activity from the front of the cave, with the only sounds being that of the waves crashing against the shore and the steady drip from the rocks at the roof of the cave.

It wasn’t until the moon was covered by the dark clouds and Jungkook’s vision became impaired that he made toward the entrance of the cave, his heart pounding. “I am going in after him,” he said. “He must be in trouble.”

“You can hardly see in front of you,” Taehyung said, reaching out to grab his arm, holding him in place. “What good will it do for both of you to become lost?”

“But—“

“The rune Auntie gave him will help him,” Taehyung assured him. “Let us wait a little longer.”

No sooner had the words left Taehyung’s mouth, a dark figure stumbled out from the gaping maw of the cave, coughing and nearly pitching forward into Jungkook’s arms.

“Jimin! Are you alright?”

Jimin nodded, seemingly unable to speak, and simply handed Jungkook a weathered looking book, its bindings falling apart and its pages sticking out haphazardly.

The moon emerged once more from behind the clouds, illuminating Jimin’s haggard appearance. His eyes were out of focus and his skin was pale, his lips parted as he gasped for breath.

Taehyung wordlessly took the journal while Jungkook held Jimin upright, his shivering form curled up against Jungkook’s chest.

“Jimin,” Jungkook urged him, the journal the farthest thing from his mind in that moment. “Can you speak?”

Jimin shook his head, his fingers desperately clutching at Jungkook’s shirt. Jungkook brushed his damp hair back from his forehead to examine him for any injuries, but he found none. He looked to Taehyung helplessly, and luckily his first mate was already prepared.

“It must be a curse,” Taehyung said. “Lay his cloak down, quickly.”

Jungkook obliged, gently but hastily removing Jimin’s cloak and spreading it out across the sand, then helping Taehyung lower Jimin down on top of it. Taehyung took the dagger and cut Jimin’s sleeve up to his elbow, facing his grim expression toward the angry red rune on Jimin’s arm. It looked as though it was burning, and when he touched it, Jimin flinched in pain.

“What happened to him? I thought this rune was meant to protect him.”

“It was,” Taehyung said, fishing in his pockets and producing a book of matches. “But the curse was too strong. Whatever the Dragon placed on this journal overtook Auntie’s spell.”

“Shit,” Jungkook cursed.

Jimin’s eyelids were fluttering, his breathing becoming more erratic, and Jungkook began to panic.

“I am sorry, Jimin,” Taehyung said. “This is the only way to help you.” He lit a match and slowly brought it to Jimin’s skin, touching it to the inflamed rune until it began to burn away.

Jimin squeezed his eyes shut, whimpering as the flames licked at his skin, but he didn’t scream or cry out until the only thing left of the mark on his arm was a nasty looking burn. At last, Jimin jerked up and spat out a mouthful of seawater, gulping lungfuls of air and choking to clear his lungs.

“You… thank you,” he croaked, his furrowed eyebrows relaxing as he lied back and focused on regaining his breath.

“What happened?” Jungkook asked.

“It is as Taehyung said. There was a curse on the journal. Had I not had the rune, I am certain I would have died.”

Jungkook looked again to the now scabbed-over burn on Jimin’s arm and blanched. He had allowed Jimin to enter the cave alone. Had he died, it would have been Jungkook’s fault, and who knew what the sea would do to him then.

Jimin propped himself up, attempting to stand. “If I lie in the water for a moment, I will be able to regain my strength more quickly, and we can return to your ship,” he said.

Jungkook jumped up immediately, allowing Jimin to prop himself up against his body, leading him slowly but surely to shore. Jimin tugged away from him when the waves began lapping at their feet, and almost sheepishly stared down at the wet sand.

“Would you turn away? I will be unable to keep control over my human form while in the water.”

“You do not wish for us to see?”

Jimin shook his head. “I fear….” he trailed off, appearing unwilling to finish the statement.

Jungkook nodded, patting Taehyung’s shoulder to urge him to comply with Jimin’s request. The both of them turned around, facing the dense forest rather than the sea, and Jungkook tried his best to tamp down his curiosity when he heard the splash of Jimin entering the water.

He had seen Jimin as a siren before, when they’d first met and he’d looked so ethereal and earth shatteringly gorgeous. Even now that he had become used to Jimin’s appearance as a human, there were still those hints here and there that he was not of this world, so Jungkook could not imagine why Jimin would not want them to see him in his true form.

Regardless, he heeded Jimin’s request, painfully curious as he was, and did not turn around until he heard Jimin emerge from the water and join them once more. His arm was healed, and there was more life in his cheeks, the faint hint of iridescence still clinging to his skin, a golden sheen still present in his hair.

“Shall we depart?” Jimin asked, dusting off his now sandy cloak and shrugging back inside it.

“The journal…” Taehyung said softly, holding it up.

Jungkook gave a start; he’d nearly forgotten the entire reason they had come all this way in the first place. “Right. Thank you, Taehyung. Yes, it would be best that we peruse the journal here in isolation, instead of back at the crowded port full of nosy drunkards.”

Taehyung handed him the journal, and Jungkook felt his breath catch in his throat when he gingerly opened its ragged cover. The Dragon’s seal was embossed in the corner, and Jungkook ran his fingers over it once before finally peering inside.

 


I have found the key to sailing the seven seas with the world at my feet. Even the sea herself must bow to me now. No pirate would dare cross me, and the world has grown to fear the mere mention of my name.

The Great Dragon, they call me. I have grown rather fond of that name, of the power that it holds.

She is by my side always, as I fear to let her out of my sight for even a moment. She has grown fragile lately, likely a side effect of my rise to power, but it is a sacrifice I must make.

I cannot lose her. I will not lose her.

I have made a grave mistake. I fell victim to my own human weakness and now she grows ever weaker. Humanity has made fools of us all, and I wonder at times if keeping her as my ward rather than my lover would have prevented this. Love is weak. Love has made me weak.

I left her weeping at the shore, crying out to me that our love would follow me to the ends of the earth, but I had no choice. I could not look back. The burden was growing within her, distorting her beauty, lashing me down with invisible ropes, and I knew that I must leave her.

From the sea she came and to the sea she must return, taking with her the mistake that rejects the very code I live by. Live untethered. Unbound.

My treasure lies with her, and with luck it will never be found.

 

That was it. Most of the pages had been either doused in ink, making them unreadable, or had been ripped out altogether, leaving just three pages with actual writing on them. Jungkook flipped through the book three more times out of desperation, but each time he only became increasingly more frustrated before finally passing it off to Taehyung.

“What does it mean?” Jungkook asked once he had finished reading.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “It sounds as though there is some sort of curse on the treasure, and it was left with the Dragon’s lover.”

Jungkook read over the entries again, wracking his brain to desperately piece the clues together. “To the sea she must return…. The treasure lies with her….” he muttered. “Did he drown her?”

“It doesn’t seem so,” Taehyung said. “But if he left the treasure with a woman, then perhaps even the Dragon never knew what became of it in the end. It may be well and truly lost.”

“How are we to find this woman? He does not mention her name, or even where he met her.” Jungkook shook his head. “Have we reached a dead end?”

“Perhaps.”

“Dammit,” Jungkook cursed, tempted to toss the accursed journal down in the sand and abandon it. All of that time spent sailing here, barely making it to port and nearly sacrificing Jimin to acquire this journal, only for it to be a dead end? The thought was almost too much for Jungkook to bear.

“Hold, Captain,” Jimin said, placing a hand over Jungkook’s arm as if to steady him. “I am certain that this pirate you speak so highly of would not have gone to such lengths to hide this away if it were not valuable in some way.”

“He makes a good point,” Taehyung agreed. “Why not bring it back to the ship, and we can examine it more closely when we have all gotten rest and some food?”

“You are right,” Jungkook ceded. “As usual.”

Although he had a feeling the two of them were right in their thoughts, he couldn’t help stewing in his own disappointment that the journal had not contained a more obvious clue as to where the Dragon’s treasure was hidden. He was scarcely paying attention to where he was stepping during their long trek back to the harbors, and there were several moments that he very nearly stepped in quicksand before Jimin yanked him away.

It was a miracle that they all managed to make it back in one piece, sweaty and tired and covered in mud.

Now that they were back among civilization, Taehyung split off from their little group to hide the journal on the ship and pawn off his and Jungkook’s shares of the treasure they’d pilfered from the young lord all those weeks ago.

“What are we to do now, Captain?” Jimin asked, staring at Taehyung’s retreating figure.

“We are going to buy you some new clothes,” Jungkook replied matter-of-factly, resting his hand at the small of Jimin’s back and leading him toward the tailor.

“Why? You have already given me clothes.”

“Those are borrowed. Prisoners and stowaways wear borrowed clothing, and you are neither.”

Jimin’s lips parted and there was a small twinkle in his eye, but he accepted Jungkook’s explanation without saying another word.

The tailor here in town was small, but Jungkook trusted her work and knew that she would always charge a fair price. Somehow, it felt more important than ever that he find something comfortable and well-made. This would be Jimin’s first set of his own clothes; Jungkook would make sure they were nothing short of perfect.

“Hey there, sailor,” the seamstress, a young woman who went only by “Risa,” crooned from the counter. “Looking a little rough today.”

“Don’t I always?”

Her lips turned up in a crooked smile, and she brushed her messy hair from in front of her eyes. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Jimin,” he said. “He needs some new clothes.”

“And you brought ‘im to me, eh?” she grinned.

“You are the best I know,” Jungkook said honestly.

Risa’s grin widened and she held her hand out for Jimin to come forward. Pushing his hood back, she traced the outline of his face with one long nail, then looked him up and down extensively.

“Take this cloak off, love,” she said.

Jimin obliged, and Risa took it, tossing it to the ground and unfurling the tape measure that had been hanging around her neck. She yanked Jimin closer and wrapped it around his waist, pulling it taut and examining the number with raised eyebrows.

“Tight little body like this, and you’re hiding it under these sheets?” she clicked her tongue. “Don’t you worry, doll, I’ll take good care of you.”

Jimin looked back to Jungkook as though he was unsure of what to do, but Jungkook just nodded. “Go with her,” he said. “She will fit you with a set of your own clothes.”

“I have room for one more,” Risa added, winking at Jungkook. “If you need your measurements taken again.”

“Not today,” Jungkook said easily. He had become accustomed to Risa’s advances, and knew they were harmless. She simply shrugged and lead Jimin into her back room, promising that she would not be long.

Sure enough, Jungkook had only just begun to wonder if they were going to be much longer when Risa returned, toting an awed looking Jimin behind her.

She held a bundle of clothing in her arms, and had dressed Jimin in one of his new outfits, a silk top with loose sleeves and flowing trousers held together with an embroidered belt that cinched in his waist.

Jungkook swallowed a lump in his throat and tried not to stare, even though Jimin didn’t take his eyes off him, waiting for a reaction. The clothing fit him well, giving him a much more human appearance despite his stormy glare and blonde locks that still marked him as a product of the sea. They also looked… very good on him, but if Jungkook dwelled on that thought too much he feared he would not be able to think of anything else.

“How much do I owe you?” Jungkook asked the seamstress, not missing the way her eyes flicked down to the slight dip in his shirt as he spoke.

She licked her lips and brushed a stray strand of hair away from her face. “Twenty silvers should cover it. I’ve lowered the price just for you, handsome.”

Jungkook handed her the coin from the pouch around his belt and took the bundle of clothes from her, glancing to where Jimin was now looking down at himself, still admiring how the clothing fit his body.

“Are you ready to go?” he asked.

“I believe so,” Jimin responded.

“Come back any time, sailor,” Risa said, running her hand down Jungkook’s arm with a hungry look in her eye.

Jimin’s expression darkened at that and he gripped Jungkook’s other arm with an iron grip, tugging him toward the exit. “Is it wise to linger?” he said, his words curt as he glared at Risa.

“Oh,” Risa purred, eyes widening as she looked back and forth between the two of them. “I see.”

“This isn’t… I… Come, Jimin,” Jungkook spluttered, visibly flustered.

The two of them left the seamstress’s shop with Jimin still clinging tightly to Jungkook, only letting go once they made it further into town.

It was late by now, with only a handful of hours before the sun would rise again, and Jungkook could feel the exhaustion starting to set in.

“We should turn in for the night,” he said. “It has been a long day.”

“I could use a rest,” Jimin nodded.

“You are welcome to stay at the inn,” Jungkook said, then hastily added, “with me.”

Jimin looked back to the town, shaking his head. “I know that as long as we remain here, I can be sold for my blood. It would be best to wait until we set sail again to reveal myself to the crew, would it not?”

Jungkook opened his mouth to protest, then slowly shut it again. He knew that what Jimin said was correct, yet he was still tempted to throw caution to the wind and insist that Jimin stay with him.

In the end, however, he bid Jimin a good night and they parted ways at the entrance to the inn.

Jimin made his way down to the docks and slowly Jungkook came to understand. He must feel so vulnerable on land, so far from what he’d known all his life, surrounded by humans who would want to kill him should they discover his true nature.

The urge to go with him, to make sure he was alright was burning in his blood so white hot that at first he hardly noticed the burn in his palm flaring up again.

Chapter Text

The first night spent off the ship was always the hardest.

After becoming accustomed to the constant rocking with the waves, the creak of the wooden floorboards, the splashing of the water against the hull, the cawing of the gulls in the morning, spending a night on land was almost unbearable.

If the crew was to take a longer stay at a port, eventually Jungkook would be able to sleep more deeply, but as it were, he found himself tossing and turning on his bed at the inn. The contents of the journal haunted him, and his fingers itched to flip through it again, to set sail once more and scour the seas to find any hint, any trace of the Dragon.

There was also the issue of Jimin, who was alone on the ship with the few crew members that had elected to stay there instead of at the inn. Jungkook could not help but to think of him.

His attitude toward the siren had changed from one of utter hostility to one wherein he was actually losing sleep with worry about his wellbeing. He’d been distraught the previous night when Jimin had been affected by the Dragon’s curse on the journal, and he’d been proud to see him dressed in the clothing that Risa had made for him.

To Jungkook, Jimin was no longer a creature of the sea. He was his crew member, someone that he could trust.

Someone that he could care about.

“Gods, but I am losing my mind,” Jungkook murmured to himself, staring up at the ceiling. Defying the sea to keep the company of a siren, of all things. What sort of pirate was he, now?

His troubled thoughts were abruptly brought to an end when a loud rumble and thud of a blade hitting wood jolted him out of bed. Someone screamed in the distance, and the one scream became several, until a cacophony of shrieks and thuds and the thundering of footsteps filled Jungkook’s eardrums.

He leapt out of bed, reaching for his sword and jacket, just barely managing to slip into his muddy boots before the lock on his door was rendered useless by the boot kicking it in.

“Oh, fuck,” Jungkook cursed when he saw the intruder’s uniform. All black, crisp and done up, the Empire’s insignia on the lapel, and a snarl on his carefully groomed face. The Navy had found them.

Jungkook had no time to think before he was parrying a sword attack with his own, his heart racing as the screams outside grew louder.

The man fell to the ground with a hard thud after Jungkook ran him through with his sword, but no sooner had he taken a step outside his door did another two officers round the corner, their swords bloodied and their scowls growing.

Someone had to have tipped them off. Turtle Bay hadn’t been raided in all the years Jungkook had been sailing, and for one to happen now, while he was docked at the harbor with fake Empire flags… It all seemed too much of a coincidence.

He charged through the hallways, easily dispatching the officers who weren’t used to fighting dirty, and thundered down the stairs to find smoke clouding his vision as the lobby of the inn was engulfed by flames. He spotted a few of his men fighting off the Navy officers here and there, but there were bodies littering the floors and with the heavy smoke obscuring his vision, it was difficult to tell who still lived and who was lying there lifeless at his feet.

Jungkook had no time to waste. He had to get back to the ship and leave immediately, before they were trapped here to be killed off one by one. With a pang, he remembered Jimin still on the ship, and his movements became more urgent. He had to get to Jimin before the Navy sank the Black Trident.

“Jungkook!” cried a familiar voice, and through the smoke and ash emerged Taehyung, his face covered in soot and his dagger clutched firmly in his hand. “What is going on?”

“A Navy raid,” Jungkook called over the din, his eyes zeroing in on the docks, where the Black Trident was thankfully still standing.

Houses and shops were ablaze, the flames spreading through the harbor town faster than Jungkook could keep up with, the air now heavy in his lungs and stinging his eyes.

Along the way, between fighting off Navy officers and struggling to breathe, Jungkook managed to round up most of his crew, who had been scattered across Turtle Bay. Luckily they all had the same thought: get back to the ship.

“Wait,” Taehyung cried suddenly, stopping in his tracks by the dockmaster’s house.

“What is it?” Jungkook demanded, swiveling around to see more officers hot on their trail.

“Auntie,” Taehyung said simply, pain in his eyes.

“There is no time, my friend,” Jungkook said. “With luck, she will escape.”

Taehyung took one last look over his shoulder, and then, closing his eyes for a brief moment, sprinted after Jungkook and the others toward the ship.

The members of the crew that had stayed overnight on the ship had the sails and anchor ready by the time Jungkook was able to board, but the Navy did not relent in their chase.

Instead of swords and daggers, they brought out their archers, arrows flying around them perilously.

“Go, go, go!” Jungkook roared at his crew, keeping his head ducked to avoid an arrow in his temple.

Even with his ship’s speed and his crew working as fast as they could, they were still at the wind and the sea’s mercy, and neither were feeling particularly merciful that day. Jungkook didn’t have to look to see that a few of his sailors were being hit with arrows, and their own attacks were not nearly as effective.

Jungkook closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of the coral around his neck and the aquamarine in his pocket and praying to whatever deity would listen for a miracle.

And in that moment, above the screams and the fighting and the distant sound of Turtle Bay burning, a voice rang out. A clear, commanding voice with all the depth and beauty of the sea herself.

Jungkook turned his gaze skyward, and his grip on his sword loosened, his heart swelling as he saw the figure standing on the mast, one hand gripping the ropes as he sang for them.

The sun was behind Jimin, casting a halo of light around him, making his hair look dipped in gold and his skin glisten as if he were a vessel for the sun itself. He was mesmerizing, a sight so enchanting that not a single person on board the ship could so much as blink.

With Jimin’s voice dancing over them, every Navy soldier on board the Black Trident and standing on the docks dropped their weapons in a clatter that sounded distant in Jungkook’s ears.

He couldn’t move, could hardly think; all he could do was stare up at Jimin and let his song envelop him entirely.

Faintly, he could hear Taehyung taking charge, snapping the crew out of their trance and ordering them to set sail. Though Jungkook was still in a daze as they bustled about, he finally came to once they were at a safe distance, watching the flames devouring Turtle Bay becoming nothing more than a distant red speck on the horizon with a tendril of smoke above it. It was so small now that it looked as insignificant as a candle lit on someone’s nightstand.

Now that they were out of the line of fire, Jimin stopped singing, leaping down from the ropes and landing in the center of the ship with every member of the crew staring him down.

Finally, Junho broke the silence by drawing his sword, an action that was quickly emulated by the others, all of them pointing their blades toward Jimin.

“The siren has escaped,” Junho said. “He tried to put us under his wicked spell during battle so that he might kill us all.”

“It’s been long enough,” snarled Tanaka. “Kill the bastard and be done with it.”

“Kill the siren!” chanted a few of the others.

Without so much as a second thought, Jungkook stepped in front of Jimin, shielding him with his body as he addressed his crew. “Stop,” he commanded. “Jimin saved us. It is thanks to him that we were able to escape as we did.”

“Saved us? He brought the Navy to us,” Junho argued. “The fairy was right, he’s bad luck. He’s better use to us as coin.”

“Turtle Bay is teeming with pirates and scoundrels,” Jungkook said. “It was only a matter of time before it was raided. Jimin had nothing to do with it, and he will not be slaughtered for saving our hides.”

“He’ll only kill us in our sleep if we don’t do it first,” spat Tanaka.

Jungkook drew himself up to his fullest height. “He has earned my trust. I cannot say the same for the rest of you.”

“He’s got our Cap’n under his spell,” Taeha said, her voice awed and terrified. “His mind is gone.”

“I dunno if it’s a spell on his mind,” Tanaka said. “Seems to me like Captain Jeon has been fraternizin’ with the siren. He’s thinkin’ with his stones.”

“I am under no sort of spell,” Jungkook interrupted, his face flushing as he realized Jimin was standing rather close to him while the others spoke of this. “I have merely come to the realization that Jimin is worthy of my trust, and therefore worthy of a place on my crew.”

“A siren pirate?” Junho said incredulously. “You jest, Captain.”

“Surely you must realize how ridiculous it is,” Taeha agreed.

“You saw how he performed in the battle with the Navy. He is an asset to us in battle, as well as…” he took a deep breath, then continued, “as well as my search for the long-lost treasure of the Great Dragon of the East.”

The crew fell silent at that, anger turning to wonder and disbelief at Jungkook’s words.

“The Dragon?” Junho repeated.

“Aye,” Jungkook said. “Jimin helped to find his journal, and with it we are one step closer to his treasure.” He did not mention the fact that the journal was vague and mostly unreadable, but his only focus now was satiating his crew into at least being tolerable of Jimin’s presence on their ship.

“Very well,” Junho said, and lowered his sword. “If you say he can help us find the Great Dragon’s treasure, then…”

The rest of them nodded, lowering their weapons as well, but the tension remained long after they dispersed and resumed their duties.

Once more, the thought of mutiny flashed in Jungkook’s mind like a waking nightmare. He thought of Captain Li, who had manned this ship before him, and a shudder ran down his spine at the thought of the same happening to him. He was nothing like their former captain, not by any stretch of the imagination, but simply the knowledge of what the crew was capable of was enough to make Jungkook unable to walk around the ship without shooting brief glances over his shoulder.

One thing was for sure. He needed to decipher the Dragon’s journal, and he had to do it fast.

 

The commotion having settled for the day, Jungkook returned to his cabin to fetch his maps to at least give the navigator a destination for now while they figure out where to go from there. Jimin followed after him, at Jungkook’s insistence.

He hadn’t been on the ship since they had arrived in Turtle Bay, and his quarters were untouched, save for one thing. His bed was disheveled, the sheets bunched up and the pillow crooked as though someone had been sleeping there and gotten up in a hurry. When Jungkook stopped to look at it, Jimin flushed deeply and murmured, “I am sorry.”

“Oh, you— Oh,” Jungkook stammered, his eyes widening as he realized why Jimin was apologizing.

“I only wished to see what a bed would feel like. It will not happen again.”

Jungkook pictured Jimin returning here to the ship the previous night, removing his new clothes, pushing back the covers of Jungkook’s bed and curling up there to sleep for the very first time.

For a moment, he considered telling Jimin that he could take one of the bunks in the barracks, but instead, the words that came out of his mouth were, “You can sleep here, if you’d like. There is plenty of space.”

Jimin’s eyes widened, his eyebrows raising as he stared at Jungkook in shock. “Your trust in me runs so deep, Captain,” he said. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t understand it, either,” Jungkook confessed.

“I do like being trusted. I promise you, I will do nothing to betray your trust. I will protect you and your ship,” Jimin said.

“It’s a bit funny, don’t you think?” Jungkook said, the corners of his lips twitching up. “It feels like but a fortnight ago you were promising to kill me, and now here you are with a promise to protect me.”

Jimin didn’t return his smile, but he also didn’t argue. “I have been away from the water for quite some time,” he said. “I’ve taken a human form for so long that I am beginning to feel human. I find myself saddled with...with human feelings.”

Jungkook furrowed his eyebrows at that, curious as to why Jimin’s tone and expression had become almost bashful as he spoke, his gaze dropping to the floor, his cheeks tinged pink, his fingers fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “Do sirens not feel as we do?” he asked.

“We are creatures made from the sea’s loneliness, her anger, her frustration at being so alone. The only emotions I had ever known to feel were that same loneliness, that same anger.” Jimin trailed off, a faint blush still coloring his cheeks as he raised his eyes to fix on Jungkook’s before continuing, “But now I am beginning to feel...other things.”

For one tense moment, Jungkook almost felt as he did when he had been under Jimin’s spell, but this time there was no siren magic tampering with his mind.

Before he could do anything he may regret, he broke the tension with a hurried, “Let us retrieve the maps and return above deck. We need to get on course as soon as we can before the Navy is able to catch wind of us.”

“It is so strange to think that humans need maps such as this to travel about the world,” Jimin noted, tracing his finger across the parchment. “The sea tells us where to go, so that we never are lost.”

“That must be amazing,” Jungkook said, and as the words left his mouth, an idea came into his mind, one so obvious that he couldn’t believe it had taken him this long to realize it.

“Jimin,” he said. “Would you be able to find the location of the Dragon’s treasure?”

Jimin looked at him, and then at the journal in his hand. “I… I am not sure. I can try.” He closed his eyes, pressing his hand to the seal on the cover of the journal as if mapping it out, and Jungkook could hear him humming to himself ever so slightly.

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than thirty seconds, Jimin opened his eyes. “I can feel something, though it is faint. I don’t have an exact location, but I can lead you in the right direction.”

Jungkook’s heart skipped a beat, and he grasped Jimin’s hand. “You don’t jest?”

“I do not,” Jimin said.

Jungkook could hardly believe it. After all this time, the answer to his search was right here in front of him, in the form of this beautiful siren. It took all of Jungkook’s effort not to keep his hand clasped in Jimin’s as they returned above deck.

“Captain,” the navigator greeted him when Jungkook approached the helm, though his eyes were focused on Jimin, unable to keep the distrust from his expression.

“We have a new course,” Jungkook said with no preamble. “Jimin knows where the Dragon’s treasure lies.”

Jimin nodded, staring out at the sea. “Head south-east,” he said. “Past the islands populated by humans, there is an island. There, you will find this treasure you seek.”

“I don’t take orders from no siren,” the navigator said. “How do we know he’s not leading us astray, getting us lost on purpose so he can kill us all.”

“I trust him,” Jungkook said simply.

Jimin did not turn his head from where he was still staring out at the endlessly shifting waves of the ocean, but Jungkook saw the hint of a smile on his lips at that.

 

By nightfall, the crew were so elated at the news that they were on course to discover the most infamous and coveted of old pirate treasures that everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Someone had gathered lanterns in a cluster on the table below deck, and the crew were drinking rum and swapping tales and legends that they had carried with them from their hometowns and families, adventures they’d embarked on before joining the crew of the Black Trident.

Jungkook had heard many of them before, but Jimin was sat there with wide eyes, listening so intently to every word, nodding to himself and mirroring the reactions of the others when there was a particularly gruesome or shocking or funny bit.

“The ship had so many cannons, the captain nearly shat himself right there on the deck,” Jaejoon was saying, to the raucous laughter and questions from the group.

Jimin chimed in with a, “How many cannons were there?”

“More’n any other ship I’ve seen. More than the Black Trident,” Jaejoon replied, causing Jimin to respond with a gasp. “An’ all of ‘em fired at once, so it was like the sea exploded with the ship. Nearly singed my mustache off.”

“Humans have so much power,” Jimin said, a twinkle in his eyes. “I had no idea.”

“I got another one,” Taeha said, taking a swig of her rum. “It was years ago, before you lot found me, when I was just a swabbie on a whaling ship. It was dark, on a night when even the stars were hiding away, and so quiet. There was no one out on deck ‘cept for me, the captain, and his first mate. I was just swabbin’ the deck, mindin’ my own business, when I noticed someone singing.”

Jimin quieted, his stare unblinking.

“The first mate was a goner. He was stumblin’ toward the sea like he had too much rum, but the captain pulled somethin’ from his belt and lit up the ocean like flames had jumped out of his hands.”

“What did he do?” demanded Junho.

“He had some sorta machine, something that could shoot fire from inside, like a handheld cannon. Never seen anything like it since, but I think about it all the time.”

“What was in the water?” Jimin asked, speaking quietly over the roar of questions about this small cannon that could fit in someone’s hand.

“What was that?” Taeha said.

“What was in the water?” Jimin repeated, a little louder this time. “What did he shoot?”

“A siren, of course,” Taeha responded easily. “Was about to kill his first mate, so he sent it to sleep with the other fishes.”

Before she could continue, or someone else could ask another question, Jungkook stood, taking with him one of the lanterns. “No more phony tales,” he said loudly. “If you lot have this much free time, you can use it to swab the deck.”

There was some grumbling from the crew, but eventually they all dispersed, leaving Jungkook alone with Jimin. He supposed there was something he could have said, but instead, Jungkook left as well, murmuring that he was going to head back above deck to see how things were going.

Night fell, and Jungkook stood at the helm, keeping the ship on track while the navigator took a rest in the barracks. He’d emptied his mind while standing there, letting the roll of the waves and the sounds of the sea wash over him and keep him distracted.

Unfortunately, that did not work so well when the source of his distraction decided to join him, leaning against the edge of the ship and watching him curiously.

“You did not have to stop your crew from telling their stories,” Jimin said finally, when the silence had stretched on between them for quite a while.

“I didn’t do it for you,” Jungkook lied.

Jimin only smiled, a knowing look in his eye that Jungkook knew to mean ‘we both know that isn’t true.’ Then, softly, he said, “I didn’t get to hear any of your stories.”

“I’m no good at telling stories,” Jungkook said.

“But I like listening to you talk.”

Jungkook felt heat rise to his face, and he found it difficult to believe that Jimin didn’t know the effect his words had on him.

“I… I have no stories to tell.”

“You can make one up,” Jimin said. “I don’t mind.”

“Very well,” Jungkook conceded. “But I did warn you that I am no good with words and all of that.”

Jimin smiled. “That’s alright. Just start with the beginning.”

Jungkook paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, then began to speak.

“I can tell you the tale of a young boy,” he said. “He was an only child to two parents who were too young to raise a child, and so they sent him to a boarding school.”

“What is a boarding school?” Jimin asked.

“It is…” Jungkook struggled to find an explanation that Jimin might understand, and settled on, “It is a place where young children go to live and learn, away from their families.”

Jimin nodded in understanding, so Jungkook continued on.

“They sent him to a boarding school, and he spent his youth there, making friends his age and being taught to read and write. But one day, on the eve of his fourteenth birthday, he was sold by the headmaster of the school to a group of sailors.”

“Sold?”

“Yes,” Jungkook said. “They were looking for extra hands on the ship, and naturally they wanted to find some children who would work for free, children with no families.”

“That sounds awful,” Jimin said. “They are kept as prisoners?”

“Essentially. Sometimes they are paid, but it is hardly enough to live on, so they remain dependent on the ship and its captain. This boy in particular was made a boatswain, and was forced into physical labor day and night on this ship. He endured many hardships, and when he disobeyed or tried to escape, he was given lashings as punishment.”

“Lashings?”

“With a whip,” Jungkook explained. “Across the back, in front of the whole crew. They stripped him of his shirt and lashed him across the back with a whip when he was just a boy, so that he grew to fear them all.”

“What happened to him?” Jimin asked, showing as much interest now as he had with the crew’s stories, spurring Jungkook on to keep speaking if only just to see that light twinkle in Jimin’s eyes.

“He was rescued,” Jungkook said, “by a band of pirates who raided the merchant ship and killed every sailor on board, save for the young boy. He was sixteen by then, and the pirates showed him the ways of the sea aside from living as a servant.”

“Oh, wow,” Jimin said.

“The boy lived with the pirates for a long while, befriending another of the crew and falling in love with the life of a pirate. Eventually, when the boy came of age and discovered a horrible secret that was being kept on the ship, he witnessed the crew stage a mutiny against the captain, killing him and tossing him overboard to rot at the bottom of the ocean.”

Jimin’s eyes widened further, his lips parting in surprise.

“With the old captain dead, the ship was in need of a new one, and to his surprise, the crew elected the boy as their captain, vowing to sail under his command from then on. The boy fell in love with the sea, and with his new crew and ship, he sailed all over collecting treasures and seeing the world. But…”

“But?”

“But for all of his travels, the boy always longed for those long days and nights at sea the most.”

Jimin, still utterly fascinated, prodded, “How does it end?”

“I... don’t know yet,” Jungkook said, a bit of a faraway tone to his voice. He tore his gaze from the darkening waves to find that Jimin was still looking at him.

There was a bit of tension there, held steadfast between them, a sort of tension that Jungkook had been noticing recently, but one that he was too cowardly to admit existed at all.

The light of the moon was so beautiful in the way it lit up the smooth planes of Jimin’s face, blue reflecting in his dark eyes and contrasting with the golden sheen of his hair. He was so, so beautiful that Jungkook couldn’t look away.

But he had to. He had to look away, to distract himself from the overwhelming urge to…

Well.

To do something he shouldn’t.

He broke the deafening silence by asking, “Do you want to try steering the ship?”

Jimin nodded. “Okay.”

Jungkook lifted his hands from the wheel at the same time that Jimin reached for it, and for the briefest of moments their hands brushed together. The tiny dot on his hand that he’d thought was a burn stung at the contact, and he swore it must have gotten bigger since last he checked.

“What should I do?” Jimin asked, reminding Jungkook where he was.

“Keep her steady,” Jungkook said, allowing Jimin to situate himself at the helm, and then stepped closer so his chest was pressed against Jimin’s back. His hands closed over Jimin’s, helping to guide him as he followed the wind and rode the waves.

“I like this feeling,” Jimin said, turning his head to look back at Jungkook. He was so close that all Jungkook would have had to do was lean in just a little…

“You’re a natural,” he said quickly, letting go of Jimin’s hands and taking a step back. Down on the starboard side of the ship, Taehyung caught his eye, giving him a warning look and a slight nod of his head. Jungkook furrowed his eyebrows, and Taehyung angled his head with a meaningful widening of his eyes, a summons to come speak to him.

“Here, keep the ship on this course,” Jungkook said in a quiet voice to Jimin. “Taehyung wishes to speak with me.”

“Alright.”

“I will be right back,” he promised, unsure of why he felt the need to add that bit on when it was abundantly clear that he would be coming back.

He left Jimin at the helm and joined Taehyung over by the side of the ship, crossing his arms. Before he could say anything, however, Taehyung spoke first.

“What are you doing, Jungkook?”

“What do you mean?”

Taehyung nodded his head toward Jimin, who was still gripping the helm and looking out at the sea. “You are playing a dangerous game here,” he said, “by getting too close to him.”

Jungkook stiffened. “It isn’t anything to be concerned about,” he said. “I am not an idiot.”

“I didn’t say that you were. But I fear that when it does come time to return Jimin to the sea, because he will have to be returned, you won’t be able to bring yourself to do it.”

“I don’t care about whatever bad luck you seem so convinced that Jimin will bring. We have been fine thus far, and he is part of the crew now. He has proven his loyalty to me and to all of us,” Jungkook argued. “He can go back to the sea any time he wishes, yet he is choosing to remain with us.”

“It is not up to either of us, Jungkook,” Taehyung said, then pointed out toward the sea. “It is up to her.”

“If the sea wants him, she can just try and come take him,” Jungkook said, turning on his heel and returning to the helm where Jimin was still standing, looking so at peace behind the wheel. Despite all of his confidence, truthfully Taehyung’s words never once left his mind for the rest of the night.

 

 

Later that night, when Jungkook retired to his cabin, he was faced with the reminder of what he had promised Jimin. The bed seemed too small all of a sudden, far too small to keep any sort of distance between two people sharing it. He slipped into the silk sheets, very aware of how much space was left, and felt as though he were suffocating when Jimin followed suit.

Jimin laid there on his side, his arms and legs tucked in and his chin angled down so that he wasn’t making eye contact with Jungkook. “Is this still okay?” he whispered, his breath tickling Jungkook’s chin.

“Yeah,” Jungkook breathed back, and they fell silent, the only sound being the steady rhythm of their breathing and the distant creak of the ship. Jimin did not radiate warmth like a human would, but his presence was enough to make Jungkook’s entire body feel as though it were on fire.

He almost had the urge to reach over and touch him, just to brush his fingers against his cheek or neck, just to remind himself that he was actually there, and that the sea hadn’t come to claim him.

Fool as he was, he waited until Jimin fell asleep, his breathing evening out and his chest rising and falling much more slowly before he lifted his hand and traced his fingers lightly across the curve of Jimin’s cheekbone. His skin was so soft.

“I am beginning to feel...other things,” Jimin’s voice echoed in Jungkook’s mind, and perhaps he could now finally admit that he was beginning to feel something as well.

Chapter Text

The path to the island Jimin claimed to hold the treasure of the Dragon was not an interesting one. Thus far, the Black Trident had been endlessly sailing through calm seas and cloudy skies, with no stars to look at during the night and no other ships around to plunder from for extra supplies.

Jungkook did not mind so much; he preferred sailing to being on land, anyhow, but he could tell that his crew was becoming restless. It had been a while now since they set on the path for the treasure, and with the prospect of finding it looming in their futures, it was making everyone stir-crazy.

Luckily, the ship had been well stocked before their hasty escape from Turtle Bay, so the crew had plenty of rum as an outlet for their pent up excitement and restlessness. Hardly a day went by without the lot of them loudly singing sea shanties and going about their work with a drunkenly happy spring in their steps. Every night was spent playing Bone or Boon or swapping tales, though this time they steered clear of any stories about sirens lest Jungkook tell them to scatter again.

A drunken crew was a happy crew, but they were also reckless and tactless, which Jungkook found firsthand one afternoon when he’d been making his way to the helm after a small chat with Jimin at the other end of the ship.

“Cap’n,” Jaejoon slurred, slinging his arm over Jungkook’s shoulders, his breath reeking of rum and rot. “How’s it feel, eh? Your fishboy. He got all the right parts down there, or you just fuck his scales?”

“Jaejoon—“

“Should’a just taken a wench at port like the rest of us, Cap’n. Instead of fucking your fishboy. We could be sellin’ his blood for good coin, and instead you just want to fuck ‘im.”

“I am not,” Jungkook growled, shoving Jaejoon off him. “Do not speak of him like that.”

Jaejoon was too far gone to listen at that point, however, and he turned to the rest of the crew that were above deck, raising his hand that gripped the bottle of rum and addressing them in a loud, bumbling tone. “What say you, boys? Think it’s fair for our Captain to be keeping the fishboy all to himself, his pretty little fish, all for himself? Think it’s fair the rest of us have to make do with our own hand?”

“The Cap’n’s fuckin’ the siren?” Taeha called from the crow’s nest, her eyebrows raised and her lips curled in a nasty grin. “Can’t say I’m surprised.”

“Aye, not a surprise, but hardly fair,” Tanaka chimed in, lashing down the ropes he’d been tying and throwing a glare over to where Jimin was leaning over the edge of the far end of the ship, staring out at the waves. “Won’t let us touch the fairy, won’t let us play with the siren, neither. We didn’t become pirates to follow no rules. We take what we want, don’t we, lads?”

Junho grinned. “We do, we do.”

Jungkook stiffened, his heart racing in his chest and his cheeks flushing in anger as he glanced behind him at Jimin, mentally working out how long it would take him to run and protect him should any sort of violence break out. Realistically, Jimin had the power to incapacitate all of them at once, but the protective instinct that Jungkook had developed toward the siren was rearing its head and he had no way of containing it.

“None of you are to lay a hand on him,” Jungkook said, hoping his voice wasn’t as shaky as he felt. “He is not a treasure to be toyed with; he is one of us. One of the crew.”

“He ain’t part of this crew,” Jaejoon spat. “He’s a sea creature who kills people like us. Least you can do is let us have fun with ‘im.”

“You remember the last time a crew decided to ‘have fun’ with one of their own,” Jungkook warned. “Captain Li could use some company down with the bottom feeders, Jaejoon.”

By now Jimin had noticed the commotion and turned his head, looking to Jungkook questioningly. Jungkook gave a quick shake of his head to signal for him to stay where he was while his crew grumbled amongst themselves.

They hadn’t disobeyed him thus far, but this time Jungkook wasn’t so sure. He knew that showing any sign of weakness here might finally tip the scales against him, and so he didn’t hesitate, even though he felt more uneasy than he had in a very long time. “If you all want to get pissass drunk, instead of running your mouths you can make yourselves useful. Swab the deck or polish the cannons. Hell, scrape off those barnacles on the ship if you’d like.”

No one disobeyed, but Jungkook had never felt more alienated from his own crew. He was beginning to feel more and more as though it was himself and Jimin against the rest of them, and that was a terrifying thought. Of course, Taehyung was ever loyal, but he didn’t agree with Jimin’s presence on the ship either, so Jungkook never liked bringing up matters related to the siren when Taehyung was within earshot.

He just didn’t think he could handle hearing another lecture about how Jimin would have to be returned to the sea. It was a topic he had been trying his damndest not to let cross his own mind, so hearing that sort of thing from his best friend was stressful at times.

With the commotion gone and Jaejoon off polishing cannons below deck, peace returned to the Black Trident, though Jungkook’s mind remained murky and wrought with turbulence.

When the skies grew darker, Jimin took over at the helm again, practicing his skills and leading them further onward to the treasure. He was proving to be quite adept at steering the ship, though Jungkook wondered if his connection to the sea wasn’t part of that.

Jungkook stood beside him, saying that he was simply surveying his crew from here while truly using it as an excuse to be near Jimin. He felt a need to protect him, to keep an eye on him lest what had happened while Jimin was still locked in the brig repeat itself.

“We are nearing rocky waters,” Jimin said after a long silence.

“That’s fine,” Jungkook said, not worried in the slightest. “The Black Trident has steered us through worse terrain than a few rocks.”

“I can help as well,” Jimin offered. “I rather like being here at the… the helm, you call it?”

“It is wonderful, isn’t it? Being able to sail the sea like this.”

Jimin nodded, inhaling deeply with a small smile on his lips. “It is such a different feeling than swimming through the ocean myself; I don’t feel as though I am prisoner to the sea this way. I almost feel as if I am… controlling it.”

“Yes, exactly,” Jungkook said. “The whole world at your fingertips.”

“I could stay here forever.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Jungkook spoke again, more solemnly this time. “Listen, Jimin… I must apologize for the way my crew has been acting. They aren’t making you feel unsafe, are they?”

“You forget I am not scared of any sailors,” Jimin said with a wry smile. “If needed, I could escape.”

“Ah. Right.”

“But truthfully?” Jimin took his hand from the wheel, reaching over and lacing his fingers with Jungkook’s. “Truthfully, I don’t think it will ever come to that. Not with you here watching over me.”

They were so close that Jungkook could see every multicolored fleck in Jimin’s eyes, every long, dark eyelash, every way that his hair still managed to reflect a golden sheen even with the soon-emerging moon and stars hidden behind the thick clouds.

They were so, so close, all Jungkook would really have to do was lean in.

Instead, he closed his eyes and turned away. “I will try my best to protect you. I know that you don’t need my protection, but I want you to know that I am offering it anyway.”

“I know you are.” Jimin squeezed his hand, trailing his fingers up Jungkook’s forearm, tracing his forefinger along his veins until he reached the cuff of his sleeve, rolled at his elbows.

This was getting dangerous, so Jungkook used every ounce of his willpower to pull away, though he could not prevent his face flushing to the deep red that it did.

Hoping that no one else had seen what had just transpired between them, Jungkook left the helm and continued his work around the rest of the ship, though he never strayed too far.

 

 

The cloudy skies and calm seas gave way to dark storm clouds and light rains that would soon become heavy, to tumultuous waves that crashed ominously against the side of the ship and made the Black Trident rock back and forth as they sailed.

Taehyung was the superstitious one, not Jungkook, but he couldn’t help but to agree with Taehyung this time; this storm seemed as though it were heralding something sinister.

With the ship growing ever closer to the Dragon’s treasure, he could not help but to wonder if that played any role in the steadily worsening weather, and if that weren’t some small part of the curse that was likely placed over the island it was buried on.

Regardless of the origin of the storm, it had Jungkook more nervous than usual, and in this turbulent time when he had to keep up his air of confidence around his untrustworthy crew, he found himself unbelievably stressed.

“I worry for this voyage, Taehyung,” Jungkook whispered to his friend as the rain around them began to pick up in ferocity. “The Dragon’s treasure will ensure that none of the crew betray me, but I fear we will not even make it there in the first place.”

“I have the same fears,” Taehyung admitted. “But you cannot let them see you falter.”

“I know that.”

“Just know that I will have your back,” Taehyung said, gripping his arm. “Always.”

“Thank you, my friend.”

The following day, the storm turned absolutely vicious. Rain was battering against every part of the ship, soaking them all to the bone and rocking the ship violently through the restless waves. It felt as though the sea herself were trying to throw them off track.

“This is a terrible storm,” Jimin said, looking up at the sky. “Will your ship fare alright?”

“She’ll be fine. My crew has had plenty of experience with storms and rocky voyages.”

“And how will you fare, Captain?” Jimin asked, holding Jungkook’s gaze and trailing his fingers across a crease in Jungkook’s sleeve.

A shudder ran down Jungkook’s spine at Jimin’s touch, his breath catching in his throat. “I— I will be fine.”

“Hmm,” was all Jimin responded with.

The tension between them was so thick then that Jungkook felt as though he were choking on it. He coughed awkwardly and looked away, but he could still feel Jimin’s eyes on him. It was so strange; he knew that Jimin was not using his siren magic on him since it only seemed to work through music, not just spoken words.

And yet…

The way Jungkook felt now was so, so similar to the times he had been under Jimin’s spell, where all he could think of was Jimin and how he could please him in any way possible.

Now that, more than the storm, was what worried him.

 

That night, as the clouds mercilessly rained down on the Black Trident, Jungkook finally retired to his cabin, water-logged and exhausted from helping his crew battle the storm all day.

He knew that they were capable sailors, and so he wasn’t worried, but it was what was waiting for him in his cabin that got his heart racing. Jimin had been inside for a while now, stating that he was in need of rest, and Jungkook wasn’t sure what would happen if that tension followed them to his bed.

Only one lantern was lit in his cabin, making Jungkook’s eyes dilate as he adjusted to the dimness in the room. Everything was swaying slightly due to how much the ship was being rocked by the waves, but Jungkook’s only focus was on the figure sitting on his bed.

Jimin was naked, one leg bent at the knee while the other hung off the side of the bed, examining the pages of the Dragon’s journal.

“O-oh,” Jungkook said, unsure if he should turn away or leave the room or… Or something else.

“Captain,” Jimin greeted him, turning his head and setting the journal down. “Have you come to rest?”

“Yes. I mean, no. I mean— yes.”

“Come on, then. You have had a long day.” Jimin slid off the bed, the rustle of sheets being the only sound Jungkook could hear aside from his thundering heart beat.

He should have been used to seeing Jimin like this. From the first day he’d been on this ship, he hadn’t worn any clothes at all, but it was different then.

Things were different now.

Here, in Jungkook’s cabin, with the lowlight of the lantern and the slow, purposeful way Jimin was moving, everything was so, so different.

Jungkook hung his dripping wet jacket from the door, stepping out of his boots, then shrugging out of every outer layer of his clothes until he was standing there in his damp trousers and loose button-up shirt.

Wordlessly, Jimin padded over with one of the towels Jimin had pilfered from a noble’s ship ages ago, and waited as Jungkook slowly removed his remaining articles of clothing. Once he was stripped down, Jimin draped the towel over his shoulders.

“Thank you,” Jungkook murmured, very aware of the intimacy of the situation he had found himself in; drying himself off while Jimin stood there not a foot from him, watching him curiously.

“Mm,” Jimin hummed.

“I have extra, ah. Extra nightclothes if you want to, er. Use them,” Jungkook stammered, scratching at the back of his neck, wrapping the towel around his lower half to try and alleviate some of the tension that was currently choking him. “We can get some made for you next time we stop at a port.”

“Humans have such an odd need to wear clothing,” Jimin said. “You have such interesting bodies; why cover them up all the time?” He trailed a hand across his own bare stomach, skirting over his pelvic bone.

It took Jungkook several seconds to realize he was being asked a question, and shook his head to regain focus. “W-well, it’s just— Humans need to wear clothes. They only are naked to bathe and to— . To, well. Ah…”

“To what?” Jimin prodded, taking a step closer.

Jungkook sidestepped him like he was avoiding an attack from a sword, and stumbled over to his bureau, his face aflame and his heart pounding in his chest. “In any case, I should turn in for the night. There is a treacherous journey ahead of us, you know.” He nearly ripped his nightclothes with how hastily he pulled them on, desperate to cover up how exposed he felt in front of Jimin, even though the siren was standing there just as naked, just as bare.

“Surely you can spare one night to yourself?”

Jimin was still standing there, eyes locked on Jungkook as he crawled into bed to create a further barrier between them lest the temptation bubbling under his skin burst forth and took over completely.

“It would not be wise,” Jungkook said. “You should… get some rest as well.”

Jimin was silent for a second, and then, without taking his eyes off Jungkook even for a moment, he slipped on one of the oversized sleep shirts that had been tucked away in the bureau. It covered his naked form but left his lower half bare, the hem just barely brushing his upper thighs.

“Why did you save me that day, Captain Jeon?” Jimin murmured, finally breaking the silence. His voice was low, his eyelids hooded, his head slightly cocked. He took a step closer to the bed, his movements slow but deliberate. “Why did you stand up for me over your own crew?” He was close enough now to smooth his palm over the silk sheets, eyes boring into Jungkook’s. “Why did you trust me?”

Jungkook swallowed the lump in his throat, unable to form a single word as Jimin joined him in the bed, his golden hair hanging in his eyes as he slinked closer. His lips were at Jungkook’s ear when he whispered, “Why did you let me share your bed?”

“I…” Jungkook couldn’t help himself now, touching Jimin’s arm with hesitant fingers, inhaling Jimin’s scent. “I don’t know.”

“I see you looking at me,” Jimin said, pressing his hand over Jungkook’s, encouraging him to touch, to feel. “Sailors look at me with lust in their eyes all the time, but never, never the way you do. Never when I am not singing.”

“You are beautiful,” Jungkook replied, exhaling as he moved his hands downward, slipping his fingers under the hem of Jimin’s borrowed shirt to touch his hips. “I cannot help myself. Do you wish for me to stop?”

Jimin shook his head, sliding his hands up Jungkook’s chest, resting one behind his neck and cupping his cheek with the other. “I love the way you look at me. Please never stop.”

“You don’t know what you ask,” Jungkook said.

“I do know. I belong to the sea,” Jimin said, leaning in so close that his breath mingled with Jungkook’s. “But tonight I want to belong to you.”

Lightning struck somewhere outside with a deafening crack as a particularly harsh wave jolted the ship, but it was in that same moment that Jungkook and Jimin came together, crashing into each other like a wave against the shore, rendering everything else simply a distant occurence that was of no significance to him.

Jimin’s lips were soft and supple, contrasting greatly with the way Jungkook’s own lips were chapped and peeling, but he didn’t appear to care, devouring every last breath from Jungkook’s throat as they kissed.

Jungkook let his hands roam, sliding his palms over Jimin’s skin and gasping as Jimin’s fingers tangled in his hair and pulled, his tongue tasting of saltwater and something sweet, like sugar. He briefly broke away to pant for air, then reached over and pulled Jimin closer to himself until he was sat on his lap, Jungkook’s hands gripping the meat of his ass.

With this new position, Jungkook could feel his hardness straining against his thin trousers as Jimin circled his hips on Jungkook’s lap. Jimin was wearing nothing aside from that loose shirt, and with it bunched around his thighs like this Jungkook could see, could feel the way their cocks were rubbing together, hardly any layers between them.

“Jimin, have you ever…?” Jungkook said, kissing him lightly and running his hands up and down the curves of his waist.

Jimin shook his head. “Not in this body. You will have to show me, Captain.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said, bringing their lips together in another searing kiss, rolling his hips up to meet Jimin’s, drawing a moan from Jimin’s throat.

Jungkook had laid with men before, back at the boarding school when he’d been young and inexperienced, back when he’d first joined the crew, at a port every now and then, but none of them came even close to how it felt to be here with Jimin like this. None of them had his passion, his lithe body, his fluidity like the sea that he came from.

When Jimin kissed him, he kissed with lips that could not belong to any human, and when he moaned, it was with a voice that could and had charmed countless sailors. He’d be the death of Jungkook, but in the most wonderful, beautiful way.

“Lie on your back for me,” Jungkook said against his lips, rubbing his palms across Jimin’s thighs.

Jimin nodded, pressing a kiss to his jaw before obliging, lying back against the pillow, his borrowed shirt pulled up nearly to his chest, his cock flushed and hard against his stomach.

“You are so beautiful,” Jungkook sighed, his fingers trailing across Jimin’s calves, up to his inner thighs, then back down.

Jimin keened, gripping Jungkook’s hands. “You tease.”

“I am not teasing,” Jungkook grinned. “Merely appreciating.”

“You have plenty of time to appreciate after you’ve shown me what the human body can do.”

“Very well,” Jungkook said, leaning down and giving him an open-mouthed kiss on his inner thigh, right below his cock. “Wait here.”

He slid off the bed and returned to the bureau, this time grabbing a small vial from the back, hidden behind his nightclothes. He shrugged out of his trousers and shirt before returning to the bed, sitting up on his knees in front of Jimin’s flushed form.

Jungkook spread the liquid from the vial onto his fingers, rubbing them together to warm them, then ran his hand up and down his own cock to slick it.

“What is that?” Jimin asked.

“Oils from Shanghai,” Jungkook said, adding more to his fingers as he spoke. “So that this will not hurt you.”

Jimin nodded, watching carefully as he pressed the pads of his fingers to his entrance, dipping one in shallowly, testing how much Jimin could handle at first. When he heard no complaints, he nudged his middle finger in completely, Jimin’s hole sucking him in to the knuckle.

“Is that all?”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Jungkook said, amused, though he did add another finger, stroking his walls. “You are awfully impatient.”

“You’ve made me wait quite a long time, sailor.”

“You don’t want me to hold back, then?”

“I am horrified you would even have to ask.” He hooked his ankles around the small of Jungkook’s back and dropped his voice to a deep timbre that sent chills down his spine. “Give the sea something to really weep about, Captain Jeon.”

Jungkook’s breath hitched and a growl escaped his throat as he leaned down to kiss Jimin again, adding a second finger and working him open.

“Mm,” Jimin hummed against his lips with each thrust of Jungkook’s hand, and his hums turned to moans as Jungkook broke away to kiss down his jaw, his neck, his collarbones.

When his mouth reached the collar of Jimin’s shirt, he removed his fingers and ripped it open, buttons breaking away and scattering across the bed, some clattering to the floor. He swiped his slicked thumb across Jimin’s nipple, his breath hitching at the sound that Jimin made as he did so.

“Don’t stop,” Jimin said, pushing Jungkook’s hand back to his hole, his hips bucking. “Don’t, don’t stop.”

“Of course not,” Jungkook said, sliding in three fingers this time as he brought his mouth down to latch onto Jimin’s nipple, licking the bud to hardness.

He crooked his fingers, finally rubbing against the one spot inside him that made Jimin gasp, grabbing onto Jungkook’s arm with an iron grip. He only grew louder as Jungkook moved his fingers with an increased pace, working Jimin into near delirium.

“Oh, oh, Captain, like that, just like— like that—“

Jungkook lifted his face from Jimin’s spit-slicked nipple just in time for Jimin’s toes to curl as he came with a choked gasp, his cheeks red and his face covered with a thin sheen of sweat.

“Oh,” he breathed. “Oh, that was—“

“We were only just getting started,” Jungkook said with amusement in his voice as he removed his fingers again, pinching Jimin’s ass and smiling.

“Then finish what you began,” Jimin said, his chest still heaving.

“But— oh.” Jungkook’s eyes fell to where Jimin’s cock was still hard, still twitching as if he had not just come all over his own stomach and chest. “More siren magic?”

“Perhaps,” Jimin said. “Do humans stop after the first?”

“Sometimes,” Jungkook grinned, grabbing for the vial once more to cover his painfully hard cock. It wasn’t necessary, not with how slicked Jimin’s hole was now, clenching desperately to be filled again, but he had a feeling Jimin might enjoy things more wet. “Let’s see how far your siren magic can take you.”

“Please,” Jimin begged.

Jungkook hiked Jimin’s legs up around him again, positioning himself over his body so that he could bring their lips together as one hand guided his cock to Jimin’s hole.

He pushed in slowly at first, waiting for Jimin’s reaction or any sign that he wanted to stop. When none came, he kept going until he had completely bottomed out inside him, groaning at the way Jimin’s walls clenched around him.

“Move, move,” urged Jimin, and Jungkook didn’t need to be told twice.

Still suckling at Jimin’s tongue, he pulled out and then thrust back in, the squelch of the oils and his own wetness sending heat directly to his cock. It took hardly any time at all to find a rhythm, Jimin’s hips bucking to meet Jungkook’s thrusts, the wet sound of skin against skin echoing through the dimly lit room.

Jungkook’s cock was hitting Jimin’s most sensitive spot over and over, until Jimin was moaning so loudly that they could no longer kiss, and were merely sharing a breath. He sat up a bit and pushed Jimin’s legs back so that his knees were nearly touching his chest and increased his speed, watching as Jimin let out another cry and came untouched again.

Jungkook was close now himself, even moreso when he saw that Jimin was still hard, still begging more, faster, harder. His head was tipped back, his bitten-red lips parted while one hand gripped the sheets and the other clung to Jungkook’s back that was now damp with sweat.

He wasn’t even moving his hips to meet Jungkook’s movements anymore; he had simply gone pliant under Jungkook’s body and allowed himself to be taken exactly as he had asked.

“Jungkook,” Jimin cried at the same time that a particularly hard thrust made him keen, and the sound of Jimin using his name for the first time was enough for Jungkook to let go entirely.

His hips stilled as he gave one final push into Jimin’s heat, spilling out inside of him with a strangled groan.

Neither of them moved aside from panting heavily, until Jungkook at last slowly pulled out, watching as his own come leaked onto the sheets from Jimin’s hole.

“Fuck,” he said, pushing his sweaty hair back from his forehead and lying down beside Jimin, kissing him sloppy and off-center. “You’re still… here.”

His tongue sliding against Jimin’s own, he reached down to take hold of Jimin’s cock, his pressure firm and slow as he stroked him until he was once again moaning into Jungkook’s mouth.

“Tease,” Jimin whimpered, and Jungkook took pity on him, his slow strokes becoming quicker, his thumb brushing against the head until Jimin came one last time.

At last, Jungkook allowed his head to tip back against the pillow, his hand that was still dripping with Jimin’s come slumping to his side as he fought to catch his breath.

Meanwhile, the ship rocked with the force of the waves, the thundering of the rain against the wood of the ship like thousands of cannons battering down on them.

“She’s furious,” Jimin murmured, lips brushing Jungkook’s ear. “A sailor like you defiling one of her own… there will be hell to pay, Captain.”

“None of that matters, now,” Jungkook said, slowly cleaning off Jimin’s body with his own discarded shirt. “None of it.”

The two of them fell asleep tangled together in every way possible, and Jungkook wondered if he had ever truly understood the meaning of contentedness until this moment.

 

 

The storm that raged over the sea and the Black Trident had not been kind to them. Jungkook awoke first to the warmth of Jimin’s presence, and then to the crew muttering of damages that had occurred overnight, some of which were severe.

Their sails were tattered, the supplies had been overturned, some of the rigging had collapsed, and there was debris covering the deck of the ship.

“This won’t hold up ‘til the Dragon’s island, Cap’n,” Taeha said, crossing her arms and shaking her head. “Crow’s nest ain’t fit for a crow no more, and I dunno how we can sail like this with our colors all in ribbons.”

“We will have to stop to make repairs,” Jungkook said, still struggling to return to his work-oriented mindset after what had happened last night. “Though we must work quickly. There could be others on the trail to the Dragon’s treasure, and we cannot afford to lose so much time.”

Jimin, who had emerged from the hatch only moments ago, padded over to him with sleep still clinging to his expression. “How awful,” he said, staring up at the frayed remains of the once proudly waving sails. His hand came to rest at the small of Jungkook’s back as he examined the ship, a gesture that did not go unnoticed by other members of the crew.

Hastily, Jungkook took a step away and addressed the lot of them. “The next island we come across, we must lay anchor. Don’t worry about long-term repairs; we just need to patch her up enough to get to the Dragon’s island, and once we arrive, well…” His heart leapt at his next thought. “We likely won’t have to worry about it any longer.”

The crew tittered excitedly and got to work about the ship, Taeha sitting up on the mast with her telescope to peer out for an island since the crow’s nest had been destroyed in the storm. Jungkook had to remain above deck to help, though that did not stop him from sharing glances with Jimin throughout the day, ill-disguised smiles on their lips.

That morning had not been the first time they had woken up together since Jungkook had first invited Jimin to share his bed, but it had been the first time they had woken up together with the memory of intimacy still burning between them. Jungkook had not wanted to leave his bed, not with Jimin’s nose tucked into the crook of his neck and their legs tangled together under the sheets. Even though Jungkook had ultimately left his cabin first, dressing and returning above deck after remembering his duties as captain of the ship, he could still only think of how he had felt lying there with Jimin in his arms.

It was well into the afternoon, the sun high overhead before Jungkook finally got the opportunity to speak with Jimin. He was standing at the helm, his mind wandering, when Jimin approached him.

“This is a fair bit of damage, Captain,” Jimin said, his tone controlled and careful.

“More than a fair bit, I’d say,” Jungkook replied. “If we do not find a place to drop anchor soon, I fear we will be nothing more than chum in the water for sharks.”

“Sharks?”

“Other pirates, I mean,” Jungkook clarified. “If another ship were to attack us like this, I do not know if we would be able to emerge victorious.”

Jimin took a step closer, a wry smile on his lips. “You were so confident when we first met. What’s happened to you?”

“Confident? Or arrogant?”

“Mm. Maybe both.”

Jungkook let out a breathy laugh, turning to face Jimin fully. “It wouldn’t be the only thing to have changed since we first met.”

“That is true.” Jimin cocked his head to the side slightly and slid his hand across Jungkook’s knuckles, which were still curled around the helm. “You left before I could awaken this morning.”

“If I could, I would have stayed there with you all day,” Jungkook said. “Perhaps soon we will be able to have such time to ourselves.”

“Not when duty calls,” Jimin replied, still smiling.

“I am the captain,” Jungkook said as he leaned in. “Duty can wait.”

This time it was Jimin who was aware that others could see them, and he looked down, keeping Jungkook from closing the distance by placing his palms on Jungkook’s chest as a barrier between them.

“Probably best to keep this from the crew, no?” Jimin said quietly. “I have a feeling they still want me dead.”

Jungkook wanted to be stubborn and insist that he did not care what his crew thought, and that he would protect Jimin even if the crew decided to go against Jungkook’s orders, but he stopped himself. No matter what his own personal thoughts and desires were, in the end, it was still up to him to lead his ship to their destination with as little conflict as possible.

After, he reminded himself. After all of this, after he got the Dragon’s treasure, all would be well.

“You are right,” Jungkook ceded, creating a more platonic distance between them even as the urge to pull Jimin closer burned inside him.

It was not much longer afterward that they came across a small island that didn’t appear to be inhabited, and so they were able to lay anchor to start repairs on the ship. Upon closer inspection, the island truly was just a dot on the map, with a small patch of trees and greenery in the center and a smaller beach surrounding it.

Once the Black Trident had been anchored down, the crew split off into different tasks, with some of them remaining on the ship to take care of the sails and the damage on deck, and the others heading out on dinghies to the island to grab more supplies and wood to help with repairs.

Jungkook never much liked being on land, but this time he elected to join the others on the island, if only for a brief reprieve from the stifling tension that always seemed to be present when the crew was cooped up together on the ship for too long. Naturally, Jimin joined him, but to Jungkook’s surprise, Taehyung decided to stay behind to direct things on deck.

“I will keep things stable here,” was all he said before Jungkook departed for the island, and Jungkook wasn’t sure what to make of the expression on his friend’s face.

There was little time to dwell on Taehyung’s superstitions for now, however, as the longer they took here on the island, the more the clock was ticking for the Great Dragon’s treasure.

Once they’d landed on the island, everyone got to work immediately, everyone for once agreeing on the sense of urgency with which they were moving.

Jimin set off to help in the way he felt most comfortable, which was catching fish at the shore, not submerging himself deep enough to be forced back into his true form, and collecting fruit from the forest for extra supplies.

Even though Jungkook knew that they had to move quickly, he still found himself stopping every now and then to gaze off at him, unable to tear his eyes away. He nearly dropped what he was carrying a few times with how mesmerized he was.

It wasn’t until he’d stopped dead in his tracks to stare at Jimin that he noticed the burning sensation on his palm had returned. He shouldered the wood he’d been holding to examine his hand, and blanched when he saw that instead of the small dot in the center, there was now a sizeable black splotch, almost like the spilled ink on his map. It moved with his hand, like it was part of his skin, and burned unbelievably.

Looking around to make sure no one had noticed, he handed off the wood to Jaejoon, who was nearby, and quickly ripped off some cloth from around his belt, wrapping it around his palm to hide it from view.

He didn’t yet know what it was, but he knew for certain that it could bode nothing good. Although it was now covered, he did not allow himself to look at Jimin again.

 

 

Repairs on the ship were finished before nightfall, and those of them who had gone to the island prepared to set sail back on their dinghies. Jungkook stayed behind to ensure that everyone was returning, but then he noticed that one person was missing.

Jimin was standing off at the beach, ankle deep in the water as he stared out at the dark horizon and endless waves. Jungkook told the others to wait a moment, and he jogged over to Jimin.

“Is something the matter?”

Jimin looked over, his eyes widening as he broke from his trance, and he shook his head. “I… No. Everything is fine. I’m sorry.”

He followed Jungkook back to the dinghy, but when they set sail once more on the Black Trident, Jimin was noticeably distracted, a faraway look in his eyes as he stared out at the sea.

That night, when the two of them retired to Jungkook’s cabin, he closed the door behind them and finally was able to lean down and press a chaste kiss to Jimin’s lips. Jimin leaned up into his touch, melting against him with a sigh into his mouth that seemed something like relief.

“Are you sure you are alright?” Jungkook murmured, leading Jimin to the bed while slowly working at his clothes.

“I am alright,” Jimin said again, sliding out of his trousers as he sat on the bed. “I am just...worried.”

Jungkook sat back against the headboard, tangling his fingers in Jimin’s hair as he kissed down his neck. “About what?”

“I am not like the other treasures that you and your crew plunder, like the one you search for now” Jimin said, nosing into Jungkook’s shoulder. “The sea will always take me back.”

“No, you are not like the other treasures,” Jungkook agreed, “Because you are not a treasure at all. You are your own person, not a prisoner. You can always return to the sea if that is what you wish.” They were both naked now, their clothes scattered in piles on the bed and the floor.

Jimin lifted his head from where he had been mouthing kisses down Jungkook’s chest and sat up in his lap, bringing their lips together. “We both know that is not what I wish. I just fear for you, Jungkook. You are not safe out on the ocean.”

“I never have been,” Jungkook replied, and that was the last they spoke of that, foregoing words for kisses and touches and moans that seemed to reverberate through the foundation of the ship.

Jimin rode Jungkook’s cock until he had exhausted himself, and the two of them curled in on each other, sweaty and fucked out and content. There was quiet for a long while, Jungkook facing the wall as Jimin curled in against him, his nose against the nape of his neck.

The silence broke when Jimin began tracing his finger across the scars that marred Jungkook’s back, reminders of a past he had long since left behind. “The boy was given lashings as a punishment,” he recited softly, “until he grew to fear all.”

“I am not that boy anymore,” Jungkook said, turning to face Jimin.

Jimin sighed. “The world has been so cruel to you.”

“I got to meet you,” Jungkook murmured, brushing Jimin’s lower lip with his thumb. “How cruel can it be?”

Jimin nodded off not too long afterward, his breathing evening out and his eyelids fluttering shut. Jungkook continued to stroke his hair even as he became overwhelmed with the need to close his eyes, but when he caught a glimpse of his own palm, his heart sank.

Whatever the black spot on his hand was, it had grown even larger since he had noticed it on the island.

He clenched his fist and dropped it to his side, electing to try and ignore it for now. He was able to fall into an uneasy sleep with Jimin in his arms, but once more he had a dream where he was drowning.

”Return what you have stolen,” that familiarly unsettling voice hissed in his ear. ”Return it, or I will take it from you.”

Jungkook jolted awake in a cold sweat that morning, his chest heaving as he frantically searched around to make sure Jimin was still beside him. When he felt another body there, he breathed out in relief and slumped back against his pillows, clinging to Jimin even more tightly.

For the next few days, Jungkook refused to leave Jimin’s side for more than a minute at a time, the threatening voices in his nightmares haunting him every time Jimin was out of sight. They had not known each other for very long, not really, but already Jungkook could not imagine sailing the world without Jimin beside him.

“You do not need to stick so close,” Jimin said one afternoon, as the sun was drooping lower in the sky.

“I know,” Jungkook said. “But I worry.”

“I worry too. But I can still protect myself, you know.”

“Yes, but—”

“Land ho!” came Taeha’s shout from up in the crow’s nest.

Everyone turned to look, and sure enough, there on the horizon, bathed in the bright reds and oranges of the sunset, was an island. It did not look very big, but its presence alone was enough to instill awe in every member of the crew.

Jungkook’s breath caught in his throat as he reached for Jimin’s hand. “Is it…?”

Jimin gave his hand a squeeze. “Aye. We’re here, Captain.”

Chapter Text

The Black Trident approached the island with the kind of dark excitement that only came with a raid of a ship or harbor. This was much more important than any other raid they had done, one that would shape the history of the crew, and possibly of pirating itself. This treasure had been lying dormant for so long now, and Jungkook and his crew were to be the very first to lay eyes on it since the Great Dragon himself locked it away.

“This is it, Taehyung,” Jungkook said, facing his oldest friend with a grin so wide it hurt his cheeks. “This is what we have been waiting for.”

“Let us pray that it is what you imagined,” Taehyung replied, worry etched in every line of his face.

Jimin, on the other hand, looked absolutely beside himself, leaning over the edge of the ship with Jungkook’s spyglass, a childlike wonder on his face as he laughed aloud. “Incredible!” he cried. “Is this what pirates feel all the time? This lust for treasure?”

“Never like this,” Jungkook assured him, equally as excited. He was overwhelmed with the urge to embrace Jimin with how much adrenaline was pumping through his veins, but he refrained for the moment. There would be plenty of time for that later.

They laid anchor at the island, now seeing that up close it was much more gloomy and desolate than Jungkook had been picturing in his imagination up until now. The trees were nearly barren, rotting leaves clinging to the withered branches and what looked like volcanic ash was scattered around, darkening the sand and the grass. The mountainous land further inland looked more foreboding than majestic, and the sun almost seemed to dim as they splashed through the low tide at the shore.

“Alright, siren,” Junho said. “Where is it?”

The crew all turned their heads to face Jimin at once, awaiting his response with harsh stares.

“We are on land now; I cannot sense it anymore,” he said, appearing unphased by the crew’s hostility. “I only know that it is somewhere here on the island.”

That was all the crew needed to hear before they began to scatter, raiding everything in sight in their search for the treasure. They began hacking at trees, kicking up the sand, overturning rocks, and making a disaster of the island.

“Hey!” Jungkook cried out, desperately trying to get the attention of his crew. “Calm down, all of you! If we charge through this island like barbarians, we may destroy clues that the Dragon left behind.”

“This place is huge,” Tanaka argued. “We got no time for puzzles.”

Jungkook shook his head. Normally he would have agreed with his crew, trying to find the treasure as fast as possible and then leave before any other pirates were informed of their quest, but he could not stop thinking of the way Jimin had looked when he had stumbled out from the cave at Turtle Bay. He wasn’t sure if they would be so lucky a second time. “We have time for this,” he said. “Knowing the Great Dragon, I am positive that this place is full of traps. We need to be careful.”

“The Captain is right,” Taehyung chimed in. “The Dragon would not leave his treasure in such a conspicuous place that any old fool could just stumble across it by acting violent.”

There were no arguments against them. How could there be, when they were only saying the most logical thing? Their swords kept at their sides rather than being brandished in the air, the crew followed Jungkook through the island, carefully sweeping the land for any sign of the treasure or a clue that could lead them to it.

The mountainous area further inland proved to be impossible to navigate, as the uphill climb was so steep that they would need tools that they did not possess to get even above eye-level. This left them with significantly less land to search, but the island was still big enough that hours began to pass with still nothing to show for it.

The exhaustion was beginning to set in, but no one was willing to stop or even rest for a moment until the treasure was in their possession. The only one of them who appeared to be still raring to go was Jimin, who was inspecting nearly everything with the wide, curious gaze of someone who clearly was so new to all of this.

“Thank you for allowing me to come with you on this adventure,” he whispered to Jungkook as they paused to examine a hollowed out tree stump. “I never imagined the life of a human to be so exciting.”

“It usually isn’t like this,” Jungkook replied, amused. “But I think it is made all the better with you here.”

Jimin smiled, grasping Jungkook’s hand briefly before pulling away to continue the search.

Morale was beginning to slip into a dangerous low when the sun had set and lanterns had to be brought out just to continue looking around. Jungkook was nearly ready to call it a night and propose that they go back to the ship and continue in the morning when he heard a call from a nearby river near the base of the mountain.

“I found something!” Jimin was saying, pointing to what looked like an overturned canoe.

Jungkook rushed over, along with the other members of the crew that were within earshot, and he held his lantern over where Jimin was gesturing. His heart leapt in his chest when he saw that carved into the wood of the aged canoe was the seal of the Dragon.

“This is it,” he said, breathless in his excitement. “This is his mark.”

By now the rest of the crew had realized what was happening, and every one of them was gathered around the canoe in anticipation as Jungkook and Taehyung heaved it over, revealing the dark entrance to what looked to be an underground cave.

“Oh gods,” Taehyung breathed.

Jungkook was speechless, holding out his lantern to illuminate as far down the hole as he could see, but all the light shone upon was one single rickety looking ladder leading down into the blackness.

“Well,” Jungkook began, “Keep your lanterns lit.” He bit down on the handle of his own lantern, holding it with his teeth as he descended down onto the ladder, his boots finding purchase on the unstable rungs. He still couldn’t see the bottom of the hole, making his descent feel as though he were lowering himself into an endless void. It was eerie enough that he resolved not to look down again, focusing instead on the ladder and the faces of his crew watching him from the slowly dwindling light from above.

At last, he saw the bottom, ever so slightly illuminated by his lantern, and called up to the rest of them to start climbing down after him. “I see the bottom!” he shouted. “Come on!”

For one terrifying moment he thought that perhaps he was too far down for them to hear him, but then he saw a figure begin climbing down, and by the time Jungkook stepped off the ladder, he recognized it as being Taehyung, with Jimin following close behind.

While he waited for the rest of his crew to join him, Jungkook took the time to look around at the underground cave they had been lead into. It was impossibly dark, but by the light of his lantern Jungkook could see that it was not a naturally made cave. There were stone walls and unlit torches lining them, the ceilings decayed and covered in plant growth but showing signs that there may have been carvings decorating them at one time.

All around the area with the ladder was a body of water like a lake, stretching out into the inky blackness. It bubbled against the edge of the stone pathways, sending chills down Jungkook’s spine.

“Holy hell,” Junho gaped when he touched down from the ladder, looking around in awe. The crew followed suit, examining everything with shock.

Taehyung, who had wandered off ahead, took it upon himself to light a few of the torches on the walls that they could reach, ones that were not blocked by the oddly bubbling lake. Now that they could see beyond the range of their lanterns, the eeriness of the cave came into full view.

There was only one path for them to take from here, a narrow stone walkway across the lake that extended so far ahead that even with the lit torches, they could not see where it lead.

“This must take us under the mountain,” Taehyung said.

“I fuckin’ got splinters all in my hands from that fuckin’ ladder,” Jaejoon muttered, and before anyone could even think to stop him, he knelt down beside the edge of the water and dunked his hand inside.

Instantly his screams of agony echoed through the cavern, startling Jungkook into nearly dropping his lantern into the lake. “Jaejoon!” he cried. “What—”

Jaejoon lifted his hand, causing several of the others to hiss in disgust and turn away. His good hand clutched at his wrist, holding up what remained of his other hand. The water had burned away a good portion of his flesh, exposing muscle and bone.

“Right, so don’t touch the bloody water,” Jungkook said. “Fucking unbelievable.”

“How was I supposed to know,” Jaejoon whimpered, still cradling his mangled hand.

“What lake d’you know that bubbles?” Tanaka said, thumping him upside the head. “Gotta bandage that shit up, it’s disgusting.”

Jaejoon fell behind, struggling to bandage up his hand and letting out periodical cries of pain, but Jungkook had no time to slow down or stop. He considered that perhaps his show of heartlessness was a sort of punishment toward Jaejoon for the comments he had made about Jimin before, but he decided not to dwell on it.

“There is such a strong curse on the water, Jungkook,” Taehyung said under his breath. There was barely enough room for two people to walk side by side on the pathway across the water, and with Jimin firmly remaining at Jungkook’s side, Taehyung had sidled up behind them, matching their pace so he would not be too close to the crew behind them. “I worry for the traps that may lie further in.”

“We just need to stay vigilant,” Jungkook said, gripping Jimin’s hand tightly.

“Vigilance cannot always account for things you wouldn’t normally consider a threat,” Taehyung said. “Your aura is different now. Is everything…?”

“Everything is fine,” Jungkook said shortly. “Let us focus on getting the treasure and getting the hell out of here before we start dissecting auras, Taehyung.”

“As you wish, Captain,” Taehyung said, falling silent.

Jimin looked over at Jungkook, a curious expression on his face. “I don’t see your aura.”

“Most people don’t,” Jungkook said. “But our Taehyung isn’t most people.”

Jimin pondered this for a moment, then said, “Neither are you.”

Before Jungkook could say anything to that, he noticed something in their path that made him stop in his tracks, holding Jimin back from moving any further. In front of them, so carefully laid out that had he not been looking in the right spot he would not have noticed them at all, were thin ropes stretched taut across the pathway.

Slowly, he reached down to grab a rock that had been lying at his feet, and ushered for everyone to take a step back. Once he was sure they were all at a safer distance, he tossed the rock at the ropes, and instantly a deafening noise echoed through the chamber.

The ropes had triggered what looked like hundreds of arrows shooting across the pathway, so sharp that some imbedded themselves in the stone wall on the other side, while countless others fell to the bubbling lake below. One of them had fallen to the ground, and upon further examination, contained intricate carvings along the shaft.

“Oh,” Jimin murmured, transfixed by the arrow, but he said nothing else.

“Watch for any other ropes,” Jungkook warned them, carefully stepping across the place where the trap had been laid, keeping his eyes peeled for any more. No human would be able to survive an attack like that, not with how immediate it had been and how little room there was to maneuver around.

The Dragon had certainly spared no expense safeguarding the cave against intruders. Not only were there more rope traps that had to be carefully avoided, but there were also small indentations in the stone walkway that, when pressure was applied, rained more arrows down from the ceiling, one of which had gotten lodged in Jaejoon’s foot.

“Cap’n,” he whined, “I need a break. Gotta rest.”

“We have no time for that,” Jungkook said. “There is so much unknown in this cave; for all we know, the Dragon could have rigged it to crumble on itself if someone remains inside for too long.”

Jaejoon whimpered in pain and hobbled along after them in silence.

No one spoke again until they came to a wider section of the pathway that expanded out to meet the walls of the cave, finally cutting off the cursed water. In the corner of the room was a mound of something so golden that it almost hurt to look at for too long.

“It’s the treasure!” one of the crew members shouted, and they began to charge at it when Taehyung held out his arm to keep them at a distance.

“Wait,” he said, nodding his head toward the gold pile. “Look. It’s moving.”

Jungkook squinted at it, trying to focus past the blindingly bright hue, and sure enough, the pile of “gold” was moving and shifting like it was a living thing.

“What d’you reckon it is?” Taeha asked.

“I don’t know, and I would prefer not to find out,” Taehyung said.

Jungkook’s curiosity got the better of him, however, and he found another rock, tossing it over to the gold mound. When it landed nearby, the mound seemed to disassemble and swarm the rock, small clicking sounds filling the room.

“Oh gods,” Jungkook felt like gagging. “They’re bugs.”

The golden bugs scurried away from the rock and reformed into their disgusting mound, but to everyone’s horror, the rock had been eroded away into dust. One thing was certain, and that was the fact that no one wanted those things anywhere near them.

No one but Jimin, who broke away from the group and approached the mound with a curious expression on his face, ignoring Jungkook’s cries for him to stay away. Jungkook was nearly about to throw caution to the wind and chase after him when he froze in his tracks.

Jimin was crouching down beside the bugs, but instead of swarming him and devouring his flesh as Jungkook had feared, they drew away from him, many of them retreating into miniscule openings in the walls.

He turned back to look at them, nodding his head toward the exit to the room that had previously been far too close to the bugs for anyone to attempt to go near it. “Go on,” he said. “It is safe now.”

Hesitantly, the crew inched toward the door, and when it was clear that it was indeed safe, they barreled through it, leaving only Jungkook behind, still staring at Jimin in awe.

“They didn’t attack you,” Jungkook said when Jimin joined him once more, the door sealing shut behind them.

“No,” Jimin said. “They did not. I think I am beginning to understand this place.”

“I am glad at least one of us is,” Jungkook smiled wryly. “It makes sense that you would, though. I am sure the Dragon used his control over the sea to create all of this, so you must feel a connection with it.”

“Something like that,” Jimin murmured, and they pressed on, following after the crew.

At long last, the pathway came to an end, but what awaited them was simply a dead end. They stared up at a wall with the same sort of symbols that had been on the arrows carved into the stone, and looked around for any other way through, but found none.

“Well, fuck,” Tanaka cursed, throwing his hands up. “What now?”

“Yeah, what now, Captain?” Junho demanded. “We came all this way and the treasure ain’t even here.”

“I lost my damn hand for this,” Jaejoon whimpered.

“And your foot,” Taeha added.

“Hold on, now, there has to be a way through,” Jungkook said, his eyebrows furrowing together. “The Dragon wouldn’t safeguard this place so heavily if he was not guarding anything.”

A few of the other crew members jumped in with their protests, until everyone was shouting over each other, the noise deafening in the silent chamber.

Amidst all the din, one voice rang out over the rest. “These carvings are the language of the sea.”

Everyone’s shouts died in their throats as they turned to face Jimin, who was standing there running his hands across the walls, tracing the symbols with his fingers.

“And? Make your point, fishboy,” Junho snapped.

Jimin said nothing, instead opening his mouth and beginning to sing softly, still trailing his finger in the grooves on the wall. It was a different sort of song than he’d sung before, one that did not have quite as much of a hold on Jungkook as the others but still left him mesmerized, unable to do much but stand there and stare blankly at him.

Faintly at first, then growing brighter as Jimin continued his soft melody, the runes began to glow an unearthly blue. It was oddly beautiful, and with how transfixed Jungkook was on the sight before him, he hardly noticed the stone shifting, opening up a passageway for them to continue through the cave.

It wasn’t until Taehyung gasped, “Oh my gods,” that Jungkook snapped out of it and realized what awaited them beyond the wall.

“We found it,” Jungkook said.

In front of them was a room that extended as far as the eye could see, filled nearly to the ceilings in some parts with gold, diamonds, jewels, old swords and scrolls and everything Jungkook had imagined. To top it all off, in the center of the room, perched on a throne, was a golden chest with the old, tattered flags that once sailed with the Great Dragon himself.

The crew took no time at all running inside, filling their pockets and clothes with everything they could carry, but Jungkook had his sights set on only one thing: the centerpiece of it all. The chest gleamed in his line of sight, his heart racing at the thought of everything that could be inside. The secrets of the sea, the heart of the ocean that the Dragon claimed to have captured and tamed for himself, everything.

Jimin was following close behind him, gazing around with the same kind of wonder in his eyes that he had shown earlier. “Incredible,” he kept whispering to himself. “Amazing.”

Jungkook took the old flag, the Dragon’s insignia embossed in gold, and tucked it under his arm before returning his focus to the chest before him. His hands were shaking; he was almost too nervous to even open it.

When at last he found the courage, he found himself gazing down upon a small pile of assorted jewels, gold, and maps. “Okay,” he breathed, sorting through the lot with his heart thundering in his chest. “Okay, okay.” Gold, more gold, some diamonds, maps that surely lead to more of the Dragon’s treasure hordes, but nothing that looked like it could contain the “heart of the ocean.”

“What’s wrong?” Jimin asked, placing a gentle hand on his arm as Jungkook’s search became frantic.

“The secret to taming the ocean,” Jungkook said. “I don’t… I don’t see it.” He pulled out another journal as he said this, but inside it was only one legible entry. Just one.

 

The heart of the ocean is the key to everything. It has been my greatest treasure, and my greatest curse. Even though I have left her far behind me, unable to pursue, she somehow still follows me wherever I go, haunting my every step. I cannot escape, and part of me does not want to, for I still long for her touch, and to hear her voice again.

The voice I hear in my nightmares sounds like her, but it is distorted, evil, seeking me out to make me pay for what I have done.

Perhaps I will accept my fate. I no longer possess the power that I once did, and with my jewels sealed away and unable to ever be reunited with my love, my purpose has, perhaps, reached its end.

If any travelers have come this far, heed my warning. Do not meddle with the sea. Do not take her heart, let alone break it.

With this, I take my final bow. A fitting end for one such as I, I suppose. I only pray that one day I can see her again, if only for a moment.

 

Inside the journal was a small pin with the seal of the Dragon on it, and in a last ditch attempt to find the “heart” that the Dragon spoke of, Jungkook pinned it to his jacket. He hadn’t expected it to make him feel any differently, but his heart sank in disappointment all the same.

“This can’t be it,” he said, slumping back, a cruel emptiness spreading through his body. They had come all this way only to find more riddles and nonsense.

“Are you sure?” Jimin asked.

“Does any of this seem like it would contain the heart of the ocean?” Jungkook said, gesturing to not only the contents of the chest, but the entire room.

“I...do not sense any sort of connection with the sea, no,” Jimin admitted.

“Then all of this was for naught.”

He couldn’t tell his crew. Not after all this. No, he would let them ride out their high from this massive treasure haul for long enough that they would be satiated when he finally revealed that the Dragon’s so-called treasure was indeed just a hoax.

At least they would leave this place dripping in jewels, he supposed.

Even though he wanted nothing more than to toss it into the cursed water and watch it burn away, Jungkook pocketed the journal and turned away from the chest, hopping down from the pedestal the throne was perched on to join his crew in collecting gold and diamonds.

“Come on, lads,” Jungkook said, hoping his turbulent emotions did not betray him. “Grab as much as you can, and let us return to the ship.”

Jimin joined in as well, slinging an old sword over his back and filling his arms with all things that sparkled. The reflections of the jewels danced across his face in the lowlight, making him even more ethereal than normal, helping to lift Jungkook’s spirits just a little.

He had not found the one thing he had been searching for all of his pirating career, but he found Jimin, and that in itself was like a treasure all on its own.

The prospect of carrying everything that they had nabbed all the way back to the ship had seemed daunting, but Jimin had found another wall covered in runes in the treasure room that he opened for them. The pathway behind the hidden door lead out to what appeared to be the shore, which infuriated the crew.

“You mean to say we took the long way around?” demanded Junho.

“No,” Jimin said as the stone wall reshaped itself, sealing the treasure room away once more. “Look. There are no carvings on this side. There would have been no way to get in from here.”

No sooner had he finished speaking than a low rumble shook the chamber, the bubbling water around them splashing dangerously close to the pathway.

“What’s—” Jungkook began, then his words died in his throat when he saw a falling slab of stone heading directly for where Jimin was standing. Without even a second thought, Jungkook lunged at him, dropping every bit of treasure he was holding onto in order to push Jimin to safety.

Jimin landed flat on his back with Jungkook bent over him, both of them breathing heavily as they blinked at each other in shock.

“You… you saved my life,” Jimin breathed.

“I would do it again,” Jungkook replied.

His legs still shaking, Jungkook got to his feet and helped Jimin up after him, looking around at the gold and maps he’d been holding slowly sinking to the bottom of the water.

“What a waste,” Tanaka muttered.

The stone slab that had fallen was large enough that it stretched across most of the pathway, but it was simple to climb over it and continue on their way out and back to the ship. They emerged in a well-hidden grotto outside, the Black Trident clearly visible from the exit they’d crawled out of. It was daytime again, and from the look of the sun’s position in the sky, it had been up for quite a while.

After being underground in the dim lantern light for so long, Jungkook had to squint against the bright sunlight for most of the trek back to the ship. He had a few gold bars in his arms, ones that he was helping Jimin and Taehyung carry since his own loot was still back in the cave, probably dissolving in the cursed water, but his mind was still lost in the idea that there was no great and magnificent treasure after all.

There was no amulet or token left behind by the Dragon that would allow him to gain control over the sea.

That thought, more than anything else they had seen down in that cave, was absolutely terrifying.

Back on the ship, they scarcely had time to stash their loot away before Taeha was hollering from the crow’s nest, frantically waving her arms. “Another ship!” she called. “Another ship flying pirate colors approaching from the west!”

“Shit,” Jungkook said, his worst fears realized. “I knew this would happen. We need to leave, now.”

“Aye, Captain,” Tanaka agreed.

They set sail once more, without even enough time to hoist up the flag Jungkook had taken from the Dragon’s stash, but he now realized that it was for the best. If these pirates were to see them flying the Dragon’s insignia, it would cause far more problems than they were equipped to handle. The ship still held the damages from the storm that they had just barely patched up, and any battle would be the end of them.

“Wait,” Jungkook said, as the other ship came into view of his spyglass. “I know those colors.”

“Ain’t that Jiwon’s ship?” Junho said, shaking his head. “Crazy son of a bitch who claims he’s the Dragon’s descendant?”

“The very same,” Jungkook said grimly. The Dragon never had any children, of course, so Jiwon’s claims were believed by no one but himself, but every pirate knew of his brutality and relentlessness. A battle with his ship was the last thing the Black Trident needed.

“How did they find us?” Jimin asked, staring at the other ship.

“They probably found the missing pages of the first journal hidden away somewhere,” Jungkook said.

“Or perhaps they had gotten to it first,” Taehyung offered, “and destroyed it after finding out the clues themselves, to ensure no one else would get to the treasure.”

Jungkook nodded. “That is entirely possible.”

“What do we do, Captain?” the navigator asked, eyes wide.

“Just keep sailing east, as fast as you can. With luck they will be more focused on the island and the treasure than on us.”

The ship was silent as they sailed further away from Jiwon’s ship, everyone understanding the severity of the situation and how imperative it was that they not be spotted. His ship was the fastest in the seven seas, of course, so after what felt like several nerve-wracking hours, they managed to lose Jiwon’s ship without being followed.

They were far from being in the clear, however. Once Jiwon and his crew made it to the treasure, they would see that someone had been in before them, and Jungkook knew that they would be the first target. The two of them had not been subtle in their hatred of each other, and every time they had crossed paths in the past, it had ended in violence.

Jiwon would certainly come for them first.

For now, though, for now they were safe. Or at least, as safe as one could be while sailing a pirate ship through an endless expanse of unpredictable ocean.

 

Night fell over the Black Trident, stars emerging in the sky from behind the thick gray clouds, and Jungkook just gazed out at them, out at the sea, utterly lost in his own thoughts. He didn’t know where to go from here, or what to even tell his crew. He’d had a purpose, an endgame to all of his searching, and now he just felt so lost.

Jungkook did not need to turn to know that it was Jimin who had stepped up beside him, standing close enough that their shoulders were touching. They stood there in silence for a long while, letting the salty night breeze whisper across their faces and rustle their hair, until Jimin spoke up softly.

“You saved my life again,” he said, echoing what he had murmured back in the cave.

“Of course I did.”

Jimin was looking at him now, something familiar and warm in his gaze, and he reached over to hold Jungkook’s hand. He realized at the last moment that Jimin was reaching for the hand that bore the splotch on it, so he pulled it away before Jimin could touch it.

Jungkook should have known that Jimin would be stubborn however, giving him a curious look and reaching for his hand again, holding him by the wrist and examining the cloth wrapped around his palm. When Jungkook offered no explanation, Jimin began slowly unraveling it, gripping Jungkook’s wrist tightly so that he could not pull away again.

The cloth fell away and Jungkook heard Jimin’s sharp intake of breath when he saw the mark.

“This is… I have seen this before,” Jimin said. “It is a cursed mark. Any sailor touched with the black spot is marked for death by the sea’s hand.” His voice was wavering, his expression pleading. “You…”

“It will be okay,” Jungkook said, even though he was not so sure about that. He picked up the cloth and wrapped his hand back up. “I have been marked for death before, you know. I’m still here.”

“I worry for you. This is the sort of curse that you cannot run from. Other sailors have tried, and all of them end up at the bottom of the ocean.”

“I will find a way,” Jungkook promised, though the idea he had was one that he was dreading. “I told you that you would never be prisoner to the sea again, and I meant it. I plan to be around for as long as you’ll have me.” Throwing caution to the wind, he lifted Jimin’s knuckles to his lips and closed his eyes.

He was captain of the fastest ship in the ocean, a man who stole from the sea, who survived even against the worst of odds. He didn’t need the Dragon’s secrets. He just needed Jimin.

 

 

Jungkook’s first step for how to get around the curse that plagued his palm was to consult Taehyung, though he dreaded that conversation so much that he put it off for several days, opting instead to teach Jimin how to tie knots above deck.

“You are catching on so quickly to everything that I teach you,” Jungkook said, watching as Jimin’s fingers deftly moved around the rope. “You could sail your own ship now, if you wanted.”

Jimin laughed, his cheeks pink and his eyes twinkling, looking more and more human as the days went by. “I don’t know about that,” he said. “I think I need a little more help.”

“You’re becoming so cheeky,” Jungkook said, nuzzling his nose into the crook of Jimin’s neck, pressing a kiss to the soft skin there.

“I’ve always been cheeky.” Jimin nudged him with his shoulder, his gaze turning serious. “Have you spoken with Taehyung yet? You said that you would.”

“Not yet, but—”

Jimin shook his head. “What is stopping you? Go, now.”

“But—”

“Go.”

Jungkook knew that there was no arguing with Jimin, not with how stubborn he was, and so he exhaled deeply, turning away from the knots they’d been tying. “Very well. Keep practicing, okay?”

“I will not move from this spot,” Jimin said.

Taehyung was below deck when Jungkook found him, closed off in the map room and bent over one of the tables, tracing his finger across a large piece of parchment. Upon further inspection, it was one of the star charts he had found among the Dragon’s treasure.

Without looking up, Taehyung said, “There will be an eclipse at the end of the year. The ocean will be at her most powerful.”

“We can be sure to make port that day,” Jungkook said flippantly. “It is still a ways off, so we needn’t worry about that right now. I have something… concerning that I need to discuss with you.”

At that, Taehyung lifted his head, his eyebrows raised in concern. “What is it?”

Jungkook said nothing, holding out his hand and unraveling the cloth from around his palm, allowing Taehyung to see the black spot hidden beneath.

Taehyung let out a long sigh, pain in his eyes and his lips pressed tightly together. “I warned you of this sort of thing,” he said. “I warned you, my friend.”

“I know that.”

“This kind of curse is reserved for those who have stolen something from the sea,” he said, giving Jungkook a sharp but sad stare. “You and Jimin… are you…?”

“Are we what?” Jungkook asked, even though he knew perfectly well what Taehyung was asking; he and Jimin had not exactly been subtle since they left the Dragon’s island.

“You know what I am asking,” Taehyung said. “Your expression is enough to confirm it. How could you think that was wise?”

“Just… how can I lift the curse?”

Taehyung shook his head. “The only way I can think of is to return what you’ve stolen to the sea. But… since what you’ve stolen is Jimin’s heart, I don’t know how that would be possible.”

“I will not make Jimin go back,” Jungkook said immediately. “He wants to remain here.”

Taehyung nodded. “I know. That means that if you want to live, if you want to shake this curse, you will need to abandon Jimin. The next time we make a stop somewhere, you will need to leave him behind, break his trust, break his heart, and he will return to the sea on his own.”

“No,” Jungkook said, shaking his head, unable to bear hearing any more. “No, never. I would never. This is Jimin’s first time being able to trust someone. I won’t just take advantage of that and leave him marooned somewhere.”

“I know you won’t,” Taehyung told him. “And that is the reason why I have stuck by your side all this time, my friend. But that is the only way you would be able to break the curse.”

“I… I understand.” Jungkook said this, and knew that what Taehyung told him made sense, but it was not an option. The thought of the betrayal on Jimin’s face as they sailed away from him was too much for Jungkook to bear, and he cast the image from his mind. “Thank you as always for your honesty, friend.”

“Of course. In the meantime, I will help you in any way that I can.”

In the end, Jungkook decided not to tell Jimin what Taehyung had said. The last thing he wanted was for Jimin to think that he was the reason for Jungkook’s curse, and for him to try and leave in order to save Jungkook’s life.

It was dishonest, he knew, but that night, back in his cabin, Jungkook told Jimin that Taehyung did not know what could be done to help him.

Jimin didn’t respond, but he took Jungkook’s hand and unraveled the fabric wrapped around the spot, then lifted his palm to his lips and pressed a kiss there. He closed his eyes and gently lowered Jungkook’s palm, firmly holding it against his own chest so that Jungkook could hear the steady beat of his heart.

“For as long as I live,” he began, his eyes opening to reveal a fire in them that Jungkook hadn’t seen before, “I swear to you that the sea will not have you. She will not have you, Jungkook.”

Guilt pulsed under Jungkook’s skin at having lied to Jimin, but he couldn’t entertain the idea of what Taehyung had told him. It wasn’t even an option.

All he wanted was for Jimin to be here by his side, no matter the consequences.

 

The coming weeks were spent sailing to the nearest pirate port to finish up repairs on the Black Trident before they formulated their next plan. The Dragon’s treasure seemed to have already lost its luster in the crew’s eyes, and they frequently spoke of selling their haul and moving on to the next raid.

Jungkook, on the other hand, was preoccupying himself with teaching Jimin how to sail, showing him different skills every day and each time finding himself surprised at how quickly he was picking up on everything.

“You’re a natural sailor,” he kept telling him, usually followed with a kiss to his temple or cheek.

By now, of course, with their open displays of affection, the crew had confirmed their suspicions about the two of them, poking fun at their relationship with sometimes malicious intent. Jungkook ignored them, just as he ignored the burning in his palm every night when he touched Jimin.

He was a cursed man, but he still found himself so glad that Jimin had tried to kill him that night so, so long ago.

One clear night, with the millions of stars above them visible in a smattering across the sky, Jungkook stood beside Jimin as he steered the ship through the calm waters. “Look there, do you see that constellation?” Jungkook asked, pointing upward. “It means we are heading north. Follow it, and you will never be lost.”

“I can never get lost on the sea,” Jimin reminded him with a small smile, though it did not reach his eyes. “Jungkook, I must confess that I… feel uneasy tonight.”

“Why is that?”

Jimin shook his head. “I don’t know. Perhaps it is simply a change in the winds, but it just gives me a bad feeling.”

“We will be fine,” Jungkook assured him, wrapping his arms around his waist and kissing his neck. “The Black Trident is the fastest ship in the sea. We can outrun anything.”

Jimin did not seem to be calmed by his words, and it wasn’t but a moment later that Taeha was hollering down at them, “Ship! Ship on the horizon!”

“What colors?” Jungkook called up to her.

“Jiwon’s.”

And with that, Jungkook’s heart sank to the pit of his stomach. “Fuck,” he cursed. It was impossible. How could they have caught up to them so quickly, or even known where they were going?

It was with a sinking feeling in his gut and a burning pain in his palm that he realized this must have been the work of the curse.

With a racing heart, he and Taehyung roused the rest of the crew, ordering them to ensure they were sailing as fast as they could, and eventually they would outrun them again. Even in the Black Trident’s unsteady state, they were still the fastest ship around. They could lose them.

As they sailed on and Jiwon’s ship approached ever closer behind them, however, Jungkook could see that they would not get out of this without a fight. Junho and Tanaka prepared the cannons below deck, and everyone unsheathed their swords or bow and arrows, readying themselves for the worst. Jungkook found Jimin again, gripping his shoulders tightly and looking him in the eye.

“Jimin,” he said, “please. Go below deck, now, and lock yourself in my cabin.”

“But I—”

“This is an order from your Captain,” he said. “Go!”

Jimin looked as though he wanted to argue, but he kept his mouth shut and gave Jungkook one last look before disappearing below the hatch.

“Captain Jeon!” Jiwon roared, his ship now close enough that they could see each other clearly. His face was as if someone had taken a candle to it and left him to melt for a while, with bugged-out eyes and a lopsided, hideous grin. “It has been a while, has it not? I see your ship is looking a bit worse for wear.”

“Even like this, my ship is worth ten of yours,” Jungkook spat.

“You dare say that, with my ancestor’s insignia upon your jacket, and his legendary treasure in your grubby child hands?”

“Your ancestor?” Jungkook laughed. “The Dragon had no ancestors, least of all a slimy little worm like you, Jiwon. I found the Dragon’s treasure first, and now I control the sea. Not you.” He was bluffing, a last-ditch effort to see if they could avoid battle, but even he knew that it was useless.

Jiwon’s expression soured, his yellowed, disgusting teeth showing as he curled his lips in a snarl. “You are too bold, boy. Men! Take back what is rightfully ours!”

Jungkook held up his sword and shouted for his men to ready themselves, and everything faded to a blur.

Cannons were firing, people were screaming, planks were falling between their ships as Jiwon’s crew invaded the Black Trident, and utter chaos had descended upon them. Jungkook was fighting with every last bit of strength he had, his body numb as he stuck man after man with his sword, hardly registering the bodies at his feet as he fought to get to Jiwon.

He passed Taehyung grappling with an archer, Junho straddling another man on the ground and pummeling him with only his fists, but before he could reach the planks to get to Jiwon back on his own ship, a sound rang out over the battle that made Jungkook’s blood run cold.

Jimin had emerged from the hatch, and oh gods no he was trying to help, trying to fight with them the only way he knew how, and Jungkook let out a furious cry as he watched Jiwon’s cronies grab hold of him, covering his mouth and stifling his voice.

“Look at this, lads,” one of them sneered. “You’ve got a little siren fighting for you? This is worth much more than any treasure.”

Jungkook slashed through the battle, desperately trying to reach Jimin, slipping on pools of blood and tuning out everything else around him. Jimin was struggling as they dragged him onto the other ship, and one by one they destroyed the planks, unfurling their sails, jeering and cackling as they began to sail away.

“No!” Jungkook’s voice ripped from his throat, leaving him raw and vulnerable and so helpless as he watched them gag Jimin and keep him held down so that he could not escape even as he thrashed around. “No, no, Jiwon, you bastard!”

It began to rain, even though there had not been a cloud in the sky before, the heavens opening up and causing the blood on the deck to run, pooling at their feet as Jiwon’s ship was sailing away as fast as it had come.

“What are you all doing? Follow them!” Jungkook bellowed at his crew, the spot on his hand burning white hot.

There was silence from the crew, silence as not one of them moved, merely staring at him with varying expressions of frustration, anger, and even pity.

He lowered his hand, realizing too late that sometime during the battle his cloth had come loose, and the black spot was exposed for all to see. His crew’s eyes followed his palm, still motionless.

“The sea cursed you,” Junho said finally. “If death awaits us by following you, then this is where our journey ends.”

“Won’t risk my life for some siren,” Tanaka agreed. “Not when we ain’t had payout in weeks and supplies are low as it is. That siren brought nothin’ but trouble.”

“Should’a gutted him when we had the chance,” Junho continued.

“I am your Captain,” Jungkook said. “I am ordering you to follow that ship.”

“You’re no Captain,” Junho sneered. “You’re a boy. A weak little child.”

“You elected me as your Captain.” Jungkook’s voice was shaking, he knew it as he spoke. “You elected to follow me.”

“And now we’re electing to demote you,” Tanaka said. “Aye, crew?”

Jungkook looked out to his crew, to the men who had followed his leadership for two years now, to the men who had so confidently declared him their Captain, the men who had followed him into battle and sailed under his colors. He looked at each of their faces, and heard each of them give a solemn, “Aye.”

“Is this mutiny?” Taehyung demanded. “You would mutinize the man who lead you all with fairness and a strong hand?”

“You’re one to talk of mutiny, little fairy,” Tanaka sneered. “If I recall, ‘twas you who sharpened the knife we put in dear old Captain Li’s back.”

Taehyung’s face drained of color and he fell silent, a kind of terror flashing through his eyes that Jungkook hadn’t seen in two years.

“That’s enough,” Jungkook growled, desperation causing everything in him to ache. “While we stand here arguing, Jiwon sails farther away.”

“And he’ll continue to.” Tanaka and Junho were closing in on him now, backing him against the mast. “You’ve been demoted, Jeon. We don’t take orders from you no more.”

Jungkook reached for his dagger, but Tanaka was faster, unsheathing his sword and shoving him against the mast, holding the blade to his neck. He struggled, but all it lead to was a sharp pain in the sensitive skin of his throat and a warm trickle of blood.

“Jungkook!” Taehyung yelped, and Jungkook saw him apprehended in a similar manner by Junho.

They were hopelessly outnumbered by this group of people that had sailed with them for years and now had decided that they were the enemy. Jungkook struggled with every bit of strength left within him, and yet he still found himself tied up and left at the mast, only able to watch as Junho was appointed captain of his ship.

He couldn’t help the tears from pricking at the corners of his eyes. Jimin was gone. He had promised him, promised that he would never be prisoner again, and then he could do absolutely nothing as Jimin was taken from him, taken prisoner by people who saw him as nothing more than a treasure to be stolen and sold and gods only knew what else.

It was odd to think that in this moment, Jungkook did not care about what was to happen to him. He only thought of Jimin, and of Taehyung, tied up beside him.

Once more Jungkook thought of their former captain, his body probably having been nibbled away by fish already, leaving nothing but a rotted skeleton at the bottom of the sea. Truthfully, he didn’t care if he met the same fate, but Taehyung didn’t deserve that. His only crime had been loyalty to his friend, loyalty to him, and that wasn’t deserving of the same demise that Jungkook was staring down.

Taehyung’s eyes were closed, his lips forming a silent prayer over and over, his eyebrows drawn tightly together in concentration.

He began to think about the gods Taehyung prayed to, the ones that supposedly orchestrated all of this and wondered if praying to them was truly the best option. In his opinion, they hadn’t been too kind to them up until now, and he didn’t see that changing any time soon.

If there are any higher beings listening, Jungkook thought to himself, then let us escape this. Or at the very least, let Taehyung escape. Let him find Jimin and rescue him, and let the pair of them live out the rest of their lives answering to no one ever again.

Of all the gods Taehyung believed in, not one responded.

Chapter Text

Jimin was no stranger to being a prisoner.

Ever since the first time he had opened his eyes to the endless green, blue, and brown hues of the ocean in front of him and heard her song that bound him to her bidding, he had known the life of someone who could never be free.

The sea’s yawning void was lonely, and all she wanted was to fill that loneliness with the souls of humans who could do nothing but submit to a siren song. Jimin remembered the first human that he’d lured underwater, a young fisherman with muddy hands and wide eyes. He’d offered to help Jimin up, to take him back to shore, and Jimin had tugged him under the waves and drowned him, watching his lifeless body sink to the depths.

He’d felt nothing back then, just as he had felt nothing with each subsequent human that fell victim to his voice. Thinking back on it now, he felt some twinge of regret. Regret. He was beginning to sound human, himself.

It had been alright for so long, as he had known no other life, and the ocean was so vast and unending, he had never viewed it as a prison before. The humans are the ones who are trapped, he had always thought. They have nowhere to go but down.

It wasn’t until he had been on Jungkook’s ship, steering it across the surface of the water with the wind in his hair and Jungkook’s laughter in his ear that he had known true freedom. Those moments had made him feel as though he were on top of the world, with no chains holding him back or song in his head keeping him trapped.

With Jungkook, he could do anything.

But Jungkook wasn’t here.

Where was Jungkook? Last Jimin had seen him, he was fighting these other pirates on his ship, and he’d been running towards them after Jimin had been captured, but he’d lost sight of him. As the minutes passed with him tied up here on this unfamiliar ship, Jimin kept expecting Jungkook to come bursting in with his sword and cut his way through this crew to save him, but he never showed up.

Instead, it was a few members of the other pirate crew that came to him, leering with their unsettling eyes and brandishing daggers and swords. He’d been left tied up in a nondescript room for so long, and now enough time had evidently passed that they felt it was time to move him.

Where is Jungkook, Jimin kept thinking, barely registering the rough way the pirates were handling him as they brought him to a more central room in the ship.

“Pretty little fishy, aren’t you?” one man hissed in his ear before shoving him forward while another man roughly fit a pair of shackles around each wrist. “So pretty.”

“Shame he’s all covered up.”

“Fish don’t wear clothes. Does the little fishy think he’s human?”

The men surrounding him cackled, and one twirled a dagger in his hand, leering at Jimin with hungry eyes. Before he could so much as blink, the man slashed his shirt, his beautiful silks that Jungkook had bought for him, slashed it until it fell to his feet like rags.

“Look at these, here,” one man with filthy, filthy fingers said, dragging his cracked, dirt-caked nails down Jimin’s chest, across the blooming purple and red bruises left behind by Jungkook’s mouth and hands. The shackles keeping him chained to the wall prevented him from moving, but he recoiled from the pirate’s touch, agonizing that he would dare to defile the places that Jungkook had marked him. “Captain Jeon made good use of him.”

The captain, the one Jungkook had called Jiwon, slid his tongue across his crooked yellowing teeth and grinned at him, greed in his beady eyes. “So he did.”

“His blood is worth a lot of coin,” one man said. “He just kept him as a pet when he could’ve bled him dry and sold him?”

“Why sell? Don’t you know siren blood makes you immortal? I say drink it, then see what the Navy has to say when they try’n attack.”

“Aye!” a chorus erupted over the crew, disgusting faces leering at Jimin from all sides.

“Take the blood of a siren and live forever, eh, men?” Jiwon said, still sneering at Jimin with his rotting teeth. His crew cheered, crowding in closer, eager to see their captain bleed him dry.

“Let’s all have a taste,” one of them said.

“We’ll rule the sea,” another chimed in.

“You think so?” Jiwon shook his head. “Fools, the lot of you. Blood of a siren will keep you alive forever, but the sea will claim you for killing her child. How does an eternity of lying at the bottom of the ocean, your flesh being nibbled away by fish, unable to die sound?”

The crew quieted immediately, and Jiwon turned back to Jimin, the grin returning. “Blood of a siren gives you immortality, but the heart of a siren… Now therein lies the real prize. Capture the heart, and you own the sea herself.”

“The heart, Captain?”

“The heart,” Jiwon repeated, dragging his fingers across Jimin’s bare chest, digging his fingernails above the place where his heart was beating. “With this, I’ll be king of the seven seas, just as my ancestor was before me.”

Jimin’s lip curled in disgust. He had known all along that not all pirates were like Jungkook, but never in his time aboard the Black Trident had he encountered one so abhorrent, so foul.

“A treasure like that, you’d think the great Captain Jeon would be on our tail, eh?” one of the crew said, licking his lips as he stared with wild eyes at Jimin.

“One would think,” Jiwon responded. “Perhaps he knows not of his pet’s true value. Imagine, lads, a creature so valuable is within your grasp, and all you can think to do is plug its holes!”

The crew erupted in raucous laughter, led by Jiwon’s own rasping cackle.

“Yes, if he knew your true worth, he would have given chase by now,” Jiwon said once he’d calmed himself and the crew had quieted somewhat. “You are well and truly mine.”

Jimin swore at him in the tongue of the sea, though his voice was still muffled by the gag. Jiwon laughed again, and Jimin squeezed his eyes shut to attempt to rid his vision of the man in front of him.

There had to be a reason why Jungkook had not given chase. The Black Trident was the fastest ship in the seven seas, or so Jungkook claimed, so then why had he not caught up yet? Why had he not come to Jimin’s rescue now as he had so many times in the past?

Perhaps he had decided to abandon him. He had gotten what he wanted, he had found the Great Dragon’s treasure trove, and so he no longer had any use for one lone siren. The ugly thoughts in his head clouded his mind, made his knees shake and his heart ache. It couldn’t be. The way Jungkook had held him so gently at night, the way he’d looked at him, spoke to him, that could not have all just been a farce.

It was all Jimin could do in that moment. He just had to keep convincing himself, so as not to lose hope entirely.

Jiwon and his crew left Jimin alone for a while, chained up with those rusted shackles, but he knew they would be back. He had gotten lucky with Jungkook, lucky that he’d found someone who had shown him mercy despite the nature of his existence, lucky that he’d found someone who had shown him to be free, be human, be loved.

He would find no such luck here.

Jiwon would return, and he would cut out Jimin’s heart in his foolish belief that it would grant him some sort of power over the sea. Jimin had learned already that no such power existed, let alone within his own body. If the Great Dragon of the East, the fairytale that pirates spread like wildfire did not possess such a thing, then it did not exist.

If he tried to explain that to Jiwon, however, Jimin had a feeling that it would only make matters worse for himself.

These shackles he’d been locked up in were much tighter and harsher on his skin than the ones in the brig on the Black Trident had been. He’d thought that musty jail cell had been hell, but it was nothing compared to this. Jungkook was not coming for him. He was going to die here.

Jiwon returned, alone, and Jimin’s eyes did not leave the dagger sheathed at his belt. He was going to cut him open and remove his heart, and no amount of healing would be able to fix that. He would rot on this ship as humans do, instead of being given the same dignity as other deceased sirens by returning to the ocean as sea foam. He was too human now, too caught up in their world, too reliant on Jungkook to save him when before all of this, all he needed was himself.

“Seems a shame to just kill you now,” Jiwon said, breaking the silence as he stepped far too close. “What kind of things did Captain Jeon do with you, eh? Enough that you know your way around a cock?”

Jimin tugged against the shackles, furious, but they were so tight around his wrists and ankles that it only made his skin sting from the rusted metal. The gag made his jaw ache, but there were so many things he wanted to spit at Jiwon, things he hoped the filthy man could see in his eyes.

“Aha. I knew it. How about I take that cloth out of your mouth, and you show me what you can do?”

That made Jimin pause. If he could just use his voice, he could make Jiwon set him free, and then…

And then…?

He could figure it out from there. He just needed to break himself free, first. Jiwon lifted his hand, about to remove the gag from his mouth, and then he stopped, causing Jimin’s heart to skip a beat.

“You think it’ll be that easy, don’t you?” Jiwon sneered. “I bet the moment I took this off, you were going to try’n sing me to death. That ain’t going to happen, little fishy.”

Jimin’s heart sank, any hope of being able to formulate an escape plan already dashed.

“How about this?” Jiwon took out his dagger, pressing the point directly to Jimin’s throat so that every time he took a breath he felt a piercing pain on his sensitive skin. “I take off the gag, and if I hear a single note outta you, I stab you in the fucking throat. How’s that sound, fishy?”

Jimin closed his eyes and nodded as best he could with the dagger against his neck. That seemed to be enough for Jiwon, who untied the gag and watched with a sick sense of enjoyment as Jimin gasped for breath, his sore jaw aching.

“Looks like you fear death just like the rest of us,” Jiwon hissed, grinning. “Did Captain Jeon threaten you too? Keep a knife at your throat while he fucked you?”

“No,” Jimin gasped. “There was no threat.”

“Ohh, I see. You were in love with him, is that it? You tried to play human, ride his cock and tell him you love him?”

Jimin said nothing. He had never been able to dissect his feelings for Jungkook, the new emotions that had overwhelmed him the more human he became still a mystery to him, but he did not like the way ‘love’ sounded coming from Jiwon’s mouth. Maybe he loved Jungkook, but hearing it from Jiwon made it sound like something dirty when before it had made Jimin feel so warm and happy.

Jiwon barked out a laugh. “Interesting. And I thought sirens were meant to be clever. You are just as stupid as any human.”

“Perhaps I am,” Jimin replied.

“Cheeky little shit. Should I cut out your tongue?” He scoffed. “Then you’d be useless for sucking cock, eh? Shame. Captain Jeon did show you to take cock, didn’t he? Those lips, it’d be a waste not to.”

Jimin bit his lips together. He would sooner die than tell Jiwon about the times he and Jungkook were most intimate. Cut out my tongue, then, he wanted to say, but it truly was fear that was stopping him. He was frightened.

For the first time, he was facing death and perhaps even something worse, and he was frightened. He had been prepared for his own death before, but this was the first time he had something to live for, a purpose that would make him fear his own end.

“Lost your voice now, did you? Doesn’t matter. I know how I can make you scream. Think I’ll play with you a little before we cut out your heart.”

“You can’t.”

Jimin spoke without thinking, the gears in his mind turning as his heart raced in his chest, his mind clouded with sheer desperation.

“What was that?” Jiwon said, his eyes narrowing.

“I said, you can’t,” Jimin repeated, a lie springing to his lips as if from thin air. “What I have with Jungkook is a bond forged by the sea herself. He’s marked me as his, and so I cannot be touched.”

“What bond? You are speaking nonsense,” Jiwon said, but there was a spark of doubt in his eyes, and that was all Jimin needed.

“You can believe whatever you wish, human, but if you are truly descended from the Dragon as you claim, then you should know more than anyone the consequences of meddling with the ocean.”

Jiwon was quiet for a moment, appearing to be weighing his options, and in his hesitation he lowered the knife he had been holding to Jimin’s throat. Sensing that this was his chance, Jimin took the opportunity to open his mouth and begin singing. He’d caught him off guard, so if he could just get in his head and make him unlock the shackles…

“Ah!” Jimin cried out as Jiwon, shaking the slack-jawed look from his face, surged forward and slashed his dagger across his chest, deep enough that Jimin’s voice died in his throat. He coughed and whimpered in pain, unable to do anything as Jiwon shoved the gag back in his mouth and dragged a finger across the blood running down his bare torso.

“Nice try,” he said, licking the blood from his finger and fixing Jimin with a soulless glare. “You almost had me there. A bond forged by the sea, my ass. You know what I think? I think there is no bond. I think that if I cut you open right now and took your heart, there would be no consequences at all.”

That was it. He was going to die here.

Jimin closed his eyes and tried to picture Jungkook’s face, wanting those kind eyes to be the last thing he saw.

“Now let’s open you up and see what that heart looks like, aye?”

Chapter Text

It was unclear how much time had passed since Jungkook and Taehyung were tied up and left out on the deck for the rest of the traitorous crew to jeer at. Jungkook had been counting the times that the sun had risen and then set again, but he lost track after about three days, unable to remember if the sun had already risen twice or if he’d slept through an entire day.

At least three days with no way of knowing what had become of Jimin. His palm had burned with an intensity so severe that he’d cried the first day, but it had since subsided, which left a thrumming under his skin that could bode nothing good.

Taehyung still sat with his head bowed, though it was more from dehydration and exhaustion than prayer to his gods by this point. With gags shoved in their mouths, there was no way for the two of them to communicate by anything other than the occasional helpless glance when the others weren’t looking.

Jungkook had been in situations that appeared to have no way out before. He was no stranger to despair and hopelessness, but in the past he had always had no real reason to continue fighting other than his own stubborn will to survive. Now… Now he had something else driving him, something that was more selfless than he was used to, and it was perhaps the only thing keeping him from giving up entirely and begging for Junho to kill him.

He couldn’t die here. Not when Jimin was still lost to him.

“We are nearing the island, Captain,” Taeha said, and Jungkook looked up, still not used to ‘Captain’ being used for someone other than himself.

Junho nodded, shooting a pitiful look at Jungkook. “Good,” he said. “This ship needs to be cleaned of its trash.”

All of this was wrong. Junho wasn’t this ship’s captain; Jungkook was, and the more time they wasted here like this, the farther away Jiwon’s ship was sailing with Jimin trapped onboard.

If he even still lives, a nasty voice hissed in Jungkook’s ear.

No. No, he must still live. He must. He did not know how he was so sure of this; the last he had seen of Jimin was his capture, and he certainly did not possess any of Taehyung’s clairvoyance, but something within him was reassuring him that Jimin was still alive.

If not for that, he surely would have given up by now.

“Are you sure we can’t just kill them? This seems too cruel,” Taeha said.

“Think of what he’s done,” Junho said. “Dragged us all over hell and back to find the Dragon’s treasure, forcing us to harbor a siren, and then his treasure was nothing more than the usual gold and gems. He never cared about you, so why should you worry your little head over him?”

Taeha considered this, and in the end she said nothing.

Jungkook glared at the back of Junho’s head, silently cursing at him. He had always cared for his crew, but it was them who had forced him to cease his trust in them. They had betrayed him in the end, and though he had seen it coming, it still felt like a knife in his back to sit here and listen to his crew speak of him as though they had not ever felt respect for him as a captain.

All this time they had been following him, they had been seeing him as a rash child who thought only of himself.

He supposed that must be why they were heading out to this remote island so far from civilization with the intent to leave Jungkook and Taehyung marooned there until they eventually lost their minds or drowned. Even Captain Li had been granted a kinder fate of being stabbed first before being tossed overboard, and Captain Li was hated by all of them.

It was without being granted any last shred of dignity that Jungkook and Taehyung were left on that island. The ship laid anchor far enough away that there was no hope of swimming back to it once they were left on land, and Junho himself did not even accompany them in the dinghy to the island.

They made sure their bonds were tight, and hauled them into the boat with Jaejoon, whose foot and hand were still barely healed from the Dragon’s cavern. It was just one final insult to Jungkook, a jab that they did not need to escort them with anyone important; they had completely and utterly lost.

Jaejoon rowed the dinghy to shore, kicking Taehyung into the sand with his good foot, and then turning to Jungkook with a satisfied sneer.

“Ain’t so tough now, are you, Jeon?” he said, nudging him in the ribs with his foot. “Just try’n give me orders now.”

Jungkook could say nothing, but truthfully he felt no regrets for how he had treated Jaejoon, not after the awful things his crew member had said about Jimin. To apologize or look remorseful would have been dishonest, and so he kept his expression as neutral as he could as Jaejoon hauled him over the side of the boat, tossing him face first in the wet sand.

Something metallic landed next to his leg, and then Jaejoon was back inside the dinghy, calling out, “That’s our last bit of mercy for you two. In case you decide you want to join Captain Li.” His laughter followed him all the way back to Jungkook’s ship as Jungkook struggled in the sand against his bindings.

There was sand in his nose and in his eyes, and it burned as he tried desperately to reach the dagger that Jaejoon had thrown at them. He managed to roll himself over and get his face off the ground, but his arms were tied so tightly behind his back that he couldn’t get hold of the knife.

There was movement beside him, and he squinted through the pain to see that Taehyung had inched his way over to him. It was difficult to see what was going on, and with both of them still gagged he couldn’t ask him what he was doing, but after a few moments Jungkook felt himself being hoisted upright and the gag being ripped out of his mouth.

“Taehyung,” he gasped, gulping in mouthfuls of air.

“Hold on, Jungkook,” Taehyung said, shaking the ropes off himself and taking the dagger to Jungkook’s bindings. “Gods, they have these tight.”

“Those fucking cowards,” Jungkook hissed now that he could finally speak again. “Low life pirate scum, and after all I did for them!”

“Calm down,” Taehyung said. “You’re moving around too much; I have a dagger.”

Unfortunately, calming down was not in Jungkook’s wheelhouse at the moment. “They left us here! Left us for dead while Jiwon and his crew of filth sailed away with Jimin.” The rope holding his arms together fell away, and he took the knife from Taehyung to finish the rest himself. “I lead them to the biggest treasure trove they will ever see in their miserable lives, and mind you, we would never have made it through if it weren’t for Jimin, and then when things got tough, they tossed us aside. As if Junho would be a good leader. As if he cares about anything other than whores and coin.”

“We are alive,” Taehyung reminded him. “We should be thankful for that much, at least.”

“I would rather have a noble death than one spent starving on some godforsaken island without my title.” His muscles were sore and aching, but he forced himself to his feet, kicking the ropes away and sheathing the dagger.

The sun was already setting, so Jungkook set off away from the shore to begin searching for anything that could be used as shelter for the night. It was a difficult task, what with the only things on the island appearing to be a few scattered palm trees and a messy patch of brush towards the center.

It was dark by the time Jungkook and Taehyung had gathered enough branches and foliage to create a pitiful shelter by a rock formation near the shore. It wouldn’t hold up under weather harsher than a light breeze, but it would have to do for now.

“Look,” Taehyung said, pointing up to the night sky, where the stars were now fully visible. “There’s the Resting Bear constellation; we can’t be far from Cauldron Harbor. Eventually a ship will have to sail by, and we can get their attention in the hopes that they will come to our rescue. All hope is not lost, Jungkook.”

“I wish that were true. It’s this fucking curse,” Jungkook growled, clenching his fist so that his fingernails dug into the black spot. “We’ll never be rescued.” The anger subsided for a moment, and he lowered his fists, leaning back against the stone and casting his gaze down to the sand. “I… I am so sorry that I’ve dragged you into this. You of all people do not deserve this kind of fate.”

To his surprise, Taehyung smiled gently. “I did not think that you would give up on Jimin so quickly,” he said.

Jungkook’s eyes widened and he stared at his friend, not expecting that sort of response.

“Getting Jimin back is the only way to break this curse, so we have to rescue him, don’t we?”

A surge of affection coursed through him, and Jungkook nodded. “You are right. You are a better friend than I could ever deserve, Taehyung.”

“After all you have done for me? Believing in you is the least that I can do.”

When Jungkook first met Taehyung, he was energetic and playful, cracking jokes with the crew and singing along to every shanty. It was Taehyung who had shown Jungkook around, and it was Taehyung who had calmed him the first night spent on this unfamiliar ship with an unfamiliar crew.

“I don’t know if I am fit to be a pirate,” Jungkook said, his voice quiet as he watched the men who had slaughtered everyone on his former merchant ship walked by. He fought to remember that though they had slaughtered everyone else, they had spared him. Just him.

“You’re fit to be whatever you’d like to be, I think,” Taehyung said, smiling at him. His smile was wide, his eyes bright, and Jungkook latched onto him immediately.

For the first time in his life, Jungkook had found a friend that he could trust. The two of them were thick as thieves, practicing their swordsmanship together, making up new shanties, and sitting up in the crow’s nest while Taehyung explained auras and how the stars and cycles of the moon had an effect on their surroundings.

It was because of his friendship with Taehyung that Jungkook was able to so quickly become comfortable with his new life as a pirate, but just as quickly as Jungkook began to fit in here, Taehyung began to withdraw.

Jungkook wasn’t sure when it started. All he knew was that as the weeks passed, Taehyung seemed to grow quieter and quieter. He stopped singing along with the shanties, would flinch when Captain Li passed by, and it had been ages since Jungkook had last seen him smile.

He always was at his worst when Jungkook would see him leaving the Captain’s quarters, where he was called to once a week to give Captain Li a palm reading as the closest thing to a clairvoyant on the ship. He would often leave with dark circles under his eyes, his arms crossed over his chest, and trembling knees, as though he had seen something terrible.

Rumors spread throughout the ship that Taehyung had tapped into some truly dark magic, and had helped their Captain make a deal with the devil to continue their plundering. Jungkook didn’t believe any of it, of course, but as Taehyung refused to tell him what was happening, he had no choice but to form his own conjectures.

“What is wrong?” Jungkook asked one evening when he spotted a rather pale looking Taehyung slinking through the hall, coming from the direction of Captain Li’s cabin. He was looking so frail these days, his glowing tan having faded and his normally full cheeks slightly sunken in.

Taehyung just shook his head, holding his arms tighter against his chest.

“You don’t want to tell me?”

He shook his head again.

“That’s alright,” Jungkook told him. “But Taehyung, please remember that I am your friend. If there is anything I can do to help you, then you need only ask.”

Taehyung still said nothing, but Jungkook noticed a slight change in him. Every now and then, when the two of them were up in the crow’s nest, Taehyung looked just a bit more relaxed, and for now that was enough.

It wasn’t until the day after a successful raid of an unsuspecting harbor that Jungkook discovered the true horrors of what Taehyung was going through. Captain Li called Taehyung to his cabin like usual, but this time, Jungkook followed close behind, sitting outside with his ear to the wall, hoping to hear anything that might clue him in to what was troubling his friend so harshly.

He heard nothing but silence at first, and then the footsteps of someone else walking near forced him to jerk away from the door, standing up straight and praying that they wouldn’t say anything to him.

It was Haechul, his eyebrows raised and his eyes fixated on Jungkook. “You know too, eh?” he said. “Pretty fun to listen to when there’s no work. Y’think Captain Li will let me have a go?”

“Have a go at what?” Jungkook said slowly, dreading the answer.

Before Haechul could even respond, a strangled cry of pain sounded from behind the locked door, followed by a growled, “Shut up!” and a low whimper.

Jungkook felt his fingers curl into fists before his brain had even properly processed what he’d discovered. His blood boiled and his mind went numb; the only coherent thought he had being “I am going to kill him.”

Haechul, perhaps sensing Jungkook’s change in demeanor, held his hands out in surrender. “Don’t look at me like that, kid,” he said. “He’s the captain; can’t do anything about it ‘cept join in.”

“Oh, believe me,” Jungkook said in a low voice, anger like he had never felt before coursing through him. “I will do something about it.”

He did not tell Taehyung that he knew what was happening, but he did spend every bit of his free time from then on planning ways to make their captain suffer. He grew closer to the other crew members, sat with them during their games and listened to the things they said when Captain Li couldn’t hear, and slowly but surely gained their trust.

After their next raid of another pirate ship, Jungkook waited until Captain Li had joined the others in a game of cards before slipping off to their bunks, pilfering half of each of their shares of the treasure. He quickly wrapped the pile up into one of the captain’s coats that he’d nabbed from his cabin while he was out, and then stashed it away in the corner of the navigation room.

All he had to do was wait until it was discovered, and the whispers throughout the ship turned their attentions away from Taehyung, and now onto Captain Li’s supposed thievery. Little by little, Jungkook worked to chip away at the crew’s trust in their captain, until at last the whispers through the wooden walls turned to that of mutiny.

By now, Taehyung had caught onto Jungkook’s scheme. He confronted him one afternoon, his gaunt face wrought with concern.

“Jungkook,” he said, “you know?”

“I do,” Jungkook replied, unable to keep the sorrow from his voice. “I am sorry.”

“You don’t need to be sorry for something you cannot control,” Taehyung responded. “Jungkook, you need to stop this. Captain Li will find out, and then—”

“And then nothing. He will not be Captain of the Black Trident for much longer, my friend. That I can promise you.”

Of course, Taehyung was not the only one who had noticed a change in atmosphere on the ship. The captain himself had become more volatile, his patience much thinner than before, now constantly lashing out at the crew.

He also, apparently, had begun to take it out on Taehyung as well.

It was dark and raining outside, turbulent waves rocking the ship when Taehyung approached Jungkook with a kind of deathly somber gaze he had never before seen in his friend. He was concealing something in his hand, something wrapped in cloth.

“Tonight?” is all Taehyung asked.

The crew was ready by now, Jungkook thought. If he were to head above deck and rally them against Captain Li right in this instant, he was sure that they would follow him. He nodded. “Yes.”

“Use this,” Taehyung whispered, pressing the blade wrapped in a cloth to Jungkook’s hands, unwavering seriousness in his expression.

Jungkook had never killed a man in cold blood before, never outside of battle, never so stealthily, but he had also never felt such anger inside him before. Captain Li deserved to die. He deserved this dagger in his back.

“Okay,” Jungkook replied.

And it was that night, with the rain soaking him and the cold sinking into his bones, that Jungkook clutched Taehyung’s dagger in his frozen fingers and plunged it into Captain Li’s back. It barely cut through enough to make him do more than cry out in shock, so Jungkook used the element of surprise to send him toppling to the deck and then sank the dagger into his body again and again until he had no more strength left and the rain was sending the pool of blood beneath him to paint the deck bright red.

“Didn’t know you had the stones on you, Jeon,” Junho said to him, once the silence from the crew had stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Jungkook’s hands, trousers, torso, everything was stained red, and his skin was so numb with cold and shock that he couldn’t move.

He stood aside and watched as the crew bogged down Captain Li’s body with cannonballs and tossed him overboard, his corpse slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean. The bloodied dagger was still in Jungkook’s hand, weighing heavy in his palm.

Silently, he and Taehyung locked gazes, and it was in that moment that Jungkook knew he had forged a bond that would not be broken.

Taehyung never returned to that same carefree, energetic boy that Jungkook had met all that time ago, but as the months passed with Jungkook as their new captain, his gaunt features slowly filled out once more, and bit by bit, he began to smile again.

Jungkook had already lost track of how long it had been since Junho and the crew left them here on this deserted island. Two days, maybe three? It couldn’t have been more than four. Taehyung continued to remain optimistic that they would be rescued soon, but Jungkook still wasn’t so sure. Cauldron Harbor was a major trading hub; if they were truly so close to it, surely they would have already seen a merchant ship pass by.

“Do you think Jimin still lives?” Jungkook asked, staring out at the endless expanse of ocean before them, the horizon void of anything resembling a ship or nearby land.

“He must,” Taehyung replied. He was gutting one of the fish they had speared with the dagger, laying out its meat on a slab of rock. They weren’t starving, not with the coconuts growing on the trees around them and the fish they were able to catch, but they were far from the comforts they’d grown used to on the ship and at ports.

“How can you be so sure? Jiwon is a monster; he raids harbors and kills women and children for fun. He lusts for two things— wealth and blood.”

“Your mark has not killed you yet,” Taehyung said, pointing with the knife toward Jungkook’s palm. “If Jimin dies, the curse will claim you as well.”

Jungkook examined the black spot, which had now spread to cover most of his palm. It was odd that this splotch of skin tainted with the curse of the sea would now become his greatest comfort out here so far from Jimin— as if they were still connected, in a way.

“I wish there was a way to let him know that I am coming for him,” Jungkook sighed. “He has no idea what happened to us, or the ship. What if he thinks that I abandoned him?”

“There is no use thinking about that sort of thing now,” Taehyung said. “Focus on us leaving this place first, and then we will figure out how to get to Jimin.”

Taehyung was right, but that didn’t stop Jungkook from continuing to worry endlessly.

The first few days, Jungkook had attempted to build a raft that may carry them to the nearest port, but Taehyung had brought him back to reality, reminding him that even if port was near by ship, it would take triple the amount of time by simple raft, and they would likely run out of food or capsize before they even left the area around the small island.

And so they continued to wait, even though waiting was a feat that Jungkook considered impossible.

Every night he fell into an uneasy sleep on a bed of uncomfortable leaves and sand, and awoke to the endless rays of the sun beating down on him. It was torture, being so near the sea and unable to sail on her waters. He had hardly realized land’s confining nature until he had no way to leave it.

Night after night, he slept dreaming of the wind in his face and the helm of his ship in his hands, and then one morning, he heard a shout that rung through his head like a foghorn.

“Jungkook. Jungkook, wake up! There is a ship approaching!”

Jungkook jolted upright, cricking his neck but hardly paying any mind to the pain as his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw what was indeed the dark shadow of a ship coming their way.

There was no need for further discussion as the two of them stumbled down to the shore where they had built a large fire pit, and began working as fast as they could to spark a flame and set their signal fire ablaze.

This was it, this was their chance. Jungkook watched with bated breath as the pile of wood went up in flames, the heat beating down on his skin. The ship was still far away enough that it was difficult to tell if they would even be able to see them, despite how high their fire was raging.

“I think they see us,” Taehyung yelled over the deafening crackle of the flames, and sure enough, the ship had changed its course, heading closer to the island.

Jungkook didn’t allow himself too much hope, however, since there was no way to know who would be on that ship or how they would react to seeing two filthy, sunburnt former pirates, one of whom was sporting a curse on his hand.

He covered the black spot with the cloth he had tied around his head to help shield his face from the sun, and using every last bit of strength he had, jumped and waved his arms like mad to help signal down the ship with Taehyung.

The ship was a modest size, a merchant ship by its colors, but not a Navy sanctioned one. It was good to know that the universe was still allowing him these small mercies, Jungkook thought.

A man that Jungkook could only assume was the captain rowed to shore in a dinghy, his tall stature intimidating even Jungkook, who had seen his fair share of gruff men who were significantly larger than him. His eyes were sharp and angled, his full lips drawn tight as he approached the two of them, but Jungkook held his ground. He may not have his title, and he may have been filthy and exhausted, but he still had the air of a captain.

“Do you two need help?” the man asked, his voice deep and laced with concern rather than the challenge Jungkook thought was to come.

Taehyung and Jungkook exchanged glances, and Jungkook nodded. “If you have any help to give, it would be appreciated,” he said.

“My crew and I are heading to Cauldron Harbor for some trading. There is plenty of room for two more, if you’d like to join us.”

“I won’t decline an offer like that, sir,” Jungkook said. “My friend and I have been through quite the ordeal.”

The man smiled a bit, a dimple poking into his cheek, making him seem more approachable. “I can imagine. I am Captain Kim Namjoon, by the way, but you can simply call me Namjoon. What can I call the two of you?”

“I am Jungkook, and this is my friend Taehyung,” Jungkook said. “It is good to meet you, Captain Kim. We certainly owe you a lot.”

“Please, Namjoon is fine. My crew calls me Captain Kim. And worry not, my friends. The Northern Star has never turned away someone in need.”

And so Jungkook and Taehyung found themselves as two sunburnt and worn down pirates on a ship full of honest, hard-working merchants lead by this man whose generosity seemed almost inhuman.

There were whispers among Namjoon’s crew, of course, suspicious whispers as to the true nature of their newest cargo, whispers of “pirate” and “scoundrel.” Jungkook was not surprised; they would be foolish to not suspect them, two strangers who had been found on a deserted island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a dagger between them.

What surprised him was Namjoon’s kindness, and his willingness to completely ignore his crew’s trepidations in favor of treating Jungkook and Taehyung as if they were honored guests rather than suspicious stowaways. He hadn’t asked about the circumstances that had lead to them being there on that island, or any information about their pasts, and had even given them fresh clothing to change into.

“There is something odd about Captain Kim’s demeanor, don’t you think?” Jungkook asked, slipping a glove over his blackened hand and brushing off his borrowed shirt. “No sailor worth his salt would take on two people from a deserted island with no question as to how they got there. We had no ship to speak of; it was obvious we were marooned there. Why is he extending such kindness to us?”

“Normally I would agree with you,” Taehyung said. “If someone is too good to be true, they quite often are. But in this case, and I cannot explain why, I do trust Namjoon. His aura is not a malicious one.”

Jungkook rolled his neck, hearing a satisfying crack of his sore bones, and sighed. “I can’t read auras the way you can, so I will trust in you, my friend. I can only hope that once we make port, some sort of miracle will present itself to us. Otherwise we may as well have just been left on that island to die.”

“I am sure we will figure something out,” Taehyung said with a wry smile. “There has never been an adversary that you have not been able to conquer. Just relax for the time being. There will be plenty of time for that when we reach Cauldron Harbor.”

For just a moment, Taehyung had appeared as his old self, reminding Jungkook of how he had been before everything, how carefree and calm he had been. It had a similar effect on Jungkook, allowing him to breathe for a moment and focus on the situation at hand rather than the one they would soon have to deal with once they arrived at port.

It was only a short while before there was at last land on the horizon, the bay that housed Cauldron Harbor a distinct outline in the distance. Namjoon’s crew were much more jovial now, most likely relieved to be approaching land and therefore able to get rid of the two pirates onboard their simple merchant ship. Jungkook supposed he couldn’t blame them. Tales of pirate antics were often exaggerated, but even the most boring days on a pirate ship were probably too much excitement for these merchants.

“Do you have any plans once we reach the harbor?” Namjoon asked, his tone as smooth and controlled as ever.

“Aside from having a good drink? Not sure yet,” Jungkook lied, earning himself a laugh from Namjoon.

“Well, Jungkook, if you wouldn’t mind having some company with that drink, I know a great pub. You won’t find finer ale anywhere else.”

If it had been anyone else asking him, Jungkook would have said no on the spot. Pushing his luck with an innocent sailor’s ignorance of his true identity as a criminal was a bad idea on all counts, but Namjoon didn’t seem ignorant as much as he seemed indifferent.

And so Jungkook decided to push his luck. “I may take you up on that offer,” he said.

Cauldron Harbor was a more wealthy port, with noble families living in town and frequent trade keeping prices high and riff raff out. There had been a few pirate attacks on the town before, but few were successful, leaving it as a relatively safe town to be in for civilians. Pirate hangings were a town ordeal, and even in poorer districts crime was low. It was the sort of place Jungkook would normally feel rather nervous being, but these were different circumstances altogether, and simply being near Namjoon made his credibility as an honest gentleman increase a bit.

The pub that Namjoon brought them to was cleaner than Jungkook was used to, as far as establishments frequented by sailors went. It only smelled vaguely of fish, and no one inside had immediately threatened to gouge his eyes out if they accidentally held gazes.

Taehyung, too, was much less tense here than normal, as neither of them saw any reason for their guard to be up.

“Wait here, friends,” Namjoon said, sitting them in the table farthest from the door. “I will be back with some ale.”

Jungkook and Taehyung nodded pleasantly, and then the moment Namjoon was out of earshot, Taehyung turned to him and said, “What do we do?”

“I have a plan, though it is… not my proudest,” Jungkook admitted.

“Proud or not, it is still a plan, and that is better than nothing. Let’s hear it.”

“We’ll get him drunk, then kill him and steal his ship,” Jungkook said in a low voice.

“And what of his crew? You don’t think they would notice when their captain turns up dead and two pirates start ordering them around?”

“They’re weak, same as he is,” Jungkook replied, nodding his head toward Namjoon. “We have swords and harsh words. They’ll obey us until we can gather our own crew.”

“I don’t like this,” Taehyung said, shaking his head. “If not for him, we would still be marooned on that godforsaken island. He did us a great service.”

“And now he will complete that great service by giving us his ship so that we can track down that bastard Jiwon and retrieve Jimin.”

“Is there no way to avoid killing him? I still don’t like the idea of stealing his ship, but we could at least spare his life.”

Jungkook considered this. He didn’t quite like the idea of killing Namjoon either, but there was always the possibility that he could alert the guard about his stolen ship, and then they would have another problem to worry about on top of everything else.

“Let me think about it,” he said finally, motioning for Taehyung to stop speaking when he noticed Namjoon returning with the ale.

“Apologies for the delay,” Namjoon said, handing them each a drink. “But I guarantee it is worth it.”

Taehyung gave Jungkook a pointed look indicating that their conversation was not finished, then raised his glass to Namjoon with a smile. “To you, Captain Kim,” he said, “without whom we would surely have perished on that island.”

“Here, here,” Jungkook said, glaring at Taehyung as the words tasted bitter on his tongue.

Namjoon laughed, raising his glass as well and taking a hearty swig. “Call me Namjoon,” he reminded them. “And there is no need for toasts or anything of the sort. I saw two men in need of assistance, and I provided it. There is nothing more to it.”

“Not everyone would do something like that for complete strangers,” Taehyung said. “So we are grateful to you.”

“I am only glad that it was my ship that happened to see your signal fire. But I must ask: what do you plan to do now? Do you have someplace to go back to?”

It was only a matter of time before he asked, and yet Jungkook had not prepared a suitable lie as a response. He floundered for a moment before deciding to be truthful. “There is something that has been stolen from us. We are on a quest to take it back.”

Namjoon nodded to himself, taking another drink. “I see. Is there any way I can help you with that?”

Jungkook spared a glance at Taehyung, Namjoon’s kindness slowly wearing him down. It would be wrong to kill Namjoon, and he knew it. “It… is rather complicated,” he said, picking his words carefully. “Our situation is… unusual.”

“I have heard my fair share of unusual tales,” Namjoon said. “Try me.”

Jungkook took a swig of the ale and closed his eyes, picturing Jimin’s face. He had to rescue him. He had to, no matter what it took. No matter the risk.

“My name is Jeon Jungkook,” he said. “I was Captain of the Black Trident.”

“The Black Trident…?” Namjoon repeated, recognition alighting in his eyes. “The pirate ship?”

Jungkook nodded. “Yes. My crew mutinized myself and my first mate, here, and left us marooned on the island where you found us. We are chasing after something precious that was stolen by another pirate, Jiwon of the Sea Witch’s Revenge.”

“You do not jest?”

“I do not.”

Namjoon exhaled deeply, shaking his head. “Well. I cannot say that I am surprised. However, I would still like to extend my hand to help you. Whatever was stolen from you must have been important for you to be so adamant about chasing after this pirate Jiwon.”

“Sir, have you listened to what I’ve just told you?” Jungkook asked, unable to comprehend what Namjoon was saying. “We are outlaws, thieves, murderers, pirates on a cursed quest, and you are but an innocent sailor.”

“No one is truly innocent,” Namjoon responded. “I can help you gather up a new crew, and we will figure out what to do about your missing ship.”

“What about your crew? And your ship?” Jungkook asked.

“They are a self-reliant bunch of capable men. They will either adapt or find other work,” Namjoon responded easily. “We need a group of pirates, a crew of men like the two of you.”

“Where are we going to find an entire crew of people as foolish as we are?” Taehyung asked, and for once Jungkook was inclined to agree with his trepidations.

To their surprise, Namjoon grinned. “I know a good place to start.”

Chapter Text

When Namjoon had told Jungkook that he knew a place where they could find people for their crew, he hadn’t expected to follow the seemingly proper merchant sailor down to a pub that was more of a shack in the poor district of town. This was the type of place Jungkook was used to, but he was having a hard time picturing someone like Namjoon ever setting foot inside.

To his surprise, Namjoon seemed familiar with the place, warning them to watch their step on the way in, and nodding at the man scrubbing the floors by the entrance.

As was the usual for this sort of place, there seemed to be an argument happening over by the bar counter between the bartender, a customer, and a young girl who couldn’t have been older than thirteen.

The man behind the counter had a slip of black fabric wrapped over his face, covering half his forehead and one eye, his hair sticking up from where the bandana stretched across his head. His visible eye was circled with a shadow as if he were suffering from lack of sleep, but his eye itself was sharp, like that of a fox or hawk.

“I’ve told you before, you shit-eating maggot, you touch Miss Nana again and I’ll make sure you don’t have a hand to even tug your own rotten pecker with,” the man snarled at the burly looking sailors sat at a wooden stool. “Pay for your booze and get the fuck out of my pub.”

“As if you ain’t ever looked at her funny,” the burly man spat, slamming two coins down on the counter and storming off, shoving past Jungkook on his way out the door. He’d knocked over his stool with how forcefully he’d gotten to his feet, and the girl he’d been groping bent down to right it.

“Leave it, miss,” Namjoon said quickly, jogging over and fixing the stool before she could right it herself.

“Namjoon,” the bartender said, setting down the glass he’d been polishing with a dirty rag. “You son of a bitch, what are you doing back in this shithole?”

“Pleasure to see you again, too, Yoongi,” Namjoon grinned. “You still threatening to chop sailors’ hands off?”

“Only when they can’t keep them to their damn selves.” Yoongi spat at his own feet, curling his lip in disgust. His expression changed when his eye landed on Taehyung, looking him up and down. “Who d’you have here?”

“Jungkook and Taehyung,” Namjoon said. “Two sailors who I met on my way here.” He lowered his voice, then added, “Sailors like you.”

Yoongi’s demeanor shifted instantly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m no different a sailor than anyone else here,” he said.

“No one is listening.”

“That’s why you’re a merchant and not a scoundrel, Namjoon,” Yoongi said. “You assume the best of everyone. There is always someone listening.” He sighed and slung the dirty rag over his shoulder, turning to the young girl who seemed to be hanging around him like a shadow. “Stay up front and mind the bar, won’t you? Don’t let anyone steal anything.”

She nodded, and Yoongi jerked his head in the direction of the door behind the bar. The three of them followed him, and he waited until they were all inside before closing and locking the door behind them. The room was small, with one wooden chair and a shelf of preservatives littered in cobwebs.

“So you say these two are pirates?” Yoongi demanded, still staring at Taehyung.

“We are,” Jungkook said, speaking before Namjoon could. “I am captain of the Black Trident.”

“Never heard of it,” Yoongi said. “You sailed here under pirate colors? To Cauldron Harbor?”

“No, we… There was a mutiny. Captain Ki— Namjoon found us marooned on an island.” The more he had to tell his story, the more he was beginning to feel ashamed. To admit to a fellow sailor that your crew left you for dead is not something he ever thought he would have to do.

“Rough luck, that.” Yoongi shook his head. “And now you’re here because...what, you want honest work? Let me tell you, it ain’t that easy. Some habits are too hard to break. Take it from me.”

“You’re a pirate?” Taehyung asked, eyes widening.

“Was. I was a pirate,” Yoongi said, emphasizing the word as he glared at Namjoon. “That life cost me everything I had. I swore I’d never get involved in that shit again.”

“Come on, Yoongi. We both know that this is not the life you want,” Namjoon said. “You miss it. I know you do.”

Yoongi folded his arms, his sleeve sliding to reveal a tattoo curling around his forearm. “Of course I miss it, asshole. But I can’t go back. I burned that bridge a long time ago.”

Namjoon nodded toward Jungkook and Taehyung. “I’m showing you a new bridge, here.”

Yoongi glanced at Taehyung again, and for a moment Jungkook thought he might agree to join them, but he just shook his head again. “Sorry, Joon. I can’t.”

“But—” Jungkook started to protest, but Namjoon held up his hand.

“Okay. It is your decision, after all,” Namjoon said. “But these two need a crew, and you have the most connections around here. Do you know anyone who might be willing to join us on our voyage?”

Yoongi nodded. “Now that, I can help you with. I know more dumbasses and fools than I can count.” He unlocked the door and ushered them back out into the pub, relieving the young girl from her post.

“I was listening,” she piped up, her voice soft. “And I want to join.”

“No,” Yoongi said immediately. “You are too young for that.”

“What is your name?” Jungkook asked, touched by her offer.

“Minnow calls me Miss Nana.”

“Minnow?”

“She means Yoongi,” Namjoon whispered. “His family name’s Min.”

“Minnow,” Nana repeated, pointing at Yoongi. “He calls me Miss Nana. So you can, too.”

“What’s your other name?”

Nana blinked at him. “Other name? Do you mean ‘bitch’?”

Jungkook shook his head and glanced at Yoongi with wide eyes. “No! No, I mean the name your parents gave you.”

“That is the name they gave me.”

“Ah,” Jungkook looked away, empathy making his heart heavy. He could see now why Yoongi was so staunchly protecting her.

“Come on, now, leave her alone,” Yoongi grumbled. “She has been through enough without being interrogated.”

“Yoongi, we aren’t coming here to fuck with you,” Namjoon reminded him. “Not everyone is out to get you.”

“I meant no harm by it,” Jungkook added.

“A compassionate pirate?” Yoongi raised his eyebrow. “And I thought I’d seen everything.”

“Pirate?” one of the pub patrons grunted, turning to them with a curious look. “You lot seen pirates?”

“I— no,” Yoongi said roughly, seeming to realize his mistake too late. “No, my friend was just telling me a tale he’d heard of a vicious pirate crew. Nothing to worry about.”

“I’d say there’s a whole helluva lot to worry about,” the man said, shaking his head. “Pirates passed by my fishing post a couple days ago, nearly scared the shit out of me. I thought they were gonna gut me, hand to the gods.”

“Pirates?” Jungkook said. “What did they want?”

“Didn’t want nothin’. They were flyin’ some golden colors, though, nothin’ I’ve ever seen before. Almost thought they were foreigners, ‘til I saw their faces.” The man took another swig of whatever was in his tankard and coughed, dragging the back of his hand over his mouth. “Least they moved on.”

“Golden colors?” Jungkook said, his jaw locking and his blood boiling. “The figurehead, what was the figurehead?”

The man sucked in through his teeth, a shudder running through him. “Scary as hell, it was. Big bearded fella holding a trident, with black, black eyes. Stuff of devils.”

Jungkook’s fists clenched and he looked away, not bothering to respond to the man any further. Taehyung laid a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder, his lips drawn together tightly.

“That’s my ship,” Jungkook gritted out in a voice as low as he could muster.

Namjoon’s eyes widened. “Oh.”

“If they passed by a few days ago, they’re not far.” Jungkook slammed his fist on the counter. “Dammit!”

Several of the patrons looked over in interest, and Yoongi sighed. “Come on,” he said. “It sounds like you have a lot to tell me, and here is not the damn place.”

Once they were outside, Yoongi lead them to a back alley between two sheds that looked rather abandoned. “Alright. Out with it. Before I help you any further, I need the full story. You’re after your old crew, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Jungkook admitted. “Well, no. I plan to get my ship back, but that is not my priority right now. I, ah… I don’t suppose you believe in sirens, Yoongi?”

Yoongi scoffed. “Are you telling me a fairy tale?”

“No. I— There was a siren. Is a siren. He was taken by another crew, and I… I need to get him back. My crew mutinied after he was taken.”

“What are you planning to do with this siren?” Yoongi demanded. “You heard the stories of siren blood selling for a lot of coin, did you?”

“No!” Jungkook said. “No. I… he was— is my… friend. He is important to me.”

“You know about sirens, then,” Yoongi said. “You know this won’t end well for anyone. This is a damned cursed quest, you fools. The sea will always take back what’s hers.” His hand came up to brush at the fabric covering his missing eye as he spoke, his voice quieting a bit.

“What pirate isn’t a little bit foolish?” Namjoon urged, taking this new information in a surprising stride. Jungkook was beginning to wonder if there was anything that could shock him.

“Fuck.” Yoongi groaned, looked up at the sky, cursed again, and then shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he was about to say. “Fine. Fine! Fine, damn it all, I’ll come with you.” He stomped back to his pub, threw open the doors, and barked at the first man he saw, “This place’s yours now, Byun. Do what you want with it. M’tired of serving ale to old seadogs.”

“Minnow?” Nana said, looking at him in surprise.

“C’mon, Miss Nana,” he said, ushering her over. “Looks like you’n me are goin’ on that adventure after all.”

She rushed over, smiling for the first time since Jungkook met her.

“You want a crew of idiots, here’s your first one,” Yoongi told Jungkook. “I got a few more people I know’ll join up that you can trust, but it won’t be enough for a full crew.”

“It’s alright,” Namjoon said. “I know some more people, and I’m sure your friends will too.”

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t call them my friends. Now come on, before it gets dark.”

 

When Yoongi began leading them to his friend, Jungkook had not expected him to take them from the beaten down part of Cauldron Harbor up to the wealthy district. Jungkook felt entirely out of place here among all these lavishly dressed people who looked as though they should probably be addressed with “lord” or “lady.”

He lead them past all the luxurious shops and homes, up the well-kept cobbled streets, heading toward an enormous villa set higher up on the hill, surrounded by wrought iron gates.

“Is this the governor's house?” Jungkook hissed, looking around nervously, as if guards would leap out from the bushes and apprehend them right then and there.

“It appears to be,” Taehyung whispered back, looking just as nervous.

Yoongi seemed entirely unperturbed, however, confidently striding up to the gates and swinging them open with an impossibly loud creak that made Jungkook physically cringe. If there was reason to be cautious or concerned, Yoongi certainly was not either of those things, so Jungkook followed behind him, hoping beyond hope that this was not some elaborate ruse orchestrated by Namjoon and Yoongi to capture two pirates.

Oh, gods. What if they were turning them in to the governor? Jungkook’s hand ghosted over his neck and he swallowed a lump in his throat. He had faced hangings before, but never when so much was at stake. If he was to be hanged, let it at least be after he could be sure of Jimin’s safety.

“You!” a shrill voice echoed from the courtyard moments before an older woman with white wispy hair pulled back into a severe bun appeared brandishing a poker. She advanced on Yoongi, her expression fierce and her tone harsh and biting. “I thought I told you never to come near this place ever again, you dirty scoundrel!”

“Sohee!” Yoongi held up his hands, his tone much less gruff, an almost playful smile on his lips. “Long time no see.”

“The young master does not wish to see you, filthy boy,” the woman said, brandishing the poker threateningly. “If you don’t leave right now, I’ll feed you to the rats in the dregs you come from. I warned you not to come back here!”

“Now, I’m sure we can—”

“Sohee, come on, now,” a much more pleasant voice called out from the grand front doors, and the most handsome man Jungkook had ever seen exited the manor with a light smile on his face. “Leave him alone.”

“Young Master Kim! Your father specifically forbade—”

“My father,” the man grinned, “is not here. So why don’t you put down that poker before you hurt someone, and let’s come inside and talk like civilized people. Does that sound agreeable?”

Sohee grit her teeth, throwing one last furious glare toward Yoongi, but did lower the poker and stepped aside, allowing Yoongi and the others to walk toward the manor.

“Yoongi!” the proper looking man threw open his arms, allowing Jungkook to get a better look at his outfit. By all accounts, he was exactly the sort of person that, had they crossed paths on the open ocean, Jungkook would have robbed blind. “You haven’t been by in so long. And you brought friends!”

“Don’t you ever get tired of being full of shit all the time, Seokjin?” Yoongi grouched, but he was smiling as he spoke. He walked up to Seokjin and the two of them shared a good-natured hug, Seokjin giving Yoongi several pats on the back before they broke away.

Yoongi turned and waved Jungkook and the others up the steps after him, and their motley crew followed Seokjin in through the ornate doorway and into the most extravagantly decorated home Jungkook had ever seen.

Everything in the place screamed wealth and luxury, and his fingers twitched to snatch a few things, just because they were there.

Seokin led them through the foyer and into the main room, where some more servants were lingering, some openly staring at the group of people their young master had brought into their home.

“So, Yoongi, are you going to introduce me?” Seokjin asked, fixing his gaze on each of them.

“Right. Uh, so this is Kim Seokjin, the governor’s son, if you couldn’t tell by the nauseating way he talks and dresses,” Yoongi said. “And Seokjin, this is Jungkook, Taehyung, and Namjoon.”

“And Nana,” Nana chimed in.

“And Miss Nana.”

“Well of course I remember you,” Seokjin winked at Nana. “But who are the rest of you? Some of Yoongi’s customers? You’re allowed to tell him he makes shit drinks, you know.”

“Shut your damned mouth,” Yoongi said. “I need you to be serious for once in your life.”

“No problems there. I’m always serious.”

Yoongi laughed. “Forgive me for not being convinced of that.” He moved aside a decorative pillow from one of the armchairs and sat down, prompting Jungkook to quickly take a seat on the larger couch across from him. The others followed suit, except for Nana, who stood hovering around Yoongi.

Seokjin crossed his legs and leaned his elbow on his knee, resting his chin on his slotted fingers. “So,” he said, “what’s this serious, important thing you needed to bring these strange vagrants into my home for?”

“Why don’t you tell him, Jungkook?” Yoongi said.

“I— Is this a setup?” Jungkook blurted. “How do I know I can trust him? His father is the governor.”

“You can trust him,” Yoongi replied, as Seokjin held his hand to his chest in offense. “He already knows about me.”

“His aura doesn’t seem deceitful,” Taehyung added quietly. “I think this is alright.”

Jungkook sighed and shook his head. “Very well. I— We, rather, are pirates.”

“Oh, excellent. Are you asking me to join your crew? Because the answer is yes.”

Jungkook blinked. “I— excuse me?”

“You came here to ask me to join your crew, yes? And I am telling you that there is nothing in this world I would love more,” Seokjin said, as casually as if he were commenting on the weather.

“You don’t even know what we are trying to do, or anything about us. You would agree so easily?”

“Seokjin is obsessed with pirates,” Yoongi explained. “He thinks they are fascinating.”

Jungkook narrowed his eyes, unconvinced. “What would you know of pirating? You live in wealth and privilege here. Have you ever set foot on a ship in your life?”

“No,” Seokjin said cheerfully. “But I am more than willing to learn anything I need to.”

Yoongi nodded. “I met him when I was still part of my crew. He begged me to join, I said no, and he has not left me alone since.”

“So why would we take him along? He would be nothing more than dead weight,” Jungkook said. “I don’t know if you recall, but this is a quest of utmost importance.”

“Jungkook, I don’t know if we can afford to be picky with this,” Taehyung murmured to him. “We need all the help we can get.”

“Seokjin, what have you spent the last twenty-something years of your life studying?” Yoongi asked, still staring at Jungkook even as he addressed Seokjin.

“Cartography,” he responded with a smile, “and archery.”

“He may not know a thing about sailing, but he can hit a target with an arrow from a ship’s distance away, and I am assuming you will need maps to get to this ship with your siren, correct?”

Seokjin’s expression changed at that, his smile fading, replaced with a look of disbelief. “A siren? You are seeking a siren?”

“One who was stolen away, or so I’ve heard,” Namjoon added.

Jungkook sighed and turned his gaze to the high ceilings for a moment before shaking his head. “Well, now that you know, I suppose we have no choice but to take you with us. If your skills with a bow and arrow are as good as Yoongi says, it would be a welcome addition to my crew.”

“Jungkook, I was a pirate for most of my life,” Yoongi said. “I would not have brought you here if I did not think Seokjin would be useful.”

“Of course I’m useful. Tales will spread of me through the seven seas, and other crews will model their ship’s figureheads after me,” Seokjin said with a wistful sigh. At this point, Jungkook couldn’t quite tell if he was joking or not. “But now that we’ve entered into a verbal contract, which is binding by the way, why don’t you tell me a little more about this siren?”

“There will be plenty of time for that once we have an actual crew,” Jungkook said. “I cannot stress enough how valuable our time is. The siren we seek to rescue was taken days ago, and we must find him before something horrible happens.”

“So this is a rescue mission.”

“Yes. So if you have anything you need to get in order, I suggest that you do so now, because we are going to set sail the moment we have a large enough crew gathered to man a ship.”

Seokjin looked around at them, his excitement clear on his face, and he nodded. “Understood, Cap’n,” he said, and called one of the servants to escort them out. “I will gather my things and meet you out in town. Where are you planning to go next?”

“The docks,” Yoongi said. “You know the place.”

Seokjin’s eyes glinted. “Oho. Alright. It was nice meeting the lot of you, and good to see you again, Yoongi and Miss Nana, but I have a lot of work to do.”

They were ushered out of the manor by a disgruntled Sohee, who reminded Yoongi once more that he was not welcome on their property, and that she would be sure to not be seen by the Young Master when she stuck him through with a poker next time.

“This next person you are taking us to, does he have sailing experience?” Taehyung asked.

“He’s been sailing all his life,” Yoongi said. “He is a fisherman who repairs his own boats, and we still need a carpenter.”

Jungkook nodded. “Actually, that does sound useful. Do you know this man well?”

“For several years, yes. He can be trusted, don’t you worry about that. Miss Nana wouldn’t let me associate with anyone she thinks is bad.”

Nana reached over to hold Yoongi’s hand, her round, youthful eyes staring up at Jungkook as if looking straight through him. “You are good people,” she said. “Minnow doesn’t talk to bad people.”

“I don’t know if I would say we’re good people, exactly,” Taehyung said, though he still looked at Nana warmly. “We are pirates, after all.”

“The idea of good and bad is relative,” Namjoon replied. “There were plenty of men I came across in my years as a merchant who were worse than any tales of pirates I’ve ever heard.”

Jungkook was reminded again of his conversations with Jimin, and decided that he agreed with that sentiment. Sirens were considered evil by most people, if they even believed in their existence, but Jimin was nothing like that.

Jimin. It had been so long now since Jungkook had last seen him, held him, felt his warmth or heard his voice. They were making headway on assembling a crew and finding a ship, but it still felt as though it would be ages before they would be able to rescue him. They would have to find Jiwon’s ship, catch up with him, take them down without harming Jimin, and all of this hinged on Jimin even still being alive.

When no one was looking, Jungkook peeked under his glove at the mark on his hand, quickly tugging it back over once he saw how large it had become, how far down his hand it had spread. Taehyung’s hypothesis about the mark being tied to Jimin made sense, so he must still be alive, but one could suffer greatly without death, so it came as no comfort to him.

“Jungkook? Are you still with us?”

Namjoon’s voice broke him out of his tumultuous mind, and his vision came into focus again. They were back by the docks, though Yoongi was taking them to the left, away from the large ships and toward the small fishermen’s shacks lining the shore a ways down.

“I— yes,” Jungkook said, but he remained quiet afterward.

It was nearing nightfall now, and with only five people in his crew, six if he counted Nana, he was beginning to feel desperate. Thinking of Jimin had only made him more restless, more anxious to set sail again and find Jimin. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been landlocked for this long, with the brief time spent on Namjoon’s ship being his only reprieve, even though it hadn’t been as captain. His entire body ached to be at sea again, and it was consuming his thoughts to the point that he was hardly paying attention as their ragtag group made its way to one of the huts with several wards hanging outside that reminded Jungkook of Taehyung’s aunt back at Turtle Bay.

Yoongi made his way up to the front door, rapping his knuckles against the wood and calling inside, “Hey! Open up!”

“Who is it?” a voice grumbled from within, the door opening a crack as a man’s face appeared, shrouded in shadow. “Oh. Yoongi? What brings you here at this time of night?”

“I’ve got a proposition for you.”

The door opened up all the way, revealing a lanky man with lean muscle and a long face, his hair streaked with highlights and his skin a rich tan from working out in the sun. “Does it involve this entourage you’ve brought along?”

“Yes.”

Nana poked her head out from behind Yoongi and waved. “Hello, Hobi,” she said.

“Oh, hey there, Miss Nana,” the man smiled. “Come on in, then.”

They followed after Yoongi, entering the small hut and quickly realizing that it was not meant to hold this many people. Jungkook hunkered in awkwardly near the beaten down armchair, looking around at the various oddities that the man kept around his hut, which resembled the sort of things that Taehyung and his aunt kept. A string of coral similar to the one he’d lost back on the Black Trident caught his eye, and he glanced over at Taehyung, who, sure enough, was examining everything in close detail.

“We are pressed for time, so I won’t mince words. Hoseok, this is a group of...sailors who are looking for a competent crew,” Yoongi explained. “We plan to set sail as soon as we have enough people to do so.”

Hoseok laughed. “Yoongi, you haven’t changed. You know that I can’t just leave. I have a job, a life. I cannot simply pack up and leave as easily as you.”

“Not even for the chance to see a siren with your own eyes?”

“A siren, you say?” Hoseok immediately perked up, a twinkle appearing in his eye and a smile spreading over his lips. “You don’t jest?”

“Not at all,” Jungkook responded. “He is a siren with the voice of the sea, so beautiful as to take your breath away.”

Hoseok nibbled at his thumbnail, his eyes darting wildly across the room as if to take inventory. “But how can you be sure? There are so many rumors and false sightings—”

“I know him personally,” Jungkook cut in. “And I know who is keeping him held captive. He is as real as you or I.”

“Yoongi?”

“I have not seen the siren myself, but Jungkook— Captain Jeon’s friend Taehyung has as well, and I trust him,” Yoongi said. “Come on, now. Ever since I met you, you’ve been chasing tales of sirens from dawn ‘til dusk.”

“I… Of course I want to come along, but I don’t understand. How did you come to meet a siren?”

“He tried to kill me,” Jungkook said, “and when my crew captured him, we developed a trust in each other. He took on a human form, and sailed with us, but when another crew stole him away, my own abandoned me before we could give chase. That is why I am here. That is why I need your help.”

Realization dawned on Hoseok, and he turned back to Yoongi in horror. “These people… They are pirates?”

Yoongi sighed. “Yes.”

“Oh, no,” Hoseok said. “Pirates. How can I face my ancestors in the afterlife if I pledge myself to a life of plundering and murder? I am sorry, I know that you were once one of them, but I cannot—”

“There is no afterlife,” Yoongi interrupted. “Your ancestors are dead and gone, and you can either keep on fishing here on the edge of nowhere and die wondering what could have been, or you can chase the horizon and die knowing your life hadn’t been for nought.”

Hoseok sighed. “Damn it all. Damn everything.” He turned to Jungkook. “Captain Jeon, is it?”

“Yes.”

“Is it truly a siren you seek?”

“It is. I was nearly killed by him once before, and I have witnessed firsthand the power behind his voice. He is from the sea, no doubt about that.” Jungkook closed his eyes, clinging to every last memory of Jimin before it slipped from his mind back into the breeze. “His beauty certainly is proof enough.”

Hoseok muttered something to himself and began to pace up and down the limited space left in his home, stopping every now and then to stare out the window at the sea, until finally he stopped in front of Jungkook and shook his head. “I don’t believe what I am about to say, but...Very well. I will join your crew. All my life I have wanted to meet a siren, and if this is how it must be done, then so be it.”

“Very good,” Jungkook said, grasping his hand. “You will not regret this.”

“I should hope not,” Hoseok breathed out in a heavy sigh. “Allow me to gather my things.”

“Hello?” Seokjin’s voice called out from the front door as if on cue. “Have you convinced little fisherman Jung to join us?”

“He has,” Hoseok responded. “Good gods, Yoongi, you recruited Seokjin, too?”

Yoongi shrugged. “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

And with that, the seven of them set out to various pubs throughout the night, meeting with sailors that Yoongi or Namjoon or Hoseok knew, and one by one they had built up a small but suitable crew for a decently sized ship. It didn’t hold a candle to his old crew, with their experience and numbers, but at least Jungkook felt a sense of security staring at this group of people standing around him by the pier at Cauldron Harbor. He felt as though he could trust them not to run when things got tough, even though he hadn’t known them for hardly any time at all.

It was well into the night now, and Yoongi stood nodding his head at the crew they’d assembled. “So, Captain,” he said, looking up at Jungkook, “where is our ship?”

Jungkook coughed, not meeting Yoongi’s eye. “Well,” he said, scratching at his nose. “We don’t exactly have one just yet.”

“What?”

“I was hoping to commandeer one here,” he said, speaking more loudly than he would have liked to drown out the mutters of dissent from the crew. “There are plenty of sturdy looking ships.”

“I don’t know what sort of plundering your old crew got up to, but stealing a ship from a port like this is not as simple as you are making it seem,” Yoongi said. “Gods, what have I gotten myself into?”

“Jungkook is a good captain,” Taehyung said in a reassuring tone, smiling gently at Yoongi. “And an even better pirate. Trust him; we will have a ship before tomorrow afternoon.”

“Everyone get some rest,” Jungkook said. “We will meet back here before sunrise, and I promise I will have a plan for you.”

Everyone dispersed, heading to the nearest inn, but Jungkook found himself unable to get any sleep. This was it; this was all that stood between him and the open seas again. While he sat there at the desk in his room at the inn, poring over maps of the harbor and the log of the ships he’d had Nana swipe from the harbormaster, a knock sounded at his door.

“Come in,” he said, and Taehyung slipped inside, closing the door behind him.

“How do you feel?” he asked, sitting on the edge of the stiff bed.

“Overwhelmed,” Jungkook admitted. “I need to figure out what to do here. We must leave before anyone becomes suspicious at our large numbers, but we have hardly any weapons or supplies. How can we steal a ship when only three of us know anything about this sort of thing?”

“I believe that you will find a way,” Taehyung said. “Don’t discount the others just because they did not grow up into a life of pirating. They seem like a resourceful bunch.”

“I suppose.”

There was a brief moment of silence, and then Taehyung spoke up again. “Say, Jungkook, how is your hand?”

Jungkook froze, his hand twitching underneath the glove. “It is more or less the same,” he lied.

“Jungkook.”

He sighed, turning around and tugging the glove off, revealing the extent to which the black spot had spread. It nearly covered his entire hand now, his fingers blackened like he’d been badly burned, the edges of the spot extending like veins and just barely brushing his wrist. Taehyung inhaled sharply and Jungkook shoved the glove back on, unable to bring himself to meet his friend’s eyes.

“We need to get you some help for this. Nothing will stop it from spreading until we break the curse the sea has placed upon you, but if we go to my hometown and get you a seal, we can at least keep it at bay for now.” Taehyung crossed his arms, his eyebrows furrowed in worry. “We cannot sail like this. It would be putting not only you, but now this whole other crew of people who believe in you in danger.”

“We’ve wasted enough time already,” Jungkook argued. “We have no time for detours.”

“You are no use to Jimin if you’re dead, Jungkook.”

Jungkook looked back to the ship log and sighed, resting his forehead against his palm. “Fine,” he said after a long pause. “Fine, we will stop there and retrieve whatever charm your soothsayers can give me, but we cannot linger for longer than a day.”

“It will take less than that,” Taehyung promised.

In the end, Jungkook didn’t get any sleep at all, but he fought past his heavy eyelids to stand before his new crew at the harbor just as the first rays of sun were breaking through on the horizon. As he was leaving the inn that morning, Seokjin had pulled him aside and said that he had a plan.

“What sort of plan?” Jungkook had asked.

Seokjin grinned. “An exciting one,” he said. “My father’s best ship, the Pride of the East, is docked at the harbors. Fool left it here while he travels so that the servants could polish it up, so it is as good as ours.”

“So what is your plan, then? To waltz up and act as though your father gave you permission to take his boat out for a leisurely sail?” Jungkook scoffed. “I doubt that will work.”

“Of course that wouldn’t work, I am not daft,” Seokjin said. “I have read quite a bit of pirate novels in my time, and one I read recently held the basis for my plan. You see, being the son of a governor has a lot of perks, but the one that’s going to come in handy right now is that everyone knows who I am, and everyone knows my father.”

“How is that going to help us?”

“Well, if a group of pirates were to take me hostage, they could probably get whatever they wanted,” Seokjin said with a sly grin, and Jungkook understood.

Now, Jungkook stood before his crew, and with all of them caught up as to the details of their plan, a few of them began sneaking to the ship, boarding it just in time for the harbormaster to notice them. Jungkook took out his dagger and gripped Seokjin’s arm, holding the blade to his throat while the harbormaster stared on in horror.

“What—”

“Say another word, and I spray his blood across the pier,” Jungkook said, tugging Seokjin backwards. To his credit, Seokjin was quite the actor, whimpering pleas of mercy that would have convinced any skeptic.

The man gulped, glancing backwards to see if anyone else was around, but it was still early enough that even the fishermen were still asleep.

“We are going to take this ship,” Jungkook said, still backing up as more of his crew boarded the Pride of the East behind him, “and you aren’t going to say a word.”

“P-please, do what he says!” Seokjin cried.

The harbormaster nodded slowly. “Okay,” he said. “Let the boy go, and you can have the ship.”

Jungkook shook his head. “I’ll let him go once I am certain you won’t alert anyone.” Someone above threw a rope down for them to climb, and Jungkook sent Seokjin up first, keeping an eye on the harbormaster. The moment he’d let go of Seokjin, the man turned to chime the alarm bell, but he froze in place as several of Jungkook’s crew turned their bows on him, no less than seven arrows all aimed directly at him.

Satisfied that he wouldn’t move, Jungkook climbed up on board after Seokjin, and saw Taehyung give him a firm nod that they were ready. It wasn’t until they could no longer see the harbormaster’s expression that they lowered their bows and relaxed a bit.

Jungkook felt as though he could finally breathe again, deeply inhaling the salty sea air and running his hand along the edge of the ship. It was more polished and put-together than what he was used to with his own well-loved ship, but it was something. It was one step closer to Jimin.

With the open ocean in front of him and his new crew bustling about, he gripped the helm with a renewed determination.

Jimin wouldn’t have to wait much longer. Not if Jungkook could help it.

Chapter Text

Jungkook has only had experience being captain of a pirate ship, or any ship at all, for a couple years. In terms of how long he’s been alive, that isn’t very much time at all, and during that time, he had only ever sailed with one crew, on one ship.

Now, he was standing there in charge of an entirely new group of faces, with the exception of Taehyung, on a ship that he was unfamiliar with. It was strange gripping the helm and not feeling the usual bumps and knots in the wood, or walking across the deck and seeing the wooden floors practically shine from how clean they were, instead of the usual wear and tear he was used to with the Black Trident. He knew every imperfection, every nail out of place, every dark corner and rotted piece of wood.

This ship was new and extravagant and had a beautiful finish, but it lacked the character of the Black Trident, lacked her experience and heartiness.

He could say the same of the crew, who were mostly merchant sailors and people who had probably never lifted a sword in their lives. They weren’t the same rough and tumble weathered pirates Jungkook had been sailing with for his entire adult life.

It wasn’t bad, necessarily. Just different.

This crew may not have had the experience of Junho and Tanaka and the like, but what they lacked in sea legs they more than made up for with enthusiasm. Even if every other person on the ship were always dragging their feet, Seokjin alone would be able to power the ship just based on his sheer eagerness.

He was like a child, loudly exclaiming his awe at everything around him, exploring every corner of the ship and looking out to the sea every chance he got.

The others were more subdued, Hoseok especially looking quite ill as he was most likely still grappling with the fact that he had left his good, honest job to come work amongst pirates. Yoongi was quiet, as well, only really speaking when he was arguing with Seokjin or cursing at Namjoon, but there was something in his stance that gave him away; he was more comfortable here on the ship than he had been on land, something Jungkook related to.

Namjoon was out of his element a bit, appearing a bit lost as he wandered around, like he was still taking everything in, processing how he should feel. He had been captain of a simple merchant ship only a few days ago, and now he was just another member of this large ship run by pirates.

Taehyung, too, didn’t appear to know how to act around them. Jungkook knew better than most how cautious Taehyung had learned to be around others, and his wary nature made him a bit on edge.

They were still learning how to work with each other and really become a team, but that much was to be expected. Jungkook couldn’t spend much time dwelling on whether or not everyone was comfortable, because in the end he knew that they would be eventually. His real focus was, as it had been this entire time, on Jimin.

For every ship they passed as they sailed onward, Jungkook took out his spyglass and examined it closely for any sign of Jiwon’s hovel of a ship. There was always the twinge of anxiety that one day he would look at a ship and see the golden colors of the Great Dragon, being forced to face off with his old crew again before he could retrieve Jimin, but so far all they sailed past were merchants or the occasional Empire warship.

“You are going to worry yourself into an early grave, Jungkook,” Taehyung said, resting his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder one afternoon as he looked out over the ocean, scanning the empty horizon for any sign of passing ships.

“Rich, coming from you,” Jungkook replied.

“I know when to set my worries aside and focus on the present. We will be arriving at the island of my hometown soon, and we can ask the elders for help.”

“I thought they were just going to delay the sea’s curse on me,” Jungkook said, rubbing at his gloved hand absently. The black spot was still growing, but it had slowed recently, still able to be covered by a simple glove.

“We are. If we stay a bit longer, I’ll see if there are any rituals that can be done to at least point us in the general direction so we aren’t wandering the seas aimlessly looking for one ship among thousands.”

Jungkook thought on this, then nodded. “Very well. If you truly believe that the soothsayers can help…”

“I don’t know for certain, but one of their specialties is recovering things that have been lost.”

Jungkook’s face hardened. “Jimin has not been lost. He has been taken.”

“To the gods, it makes no difference.”

“To hell with the gods,” Jungkook growled. “It matters to me. Jimin feared being a prisoner again most of all, and I failed him. I’ve always been able to rescue him, but this time I couldn’t. He will never trust me again.”

“We won’t know that until we find him,” Taehyung said. “And with that, I have faith that my tribe will be able to help.”

“For Jimin’s sake, I hope you’re right.”

He did not speak of Jimin again for a long while, every thought of him like a shot of icy guilt through his veins.

For now, he kept the true nature of his relationship with Jimin to himself, the crew only knowing that they were to rescue a siren and nothing more. Despite Jungkook’s subdued energy, the crew quickly became in high spirits, having gotten to know each other and beginning to become used to the fact that their lives were that of pirates now. It was not uncommon for Jungkook to be out on deck and hear Yoongi and Seokjin leading the rest of them in singing pirate shanties, none of them particularly skilled in singing or knowing the lyrics, but they made up for it by raising the atmosphere of the ship significantly.

By the time they could see the island that Taehyung had grown up on in the distance, Jungkook almost began feeling as though this ship and its crew were becoming more dear to him than that of the Black Trident.

Taehyung’s island was a mountainous one, inhabited by soothsayers and mediums and a large portion of the flatter regions taken up by temples and shrines that housed the gods they worshipped, with only a few villages here and there. Jungkook had never set foot on this island, only having heard about it from Taehyung when he recounted his childhood, and it was jarring to see that such a place actually existed.

The closer their ship came to the docks, the more in awe the crew became, staring at the island with wide eyes and loose jaws. The tallest mountain in the center housed a gigantic temple, carved into the mountainside as though it were part of the terrain itself. It towered over the village at the foot of the mountain, closest to shore, as if it were ensuring that no one could forget its existence.

A small crowd had gathered by the docks when they laid anchor, and Jungkook was already uneasy looking out among them. Taehyung’s relatives have never liked him much.

An old woman, withered and hunched over and relying on a gnarled cane to walk, hobbled over toward them, the rest of the villagers that had gathered keeping their distance. Jungkook’s crew were hesitant as well, keeping behind him as he and Taehyung strode forward.

It took only a moment for the woman to realize who he was.

“You!” she crowed, lifting her walking stick to jab Jungkook in the ribs, her sharp eyes boring directly into his. “Pirates! Filthy degenerates, you are not welcome here! Leave now, lest I cut out your eyes and boil them in the spring.”

“Auntie, stop,” Taehyung said, darting up to the woman with his arms held out in defense. “It’s me, Taehyung. This is my crew.”

The woman’s face softened at the sound of Taehyung’s voice, turning her gaze to him instead and lowering her cane. “My child, you’ve returned to us after all this time?”

“Not— quite. We need your help with something, but cannot stay long.”

“You come for my help?” Taehyung’s aunt gave him a cold stare. “The third eye will not assist those who pillage and plunder the sea and corrupt the minds of innocents.”

“So she’s got a third eye and I’ve still only got the one? Figures,” Yoongi said quietly, nudging Seokjin with a scowl.

“Auntie, I have told you this before. Jungkook is my friend, and he hasn’t lead me astray—”

“Hasn’t he?” the woman interrupted, pushing past him and grabbing Jungkook’s forearm with a strength he wouldn’t have imagined from someone so frail. She ripped off his glove before he could do anything to stop her, and could only stand there as she held up his hand for his entire crew to see. The black spot had spread even further than before, his entire hand now blackened as though it were badly burned.

“Fuck,” Yoongi cursed at the same time Seokjin said, “Shit.”

Jungkook grimaced, remembering the reaction his old crew had had to his cursed mark.

“This is why we need your help, Auntie,” Taehyung said. “There is a siren that Jungkook is...close with, a siren that was taken from our ship that we must rescue. We can’t let him die before that happens.”

“That is a fool’s mission, my child,” she said, her voice solemn and her gaze dark. “If it is a siren you seek, then there is nothing I can do for you. No seal or charm can protect you from the sea herself. She is an ancient being, more powerful than any of us can begin to imagine. You had best stop this now, and let this pirate die at sea as he is fated to.”

“His fate is my fate, Auntie. I will not abandon my oldest friend.” Taehyung gripped his aunt’s old, weathered hands and looked directly into her eyes. “Please, anything you can give us that will at least delay the sea’s wrath for a while.”

The woman sighed, looking at Taehyung for a long while before releasing Jungkook’s arm and resting her hand on her hip, appearing even more weathered and ancient than before. “He has survived this long,” she said. “How, I do not know.”

“Auntie Lee helped us, but she…” Taehyung trailed off, taking a shuddering breath. “We don’t know if she lived after the attack on Turtle Bay.”

“She did not,” his aunt said. “We already held her funeral rites.”

“Ah.”

“She is among our ancestors now, as was her time. It is not, however, your time to join them, my child. There must be something I can do to convince you to abandon this fool and his quest.”

Taehyung shook his head. “I am sorry, Auntie. My heart lies with you and this island, but my loyalty lies with Jungkook.”

Another long silence crept in as the woman paced back and forth, shuffling with her cane and muttering to herself, glaring in Jungkook’s direction every now and then. Jungkook had tugged his glove back over his hand by now, but he noticed Seokjin inching closer and craning his neck to get a better look.

Finally, the woman stopped and turned her gaze back to Taehyung. “Very well. I will do what I can for your pirate friend, but in exchange, you must stay here with us.”

Taehyung looked at Jungkook for a moment. “We can discuss how I will repay you later, Auntie,” he said quickly. “But as I said before, time is of the essence here.”

His aunt scoffed. “Follow me,” was all she said.

“All of us?” Jungkook asked.

“Those of you that don’t want to die,” Taehyung’s aunt said without turning her head.

Instantly his crew followed after him, the woman leading them through the village, passing by shops and small houses and tiny shrines here and there. The dirt road they were following lead to the mountainside, where a narrow staircase carved into the rock awaited them.

“Oh, no,” Hoseok said, gripping Namjoon’s arm so tight that it looked painful. “I can’t go up that.”

“Doesn’t really seem like you have much of a choice, my friend,” Namjoon responded.

Jungkook grit his teeth and started up the stairway after the old woman, unsure of how someone of her age and frailty could possibly climb such a steep walkway. When even he was beginning to fall short of breath, she showed no signs of slowing down, keeping a steady pace with her wooden cane. It was getting steadily colder the higher they climbed, to the point that his breath was coming out in puffs of vapor and his teeth were chattering. If they were to go on much further, he wasn’t sure he would even be able to keep breathing air so thin.

At last they reached their destination, which Jungkook could now see was an entrance to the massive temple in the mountain, and he stopped to catch his breath against one of the intricately carved pillars.

“Do not touch anything with your filthy hands,” Taehyung’s aunt snapped, rapping his knuckles with her cane. He let go, rubbing his smarting bones with a scowl, and turned back to make sure all of his crew had made it.

Namjoon was holding tightly onto Hoseok, who looked rather green in the face, but otherwise everyone appeared to have made it.

Inside, the temple was filled with pillars that housed the same elaborate designs as the one Jungkook had tried to lean against, and everywhere he looked there were tapestries with embroidery that looked as though it couldn’t have been done by human hands. There was a large doorway at the far end of the room that told him that this was not even the main hall of the temple; he had no idea how gigantic it truly was.

“If you wish to receive help from the gods and spirits who reside here, there is a ritual that can be done. If successful, it will help to disguise your soul from the sea for a short while.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said.

The woman scoffed and gestured to a raised dais that housed a long stone slab rather than a throne or display of any kind. “Remove your shirt and lie down here.”

Jungkook furrowed his brows, his lip twitching in distaste. “In this cold?”

“It will be far colder at the bottom of the sea.”

Without another word, Jungkook shrugged out of his jacket and shirt, untucking it from his trousers and handing them to Taehyung, who had his arms outstretched. The last person who had seen him like this was Jimin, and it made his stomach churn to be so exposed and vulnerable in front of his crew and this woman he had never met before. His scars felt as though they were being ripped open again by the cold, and he held his arms to his chest as he shivered, waiting for further instruction.

“Your glove, too,” the woman reminded him.

Jungkook scowled and tugged his glove off as well, stepping forward and climbing up the dais onto the stone slab. He clenched his teeth as he lied down, expecting the stone to be like a sheet of ice, but instead he was met with a warmth against his bare skin, almost as though there was a fire burning within the slab.

Taehyung’s aunt approached him with a wooden brush whose bristles looked as though they had been haphazardly tied together without a care for functionality, and a small bowl that contained some kind of red liquid. “Are you ready?” she asked.

“Yes,” Jungkook said immediately.

“Can I go next and get my eye fixed?” Yoongi muttered under his breath.

“You will enter into a hallucinatory state,” Auntie explained, dragging the brush down Jungkook’s bare arms to create two long red lines. “Spirits will attempt to keep you there; if you succumb to their trickery, you will perish and be unable to return to our realm.”

“Never mind,” Yoongi whispered.

“If this will all be in my head,” Jungkook said, “I can do it.”

The woman smirked down at him. “I would expect nothing short of arrogance from someone like you,” she said. “But this is no game, pirate. Better men than you have lost their souls to a trial like this.”

Jungkook grit his teeth. “I can do it,” he repeated. “I have to.”

“Very well,” the woman said, bringing the brush to his forehead and cheeks. “Close your eyes.”

Jungkook did as he was told, and when she began chanting something in a language he had heard Taehyung speak before but could not understand, she sounded so far away, as though he were underwater. Stars burst behind his eyelids, making him dizzy and unable to keep a straight thought, and then he was slowly sinking into blackness.

 

 

Jungkook awoke with a familiar warmth tucked into his side, an arm lovingly slung over his middle and a pair of soft lips brushing against the crook of his neck. He was in a bed, soft mattress below him and softer sheets draped around his naked body.

“Good morning,” Jimin murmured. “You slept past the sunrise today.”

“The sunrise?” Jungkook echoed, his voice rasping and his head groggy with sleep.

“You normally wake with the sun, love,” Jimin laughed, pinching his waist. “Sleep kept you from me longer than I am used to.”

“Well, I am awake now,” Jungkook replied, leaning over to kiss him. “Do as you will.”

Jimin giggled against his lips and cupped his cheek with his palm, crawling on top of him so that their chests were pressed together. “Are you sure about that?” he said, a coy smile quirking his lips up. “We may never leave this room.”

Jungkook snaked his arms around Jimin’s waist and held him tighter, answering him with another kiss, this time licking at the seam of Jimin’s lips until his mouth opened and he could push their tongues together. It felt like ages since he’d been able to explore Jimin’s warmth like this, since he could touch him, hold him, pull moans from his throat. It felt like so, so long, but at the same time his memory told him that this was his everyday life. This was how he had woken up every morning for years.

Even so, it was as if he were touch starved, the way he had such an urge, a need to devour Jimin right then and there. He rolled them over so that Jimin was on his back staring up at him, lips swollen red and pupils blown, his soft black hair already tousled. The sheets had been kicked away, bunched up at the corner of their bed, both of their bodies bared for each other.

“Mm, love,” Jimin gasped when Jungkook kissed at his neck and rolled his hips down. “Jungkook. Wait.”

Jungkook lifted his head, lust thrumming under his skin and his heart racing. “Hmm?”

“My mother,” he said, pressing a hand to Jungkook’s chest. “She will be angry.”

“Angry?”

“If you’re late again.” Jimin crawled out from underneath him and rubbed his back. “You’ve already woken up so late in the morning.”

Right, that was right, he had a job to do. He couldn’t quite remember what it was, the morning haze still clouding his mind, but he knew it was something to do with the smell of brine and sea that tickled his nose, something to do with the ocean, with ships.

“The docks,” he said, the words forming on his lips without thinking. “I have to get down to the docks.”

Jimin smiled at him, his long eyelashes fluttering and his cheeks tinted pink. He was so perfect, like something out of a dream. “And when you come home, I will be here.”

Jungkook couldn’t help smiling back, his heart full at the sight of this beautiful man that he loved so, so much. He was still fighting for consciousness, his memories feeling not quite his at the moment, but Jimin was at the center of all of them, keeping him grounded.

“I know you will. I’ll work hard today so your mother will have nothing to say about the two of us any longer,” he said, gathering his clothes for the day and shrugging into them.

“You already work hard,” Jimin said with a playful pout, still standing there naked. “My mother’s approval can’t be won easily.”

“You underestimate me,” Jungkook said, grabbing him by the waist and pulling him close again, that hunger resurfacing once more. He bent to capture his lips, breathing in his scent like a starved man.

Jimin humored him at first, leaning up into the kiss and humming happily, but then he slid his hands between their chests and pushed lightly, breaking them apart. “This is what I mean,” he chastised, though the smile didn’t leave his face.

“Can you blame me?” Jungkook sighed. “You are so beautiful.”

“As are you, my love. But it’s time to go, now.”

Jungkook begrudgingly obliged, leaving their small house and emerging into their little harbor town, small fishing ships lining the docks and seagulls flying overhead. He missed Jimin already, but he knew he had to hurry down to the docks or he would be scolded heavily by Jimin’s mother.

Several people greeted him as he passed, and he returned the greetings, their names coming to his lips easily. The more he walked, the more awake he felt, his mind unclouding and his memories returning. There was Eunji, who lived next door, and Taehyung, who ran the fish stand at the market.

“Jungkook, you look like you’re forgetting something,” Taehyung said.

“Do I?” Jungkook replied, confused. Before Taehyung could respond, Jimin’s mother approached, her hands on her hips and a cold stare fixed on him.

“You overslept again, didn’t you?” she said, disapproval etched in every line on her face. “I have told you before, Jeon Jungkook— just because you married my son does not mean you can slack off at work.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jungkook replied, nodding his head at Taehyung to indicate that they would speak later.

With the feeling of Jimin’s mother glaring straight through him, Jungkook rolled up his sleeves and got to work, muscle memory taking over as he held his tools and surveyed the ship he was to repair.

It had taken quite a beating in the last storm, and there was a sizeable hole in the starboard side. Not an easy fix, but one Jungkook was confident in his ability to handle. He had been working here at the docks most of his life, after all, apprenticing with Jimin’s mother and then eventually falling for her son.

Perhaps once he had wanted to sail the seven seas and go on adventures, but that was his childhood. Now he had a reason to stay here, a reason to settle down and work hard. And once he had saved enough, worked hard enough, he was going to take Jimin out on a ship and sail around the world together with him.

“Daydreaming, are you?” Hoseok, one of the other dock workers teased.

Jungkook grinned. “Don’t we all?”

“Of course. But Jungkook, you look like you’re forgetting something.”

Jungkook tilted his head to the side, recalling Taehyung saying the same thing to him earlier. Was he forgetting something? No, that couldn’t be right. Yesterday he did the same thing that he always did, going to work in the morning and returning in the evening, not leaving Jimin’s side once he’d entered their home.

“Do I?” Jungkook asked.

Hoseok nodded. “Looks like something important.”

“Hmm. Well, here’s hoping I remember,” Jungkook laughed, and the two of them continued with their work.

It was hard work, and the sun was beating down on his skin, making him sweat, but the knowledge that all of this was for Jimin’s sake made it worth the labor. Every now and then he stole a glance over his shoulder to see if Jimin’s mother was around, if she was watching to see how hard of a worker he was.

Truthfully, he didn’t mind that Jimin’s mother didn’t care for him. He wouldn’t care at all if Jimin felt that way too, but Jimin still valued his mother’s opinion very heavily and it bothered him that she didn’t approve of their marriage. It bothered Jimin, and anything that bothered Jimin was something that Jungkook had to fix.

When they got married, he’d promised that he would do whatever it took to make Jimin happy, and he had meant it. If that included working his ass off every day out in the hot sun to impress Jimin’s strict mother, then so be it.

When night fell it became easier to work, the sun having disappeared behind the clouds at last, and the cool evening air felt good on his sweaty, sunburnt skin. At last, he was able to set his tools aside and wipe off his filthy hands on a cloth rag.

“Leaving already?” Jimin’s mother quipped as he passed her.

“Yes,” Jungkook said, undeterred by the way she was very obviously trying to get under his skin with her remarks. “I am going to return home to see my husband.”

Jimin’s mother’s lip twitched downward in distaste, but she said nothing more, allowing him to pass.

Back home, Jungkook’s shoulders slumped in relief when he saw Jimin’s face. He was there waiting for him, painting a small birdhouse. “Welcome back, my love,” he said, getting to his feet and rushing to Jungkook to embrace him. He had a splotch of blue paint on his nose, so Jungkook licked his thumb and wiped it away, hopelessly endeared by him.

“How was work?” Jimin asked, biting his lip and raising his eyebrows in anticipation.

“It was fine,” Jungkook said. “Your mother still doesn’t like me very much, but I’m working on it.”

“Jungkook,” Jimin frowns. “You know that you don’t have to try so hard for her sake. I love you, and that’s all that matters. I could be married to the Emperor himself, and she still would find some way to disapprove.”

“It is because I love you that I will fight to my dying breath for her to approve of me,” Jungkook grinned, hooking his arms around Jimin’s waist and sweeping him off his feet, peppering his face with kisses. “I will not rest until she does.”

“Then you may never find rest,” Jimin giggled, holding Jungkook’s face in his hands and bringing their lips together.

They wound up in bed before Jungkook could even wash away the grime from his day at work, and their conversation halted until they were spent, lying there tangled together under the sheets.

“You always have so much energy, even after a day at work,” Jimin said. “You are something else, Jeon Jungkook.”

“I always save some just for you,” Jungkook replied. “I know you are insatiable.”

“Look who’s talking!” Jimin laughed. “You can’t keep your hands off me.”

“Nor should I have to. I could hold you forever and I would die happy.”

Jimin smiled. “Could you?”

“Of course.”

Jimin kissed him again. “You say such bold things.”

“I mean them.”

Jimin trailed his fingers across Jungkook’s bare chest, humming as he pressed kisses along the column of his neck. “Why can’t we just stay like this forever?” he said.

“Don’t you wish to sail the seven seas together with me?” Jungkook asked, kissing his temple. “Adventure awaits, my love.”

“No,” Jimin said. “I don’t want to go anywhere. Just stay with me here.”

He had been mostly joking when he’d suggested sailing together, but Jimin’s response didn’t sit right with him. Somehow it didn’t feel right for him to refuse something like that.

Taehyung and Hoseok’s words came back to him then, echoing in his mind ”You look like you’re forgetting something.” He was, wasn’t he? It was something important, too, he knew it from the sense of urgency that came with trying to wrack his brain for what it was that he was forgetting.

“Jimin,” he said slowly, looking into his husband’s dark eyes. “Am I forgetting something?”

“No,” Jimin said, surging forward to kiss him again. “You aren’t. I’m all you should be thinking about, aren’t I?”

He’s right, a part of his brain told him in a booming voice that drowned out the dissent that had cropped up in another, smaller part of his mind. It was the same part that was struggling to place what he was forgetting, the part of him that had felt off when Jimin had begun speaking like this.

Something was wrong. Something was not right with this, with any of this.

“Jimin, you… you’re acting oddly.”

“Am I?”

It was in his eyes. Something wasn’t right there. Something…

“You are not my Jimin,” Jungkook said, wrenching himself away from the imposter. Instantly his memories, his real memories, began flooding back to him all at once. The temple, the old soothsayer, his crew, the ritual, all of it came in an overwhelming rush that made him dizzy and nauseous.

“What are you saying?” the fake Jimin asked, and Jungkook could see now where this Jimin differed from the one he knew. This Jimin was well and truly human, with black hair and tanned skin and eyes that held no sign of his life as a siren, but it wasn’t his appearance that had tipped Jungkook off. He knew Jimin as a fierce and unyielding presence, someone who would never lie back and allow things to happen to him. The fake before him was tame, quiet, the perfect image of a husband who would simply do whatever he was asked.

That was not the Jimin that Jungkook had fallen in love with.

“You are a spirit. This is part of the ritual, and I… I’ve failed, haven’t I?”

Fake Jimin turned away from him, dropping the act and crossing his arms over his chest. “No. It seems as though I can’t keep you here after all. Shame. I rather like you.”

Before Jungkook could respond, everything went black again and he woke up on the stone slab back in the temple with a gasp.

“Oh, Captain, you’re back!” Hoseok exclaimed. “I thought we lost you.”

Jungkook sat up, the red paint on his arms flaking off and his heart racing. His entire body was covered in a thin sheen of sweat and his mind was still a turbulent mess. It was as if his brain was still trying to shake off the false memories that the spirits had implanted in him, and it was almost too disorienting for him to bear.

“Captain? Are you alright?”

“M’fine,” Jungkook slurred, attempting to get down from the slab and being able to do nothing as his knees buckled under his own weight. Namjoon stepped forward to catch him, holding him up as he caught his breath.

“You have surprised me,” Taehyung’s aunt said. “Not many can return from that realm with their mind intact.”

“Did you create that… that other world that I saw?” Jungkook asked her.

“No. Whatever you saw, whatever you experienced, that was the spirits of that realm. Your greatest temptations and your greatest fears will manifest there, creating a place that few are able to escape.”

His greatest temptation was clear; those spirits would have been foolish not to use Jimin against him. As of right now, he was his biggest weakness. Jiwon had already used that against him, so it was unsurprising that the tribe’s ancient spirits would too.

His greatest fear, on the other hand, left him stumped. Everything had been so idyllic in that little fantasy world. He was married to Jimin, he lived in a lovely little cottage near the sea, he had good friends and neighbors and appeared to be content with his life. Even Jimin’s mother, who had been the only negative aspect of the dream, had only been a minor inconvenience. Was his greatest fear just an older woman who made snide remarks at him every now and then?

“They didn’t show me my greatest fear,” Jungkook said, changing back into his clothes while his crew stood in awe. “Everything was perfect.”

“What did you see?” Seokjin asked.

“I was… married. I had a house by the docks. That was it.”

“Were you a sailor?” Taehyung asked.

“No. I repaired ships.”

“Ah. Well, that explains it. Jungkook, you were stuck on land. You hate being on land for too long.”

Jungkook blinked. “Oh.” Suddenly it seemed so obvious. Of course the spirit would use Jimin to lull him into a false sense of security, all while forcing him to live out a nightmare with a smile on his face. Five years he’d been married in that dream, five years of being landlocked with no option to set sail on the open ocean. The mere thought of that was torture enough.

The idea of it plagued him the entire trek back down to the village, where Taehyung was saying his goodbyes to his tribe. His aunt had not taken kindly to him telling her that he was indeed going to continue sailing with Jungkook, but there was nothing she could do. Taehyung loved his village and his people, but they both knew he had left this life behind a long time ago.

Once you’ve tasted the feeling of sailing on the open ocean, the salty sea breeze caressing your face, it’s impossible to look back. Even Yoongi hadn’t been able to stay away.

Taehyung’s aunt gave him a salve to apply to the black spot daily, “To stop the curse from melting your flesh,” as she had put it, and did not stop glaring at him until they had boarded the ship once more. Taehyung had reported back that she had seen nothing in her visions about Jimin’s location; it was truly up to them to find him on their own.

Jungkook gave the instruction to set back off toward the Dragon’s island, and from there they would ask around at the nearby harbor towns to see if anyone had heard or seen Jiwon’s ship passing through. It was a long shot, but the ocean was endless. He had to start somewhere if he wanted to find Jimin.

He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t say a word to anyone after giving the instructions to his crew about their next plan of action. He stayed above deck until his fingers grew numb from the chill of the night air, and climbed below to fetch another glove for his other hand. When he stepped off the last rung, he overheard Taehyung and Yoongi speaking in hushed voices in the navigation room, Yoongi hunched over a map and Taehyung looking over his shoulder.

“He’s in love with that siren, isn’t he?” Yoongi said.

“For better or for worse,” Taehyung replied.

Jungkook turned away, unwilling to break Taehyung’s trust in him by eavesdropping, but there was still a pang of anger in him at hearing the despondent way Taehyung had responded to Yoongi’s question.

Yes, he was in love with Jimin. He was, and he wouldn’t give that up for anything, not even lifting this damned curse.

Back above deck, both of his hands now sheathed in gloves, he returned to his post at the helm, his jaw locked and his eyes narrowed. He didn’t care what anyone else thought; he was going to rescue Jimin. He would drown the ocean in blood to find him.

“You seem tense,” Namjoon said, sidling up beside him.

“I am tense,” Jungkook replied. “Time grows short, and we are no closer to finding Jimin than we were before.”

“That is true. Without any information to go on, your siren is as good as lost.”

Jungkook bristled. “If you have an issue with finding him, we can let you off at the next port—”

“I didn’t say that,” Namjoon interjected. “What I meant to say was that although it may seem hopeless, we are your crew, Captain. Whatever your goal, we will follow you until the ends of the earth.”

Jungkook lowered his hackles and exhaled. “Oh,” he said. “I… I appreciate that.”

“We’ll find him,” Namjoon continued, placing a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder. “I swear it.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Namjoon smiled. “You’ve got the greatest crew around. And we’ve got the greatest Captain.”

Jungkook exhaled, returning Namjoon’s smile with one of his own. “Thank you, Namjoon. I could not do this without you or the others.”

“Nor will you have to.”

Looking at Namjoon’s steadfast expression, Jungkook believed him.

Chapter Text

“Where is the Sea Witch’s Revenge?”

“I don’t know, honest, I—”

“Where is it? I know you’ve seen Jiwon around, you fucking liar, so tell me—

“Jungkook,” Taehyung stepped forward, placing a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder.

Jungkook shrugged him off, not dropping his sword from where it was aimed right at another pirate’s throat. He was a weak man, and his crew would all probably be killed or recruited onto another ship soon, but he had been seen with Jiwon a while ago according to one sailor at a nearby harbor town. He had to know where he was.

“I swear to you,” the pirate said, his voice trembling as he spoke. “I don’t know where Jiwon is. Last I heard from ‘im, he was headin’ off to find the lost treasure of the Great Dragon of the East.”

“Hah,” Jungkook scoffed. “Some treasure it turned out to be. Nothing but a fucking pile of junk.”

“I heard the crew of the Black Trident have it, they’re sailing under the Dragon’s colors now—”

Scowling, Jungkook shut him up by driving his sword through his gut, motioning for his crew to wrap it up. “Grab what you can, leave the rest,” he said, watching as the man’s lifeless body slumped over on the deck. “This was just another waste of time.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Taehyung said, once they’d ransacked the other pirate’s ship and returned to their own, setting sail again. “You have been so volatile lately.”

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Jungkook said, his fists clenching around his sword even after he’d sheathed it. “How can a ship just vanish off the face of the earth? How can it be that of all the sailors and pirates we’ve met, not one of them knows where Jiwon is?”

“Perhaps it sank?” offered Hoseok.

Jungkook turned his furious gaze on him next, ready to snap at him for even suggesting such a thing, but Taehyung stepped in before he could say anything that he would regret later.

“Jungkook, calm yourself. You know that the ship must be out there; if Jimin dies, then so will you, remember?” He gestured to Jungkook’s gloved hand.

“It has been three months,” Jungkook said, his anger subsiding, replaced with a sense of hopelessness. “Who knows what is being done to him? I… I fear the worst.”

“The worst has not happened yet,” Taehyung said. “You know how strong Jimin is; he has survived this long, so you need to be strong for him, too.” He took Jungkook aside, then, after glancing at the other crew members who were still lingering nearby. Lowering his voice so only Jungkook could hear, he continued, “You cannot have the crew think that you are losing hope. You are the only thing keeping this quest together; if you give up, what will become of the others?”

Jungkook exhaled, closing his eyes and willing his frustration to leave him. It didn’t work, seeing as frustration, stress, and guilt have been all that has been plaguing his mind since the day Jimin was taken, but he was at least able to clear his head enough to realize that what Taehyung was saying was true.

His crew had vowed to follow him to the ends of the earth, but he first needed to lead them there.

“As always,” Jungkook sighed, “you are right. Come, let us set sail to the next port on the map. Where is that, again?”

“I believe next is Sleeping Otter Bay. We will have to be wary, though. It may not be as dangerous as Cauldron Harbor’s constant Navy watch, but the people there still are vigilant for pirate activity.”

“It is a good thing we stole a governor's ship, then,” Jungkook said with a small smile. “No one will suspect us upstanding gentlemen of wrongdoing.”

Taehyung chuckled as Yoongi sulked past them, muttering about his eye covering getting bloody in the last battle. Nana, who was trailing after him as always, gently offered to clean it for him.

By now, everyone had become as comfortable as they could get with each other, the awkwardness of their brand new crew gone as if it had never been there in the first place. Jungkook knew their quirks and habits, and they knew what he expected from them on board the ship.

He was confident that even if he were to lose his way, they would not abandon him as the crew of the Black Trident had done. He simply couldn’t imagine not being able to trust someone like Namjoon, who had pledged his loyalty and shown nothing but support and understanding. Yoongi and Nana were there to stay, especially since Jungkook had noticed that Yoongi seemed to have taken an odd liking to Taehyung, of all people. Seokjin, too, was so entranced and in love with the life of a pirate that Jungkook had no doubts that he would stay for any quest, whether there was treasure waiting for them at the end or not.

Hoseok was the only person he was a bit worried about, since he had shown the most hesitation, but his drive to finally see a siren in person had made way to an actual joy in his work. Jungkook had even caught him more than once singing along to one of Seokjin and Yoongi’s shanties.

He didn’t need to worry about his crew, but that did not stop him from endlessly worrying about Jimin. Three months had passed now, and they were still no closer to finding him than they had been before. There were rumors of people who had seen Jiwon’s ship pass, but when following that trail, it always ended up cold.

Jimin was still alive. He knew that for certain. He just didn’t know in what condition he was in, and that terrified him.

Relaxing was no longer an option for Jungkook, but he allowed his crew to disperse and do as they pleased once they arrived at Sleeping Otter Bay. Most of them went immediately to the taverns, while others went to trade out the loot they had collected from the last raid on a ship.

Jungkook followed the group that went to the tavern, but he was not in the mood for a drink. It just so happened that fishermen and sailors loved their ale, and he always heard the tales of pirate activity at these pubs. If there were clues about the whereabouts of Jiwon’s ship to be had, they were here at the worn down tavern among these hardened seadogs.

Taehyung tagged along with him, which surprised Jungkook. The past few ports they had laid anchor at, Taehyung had spent most of their time on land with Yoongi and Nana. It had been so long since Jungkook had seen Taehyung interact with someone aside from himself without his guard up, and at times it was almost like getting a glimpse of the old Taehyung, the Taehyung he had known when he had first become a member of the Black Trident’s crew.

“You aren’t going to the shops with Yoongi? I heard he is taking Miss Nana to the tailor to get her some new dresses.”

Taehyung shook his head. “No, I have heard some interesting whispers about this town. I want to hear what stories the locals have to say. I have a feeling we may find something useful here.”

He’d dodged Jungkook’s question so completely that he was beginning to wonder if perhaps there was something between Taehyung and Yoongi that he didn’t wish to speak about just yet, if at all.

If so, Jungkook was relieved. Yoongi may be a hardened pirate with one eye and a gruff voice, but he cared for Nana and the other members of the crew so deeply, and he was so gentle with Taehyung without being patronizing. They would be good for each other, and Taehyung deserved someone like that to be there for him in ways that Jungkook could not.

“I hope you are right about that,” Jungkook said, leaving the thought of Yoongi and Taehyung to the side for now.

They took a seat at the bar counter, a few stools away from a group of older fishermen with tangled beards and countless flagons of ale. They were talking amongst themselves in what Jungkook assumed were attempts at hushed voices, but from the number of empty flagons in front of them, the alcohol made their conversation clearly audible.

“Y’heard of the ghost ship?”

“What ghost ship?”

“What ghost ship? How can you call yourself a sailor if you ain’t heard of the ghost ship what’s been prowlin’ these parts?”

“No, no, I heard of it,” one of the others piped up. “They say she’s captained by a vengeful spirit, just one. He’s pure evil, he is, and anyone unlucky enough to cross his path winds up sleeping with the fishes.”

“What?”

“He takes ‘em to the realm of the dead, he does.”

“Gods. If it ain’t pirates, it’s ghosts. The seas just ain’t safe anymore.”

Jungkook scoffed to himself, shaking his head and lifting his own ale to his lips. Of course they wouldn’t find anything here. This was just another dead end, a tavern full of fools trading ghost stories.

Just as the thought entered his mind, Taehyung got out of his seat and sat on Jungkook’s other side, closer to the fishermen. “When was the last time anyone’s seen the ghost ship?” he asked.

Jungkook gaped at him, stunned that Taehyung would buy into something so ridiculous.

“They say she only appears at night when it’s all fogged up out,” the first fisherman said, seeming to have forgotten that he was having a private conversation and turning to open their group up to Taehyung. “It will be deathly quiet, and the mist will turn green, and then… she appears, with her ghostly captain at the helm.”

“Has anyone seen the captain himself?” Taehyung asked.

“Not anyone who’s lived to tell the tale,” the fisherman replied. “No living man is fool enough to get close enough to see that devil. If you see that green mist, you set your sails in the opposite direction, fast as you can. If you get lost in the fog, you’re lost for good.”

Taehyung nodded to himself, taking it all in as if the fishermen were telling him something important to remember.

“Taehyung, let’s go,” Jungkook said, now irritated. They were just wasting more time here.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I tire of this.”

Taehyung hesitated, but in the end he obliged, following Jungkook back outside as they headed to the inn where the crew was staying for the night.

“You don’t truly believe what those men were saying, do you?” Jungkook asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Perhaps the captain of that ship would know what happened to the Sea Witch’s Revenge,” Taehyung responded, crossing his arms. “It may be the clue we’re looking for to find Jimin.”

“Even if the ghost ship were to exist, which I am fairly certain it doesn’t,” Jungkook began, “Why would they know about Jimin or Jiwon and his ship?”

“If this ship is truly spiriting away ships to the realm of the dead, that could explain how Jiwon’s ship seems to have vanished off the face of the earth,” Taehyung said. “Perhaps he had a run-in with the ghost ship.”

Jungkook stopped in his tracks, his gut twisting. “You said Jimin has to be alive,” he said, his heart racing. “Because of the black spot, and the curse—”

“Jungkook,” Taehyung said gently, calming him. “All I meant is that if Jiwon’s ship has been taken, but Jimin still lives, then the captain of the ghost ship may know what happened to him. Somehow Jimin must have escaped.”

Jungkook sighed, running a hand through his hair in disbelief that he was even allowing himself to entertain this thought. He had seen firsthand the existence of spirits and gods in their own realms, but the idea of a devilish man captaining a ghost ship that was sinking other ships in a fog of green mist just sounded so… unbelievable.

“Very well,” he said. “We can keep an eye out for any ghost ships shrouded in green mist, but our main priority should still be finding Jiwon’s actual ship that we know exists.”

“That is still the main priority,” Taehyung said. “I am just giving you a plausible idea of what could have happened. We aren’t getting anywhere with asking around for his ship, but if we try to find this ghost ship, I think we may get closer.”

“We haven’t even asked about him here yet,” Jungkook argued. “Someone here could very well have seen him.”

With that, the rest of Jungkook’s evening was spent going from tavern to tavern, shop to shop, asking anyone who looked as though they might know something if they had seen a ship called the Sea Witch’s Revenge, or at least heard from someone who may have seen it. Unfortunately, seeing as most of the people who lived and worked in Sleeping Otter Bay had disdain and fear of pirates, most of his questions were answered with a wary question of their own or a poorly veiled threat to alert the Navy about pirate activity.

By the time it was late enough that most of the shops had closed, Jungkook was at his wit’s end, ready to tear his hair out at the idea that absolutely no one had seen nor heard of Jiwon. He was an active pirate, pillaging and plundering as much as he could; it made no sense.

Just as he was about to return to the inn to tell Taehyung that they may as well just start searching for this damned ghost ship after all, he felt a tug on his jacket, and turned to see a street urchin standing there. The boy couldn’t have been older than ten, with dirt smeared on his cheeks and no shoes on his filthy feet.

“I saw a ship like the one you were asking those men about,” the boy said.

Jungkook froze. “What?”

“Yeah, the one with the lady on the front.”

“That’s the one. The Sea Witch’s Revenge?”

“Yeah. Nobody was sailin’ it, though. I thought it was the ghost ship, but wasn’t any green mist or nothing like that.”

“No one was sailing it? Are you certain?”

“My eyes are all well and good, sir. I saw it just fine, and there wasn’t a soul on that ship.”

“Where?” Jungkook demanded, ignoring the odd things the boy was saying, figuring it was just coming from the imagination of a young child. “Where did you see it?”

“Off the southern coast, just a couple nights ago.”

Jungkook was moving so quickly he hardly remembered to give the boy a few gold pieces for his time, storming back to the inn to rouse his crew. If Jiwon’s ship was here a few nights ago, they couldn’t have gone far. He was getting closer now.

No one asked any questions when he ordered all of them to get back on the ship and set off again. Once they had departed, Jungkook informed them that he had a lead on the whereabouts of Jiwon’s ship, and they were going to sail the southern coast searching for any sign of him.

“There’s a coastal village down there,” Hoseok said. “Maybe he went to raid them, and we’ll catch up with him there.”

Jungkook nodded. “Knowing him, that is exactly what he planned to do. We must hurry.”

The crew made haste, their teamwork shining in moments like this, and Jungkook stood at the helm, months of stress and guilt simmering as a new feeling of excitement bubbled to the surface. He was so close now, he could taste it. Perhaps in a few days’ time, he would have Jimin in his arms again, the real Jimin this time.

Night fell and with the winds carrying them closer to the southern coast, his crew were able to rest up while Jungkook kept watch above deck. No one else was around, and the only sounds he heard were the lapping of waves against the sides of his stolen ship and the night breeze blowing through.

Then… then the singing began.

It was soft at first, far enough away that he thought he’d imagined it, but then it sank into his ears, settled over him slowly like molasses, and made his heart practically leap out of his throat.

He knew that song. He knew it so well that even though it was not in a language he knew or could comprehend, he could hum along even as it clouded his thoughts.

Without a second thought, he rushed to the side of the ship and held out his lantern, searching the waves for any sign of the golden hair that had haunted his dreams and nightmares for the past three months.

“Jimin!” he cried out, spotting a figure in the water, golden locks and iridescent skin, but then his heart sank as he realized that he was not looking at Jimin. There was a woman in the water, her face bearing similar features, but her hair was much longer, pooling out around her like a halo. “You… are not Jimin.”

“No,” the siren said, her voice just as haunting as Jimin’s. “I have come to kill you, but it appears as though the sea will soon take care of that for me.” She was looking at his gloved hand that bore the black spot, the one he was using to hold out the lantern.

“Did you come across a ship around here?” Jungkook asked, speaking to her far more comfortably than any sailor had business speaking with a siren.

“I come across many ships, sailor,” she said. “You will have to be more specific.”

“It is called the Sea Witch’s Revenge. A man named Jiwon is captain.”

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. “I have seen no such man captaining a ship,” she said. “The last ship I saw was one manned by one person, not quite human but not quite...something else, either.”

Jungkook couldn’t believe it. “Was it surrounded by green mist?” he asked, feeling more than slightly foolish.

“You could say that. What struck me as odd was the song I heard when the ship passed by. Someone was singing a mournful song of my people. I thought perhaps it had been a vengeful spirit. Plenty of those haunt these waters.” She swam a bit closer as she spoke, never taking her eyes off Jungkook. Once, those eyes had terrified him. Now they just made him ache for Jimin.

“Jimin,” he murmured. It had to be him. Then, louder, to the siren, “Could this vengeful spirit have held one of your people captive?”

“I have no way of knowing,” she replied. “It seemed that way. Or… perhaps—”

Before she could finish, her eyes widened at something behind Jungkook and she disappeared beneath the surface of the water so quickly that Jungkook hardly had time to blink. “Wait—” he called, and then the light of another lantern shone on the edge of the ship.

“Who are you talking to?” Yoongi asked, his tired eye fixed on Jungkook.

Jungkook sighed, lowering his own lantern and giving one last helpless look to where the siren had been only moments before. “...Nothing,” he said. “Just thinking out loud.”

Back in his own cabin, Jungkook lied back on his bed and reached for what was left of the salve that Taehyung’s aunt had given him. He had been using it sparingly, only applying it when he noticed the black spot growing in size, but even still, this was the last of it. He had taken to wearing longer gloves now, as the spot had spread past even his wrist, and it was with a grimace that he rubbed the paste into his blackened skin.

Truthfully, even though he knew that the spot marked him for death, he was grateful to have it for now. It was the only indicator that he had that Jimin was still alive.

The other siren’s words echoed in his mind again, and only served to confuse him even more. Could Jimin truly be held captive on a ghost ship?

Jungkook still was not entirely convinced that something as absurd as a ghost ship could exist, but perhaps the siren’s words were his biggest clue. The captain was someone who was not quite human, but not quite ‘something else.’ What did that mean?

Whatever he was, the captain was someone who was probably holding Jimin against his will, and if he was alone that meant he must have killed Jiwon and the rest of his crew entirely on his own. Not only that, but if he was allowing Jimin to sing, he must also be immune to a siren’s song, making him certainly more powerful than Jungkook. Even if they were to catch up to this “ghost ship,” Jungkook wasn’t sure if they would be able to defeat him.

He had been bested by Jiwon before, true, but that was merely because his crew had abandoned him. If he were to battle him again with his new friends, they would emerge victorious.

But to try and battle a man who had singlehandedly killed every person in Jiwon’s crew, including Jiwon himself, captured a siren, and was immune to his song? Jungkook may as well drive his sword through his chest himself, just to save this ghostly figure the trouble.

There was no use dwelling on what he could not predict or control, but it felt as though for every ray of hope he was able to stumble across, a grim reminder of reality always snuck in and dashed it.

Still, giving up was not an option, and so for the week that followed, Jungkook and his crew searched tirelessly for any more sightings of the ghost ship, at last having a lead to go on. Jiwon had been one thing, but there were no shortages of tales of the ghost ship. Unfortunately, that also meant that there were no shortages of false tales and rumors of the ship as well, leading them down yet even more dead ends.

With every false lead, every wrong turn, Jungkook only grew more and more agitated, to the point that every minor inconvenience would send white hot anger shooting through his veins.

“Jungkook, something isn’t right,” Taehyung said to him one evening after Jungkook had to retire to his cabin early after snapping at Yoongi. “The curse is doing something to you, I can feel it. Your aura is… so unbalanced.”

“I don’t give a shit about my aura,” Jungkook snarled, pushing Taehyung out of his cabin and slamming the door shut, even a small part of his mind was screaming at him to stop. An sharp pain like ice in his veins shot up his arm from his palm and he clutched at his blackened hand, wincing.

Every day that he was unable to apply the salve, the spot became more and more painful, now having spread so that it looked as though he were wearing a glove. In another month’s time he suspected that it would cover his entire arm.

How, how could they be so close and yet still so far from finding Jimin? He would search forever if he had to, but he didn’t have forever. Every day that passed, his curse was getting closer to his heart, and then he would die.

Death did not frighten him. The thought of Jimin being trapped forever on a ghostly ship with a vengeful spirit who prowled the seas searching for victims? That terrified him.

The pain in his arm ebbed, and with it returned his right mind. He knew that the mark had its hold on his mind, making him more volatile and violent than he had ever been; he was not himself and he knew it, but there was nothing he could do to stop it from happening.

He would have to apologize to Taehyung and Yoongi. None of this was their fault, and it was unfair of him to be taking out his anger on his crew when the real people at fault were far away.

He only hoped that this lucidity, this self-awareness, this ability to regain his right mind did not slip away from him. It was all he had left as this curse ate away at him from the outside in.

 

Their next stop was an island village, a fairly large one with a Navy fort nearby. It was a risky move to stop there, especially considering the fact that they had begun to hear whispers even this far from Cauldron Harbor that Seokjin’s father currently had a manhunt out for his son, but Jungkook wasn’t about to chance skipping over it. At this point, he was taking any clues he could get.

There was a lot of ground to cover at this village, and Jungkook had slipped in and out of three different taverns before he heard something that nearly made him drop his glass.

“Did you hear about the Navy’s siren?” one man said, loud and boisterous and sounding very proud of himself.

“Siren? Like the fairytales?”

The man grinned at the crowd he was drawing, people craning their necks to listen in on his story. “You bet. Word has it that the Navy captured a siren and are keeping him locked up at their fort. They’ve been using him to lure in pirates and stop them from plundering our villages.”

“How do you know it’s really a siren?” one woman asked.

“They say he has hair that looks like it was spun from gold, skin so smooth it looks carved from porcelain, and a voice like nothing any mortal has ever heard before—”

Before the storyteller could finish his sentence, Jungkook got to his feet so fast that he upturned his stool, pushing past the crowd to march right up to the man. “Where is this fort?” he demanded, causing the tavern to fall to a hush.

“Wh-what?”

“The fort!” Jungkook repeated, anger pulsing beneath his skin, his jaw locked and his mind a haze. His hand was burning as if from fire and ice at the same time, but he grabbed the man’s shirt in his fist and dropped his voice lower, more threatening. “The fort where they’re keeping the siren. Where is it?”

“J-just south of the c-coast,” the storyteller stammered, so terrified that he was quite literally shaking in his boots. When Jungkook released him, he knelt over and held his hand over his heart, still trembling.

Without hardly a second glance behind him, Jungkook stormed out of the tavern, heading for his ship.

Taehyung spotted him at the crossroads before the docks and stopped him, his eyes widening at Jungkook’s expression.

“Jungkook,” he said, jogging slightly to keep his pace. “What’s going on? Where are you going?”

“Round the crew,” he said. “We’re leaving, now. I know where Jimin is.”

Taehyung’s jaw dropped, and he nodded. “Aye, Captain,” he said, and bolted off to where presumably the rest of the crew were.

Realistically, Taehyung got the crew together back on the ship as quickly as he possibly could have, considering how last minute Jungkook had told him to do so, but he still found himself pacing back and forth on the deck, impatiently looking to the docks every few seconds as he waited.

“It’s about time,” he growled when they finally joined him.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung said once they’d set sail again. “You need to try and calm down. You can’t let the mark affect you like this.”

“Shove off,” Jungkook said.

“Taehyung is right,” Namjoon added, his voice normally something that would calm Jungkook, but things were different now. Jimin was so close, held captive by men who would use him like an object, and it wasn’t right. Why could none of them see what he saw?

“What do you know?” Jungkook said.

“We have an objective view of this,” Namjoon reasoned. “The black spot is a curse, Jungkook. It is trying to kill you by whatever means necessary, and that includes muddling your mind to make you more brash and reckless. If you rush up to this fort without calming down first, you are going to get yourself killed.”

“I have fought worse battles than this.”

“Yes, but you’ve had your head on your shoulders then,” Taehyung argued. “You are my oldest and dearest friend, Jungkook. If you died here…”

“If I die, then I die. Just make sure Jimin makes it out alive.” Jungkook turned away, making it clear that the conversation was over. He knew he was being stubborn, and again that small part of him that remained lucid insisted that he was in the wrong here.

But Jimin was right here in front of him, finally within his reach. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, let him go again.

It was foolish of him to be so caught up in fairytales of ghost ships and damned spirits when all along it had been a real, human threat. This was something he could handle, no problem at all.

The fort was one of the smaller ones that the Empire had stationed around the seas, making Jungkook feel more at ease with their chances. Not that he had doubted himself, but he hoped it would at least make Taehyung and Namjoon get off his back.

“Ready the cannons,” he instructed Seokjin and Yoongi, who nodded and got to work.

There were two watch towers at either end of the fort, and a pitiful wall surrounding the inner buildings. A few blows to any of them would leave the men inside completely defenseless. Far too easy.

They approached from the back, where one of the watch towers sat, and a measly two guards were stationed.

“Fire!” Jungkook roared, and with an explosive boom, three cannonballs erupted from the ship and lodged into the stone, sending it crumbling into the sea below, the men stationed there following close behind. Next was the wall, which the cannonballs made short work of.

Jungkook was the first to leave the ship and climb in through the wreckage, his sword out and his eyes burning with rage. Every soldier he came across, he demanded to know where their commanding officer was, and when they refused to answer, he ran them through with his sword.

Somewhere behind him, as if they were several leagues away, he could hear the sounds of his crew clamoring after him, shouting something, but he couldn’t make out a single word. The only thing in his mind was the continued, Where is Jimin. Where is Jimin.

At last, he came to a soldier who was cowering behind a pillar, his sword clutched to his chest and his eyes screwed shut as his lips mouthed what he assumed to be a prayer. Jungkook noted that he was dressed in a far more polished uniform than the others, with polished metals on his chest.

“You are the commanding officer?” Jungkook said, holding his sword out to make it abundantly clear that he had lost.

“My name is Commander Lee Jihoon, and I—”

“Shut up. I heard an interesting tale about you and your men.”

“Wh-what?”

“Where is he?” Jungkook demanded, poking the tip of his sword against the man’s neck. One move and his life would be over, so why was he being so goddamned stubborn?

“Wh-who? Honest, I don’t know who you speak of, pirate—”

“Does it look like I’ve come to play games with you?” Jungkook gripped the handle tighter, shifting the sword so that the blade left a thin line of red across the Commander’s pale skin. ”Where is he?”

“I don’t know what you m-mean!”

“The siren!” Jungkook roared, just barely recognizing that the rest of his crew had finally caught up to him. “Where is the siren, the one you are keeping locked up here?”

“Siren? You don’t mean the fish women who kill and eat sailors, do you?” The officer’s expression turned from one of terror to one of utter confusion, his eyebrows furrowing and his eyes darting to Jungkook’s crew behind him as if pleading for an explanation from them.

“You mock me.”

“Jungkook,” Taehyung said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “We checked everywhere. Jimin is not here.”

“Wh…” Jungkook lowered his sword, stunned. “What do you mean, he isn’t here?”

“The storyteller was telling just that,” Namjoon said grimly, “a story.”

Jungkook’s hand was shaking where he was gripping his sword, and then, as if moving on its own, he drove his sword through the officer anyway, breathing heavily as the man slumped to the ground.

He stood there for what felt like an eternity, surrounded by the wreckage and death he had wrought upon this place, and his hand burned like it never had before. Without saying a word, he turned and trudged through the destroyed fort, not stopping until he had returned to the ship.

His crew followed, not even bothering to raid the fort before leaving, and the atmosphere on their ship had become grim, despondent.

They set sail with no real direction, and Jungkook was so ashamed of his actions that he couldn’t bear to even look or speak to any of them. He’d regained his right mind again, but he almost wished that he hadn’t.

“We will never find him,” Jungkook murmured to Taehyung when he joined him at the helm. “I have failed him. I have failed all of you.”

“No,” Taehyung said. “We know that this is not truly you. We have faith in you, my friend. No matter what, we will see this through to the very end.”

Jungkook breathed out a small humorless laugh. “I do not deserve your trust.”

“You do. Your curse does not define you. I know the sort of person you are, as do the rest of us. We will find Jimin, and we will cure you of this,” Taehyung reached down and grasped Jungkook’s blackened hand. “As your first mate and dearest friend, I promise you this.”

Jungkook opened his mouth to say something, but it was as if his very breath had been stolen away. The air became thin, difficult to breathe in, and what had felt like mid evening now appeared to be the dead of night. A thick fog had settled over them, making it difficult to see much of anything around their ship, as if they were completely isolated.

“What…?” Jungkook whispered, and that’s when he saw it.

A ship, approaching through the fog, a lantern hanging from the figurehead that had a green light burning within, creating the illusion of a green mist surrounding them.

“Oh my gods,” Taehyung gasped.

“Is that…?”

“I can’t believe it.”

Jungkook’s hand automatically reached for the sword at his hip, but it was a half-hearted gesture. If the ghost ship had truly found them here, there was a very slim chance that they would be able to defeat its hellish captain in their current state. They were run down and exhausted from their attack on the fort; this may very well be the end of their journey.

Still, Jungkook was their captain, and he had promised to lead them, so he stood at the helm and addressed his shaken crew with as strong of a voice as he could muster. “Prepare for battle,” he said, and his crew obliged, grim expressions on all of their faces. “I… thank you. For everything.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Namjoon said, raising his sword.

“To the end?” Jungkook said.

“To the end,” his crew echoed back, and they faced the approaching ship head-on.

As promised in the many tales they had heard, there was no crew on board the tattered and worn down ship, the sails hanging in rags and the deck stained with blood. Up on the mast, there was a lone figure holding onto the ropes, a tricorn hat on his head and a sword in his hand; the vengeful spirit himself.

The ship was so close to them now that the figure began to come into view, the fog no longer shrouding his features.

“Oh,” Jungkook breathed when he saw who was standing there, feeling as though his heart had stopped.

“You took your time coming to rescue me, Captain Jeon.” Jimin gripped the rope and jumped down, landing light on his feet, his stormy eyes locked on Jungkook’s. “I got tired of waiting.”

Chapter Text

“Jimin,” Jungkook said, hardly able to believe that the name was coming from his mouth.

After all this time, after so many months of despairing and endlessly searching, there he was, standing right in front of him.

And gods, how could he be even more beautiful than Jungkook remembered him? His skin was tanned, he was sure from sailing, his hair was longer now, his eyes were sharp and commanding, and his clothes were that of a pirate captain. He was so striking that he stole Jungkook’s breath away.

Jimin boarded Jungkook’s ship, the crew all taking a step back as he did so, a stunned silence having fallen over the lot of them.

Jungkook and Jimin stared at each other for a moment, neither saying a word or making a single move, and then Jungkook’s mind caught up with him.

He tossed his sword down with a metal clang and grabbed Jimin by the waist, one hand around the small of his back and the other cupping the nape of his neck, pulling him in for a kiss so fierce that both of them nearly lost their balance. He breathed in the scent of the sea and held Jimin even tighter, determined to claim every bit of him right there on the deck of his ship while the ocean bore witness.

Jimin’s hands clutched at the fabric of Jungkook’s shirt, his lips parting for Jungkook’s tongue, utterly shameless with his pleased moan at the warmth in his mouth.

“I won’t ever let you go again,” Jungkook breathed when they at last came up for air.

“You’d better not,” Jimin responded.

“So this is the siren we were looking for, I’m wagering a guess?” Seokjin said, his voice cutting through the silence from the rest of the crew, who had merely been standing awkwardly, unsure of what to make of the situation.

“Look at you,” Jungkook laughed, ignoring Seokjin and holding Jimin out at arm’s length, examining him from his boots to his coat to his stolen tricorn hat, a proud smile on his lips. “You’ve become a pirate.”

“You have been quite the bad influence on me,” Jimin responded.

Jungkook’s grin grew and he pressed in close again, stealing yet another kiss. He had been deprived all this time, and now that Jimin was here in his arms again, his willpower was truly being tested.

Just as Jungkook was about to lift Jimin up in his arms to kiss him more deeply, Taehyung cleared his throat and stepped in. “So it was truly you, all this time? You were the vengeful spirit that has sailors all in a terror?”

Jimin turned to face Taehyung and laughed. “Vengeful spirit? Is that what they say about me?”

“They say you spirit sailors away to the realm of the dead,” Taehyung said.

“It is true that I have sunken a few ships here and there,” Jimin said. “But what realm they end up in is their business, not mine.”

“But, you… You…” Jungkook stammered, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. None of this felt real, even as he stood there still clutching onto Jimin as if he might vanish if he were to let go. “I just… It has been so long, I thought surely…”

“Jiwon’s crew underestimated me,” Jimin replied. “I broke free and killed them all. This is the Sea Witch’s Revenge.” He gestured to the ship that was still floating beside theirs. “I am her captain, now. You taught me all there is to know about sailing, so I put that knowledge to use.”

Jungkook, who was still holding Jimin around the waist, nuzzled into Jimin’s neck with a proud smile.

“Yes, but,” Namjoon began, his eyebrows furrowed. “It’s impossible for one man to captain a ship entirely on his own, especially a ship with this one’s reputation.”

“Jimin is not just ‘one man,’” Jungkook said.

“It was thanks to my voice,” Jimin explained. “I can bewitch sailors if I sing to them, yes, but in this case, I sang to the sea.”

Hoseok was blinking rapidly, his jaw practically on the deck. “Fascinating,” he gaped. “I had no idea that sirens possessed that kind of power.”

Jimin looked at Hoseok when he spoke, then slowly his eyes roamed the rest of the crew, settling on each of them before returning to Jungkook. “Your crew… Your ship… It’s all different,” he said.

“A lot has happened since last we saw each other,” Jungkook said. “The Black Trident has been lost to Junho. Taehyung and I were marooned on an island, and Namjoon here came along to rescue us. He also introduced us to our new crew.”

“I see,” Jimin nodded. “That explains why we have been dancing around each other all this time. I had been looking for the Black Trident, but tales of them were so scattered, they were impossible to follow.”

“Jimin, believe me, I would not have left you there with Jiwon had I been able to give chase,” Jungkook said, his voice wracked with all the pain he had felt since that day Jimin was taken. “I swear it, I—”

“Shh,” Jimin said, shaking his head. “I know. Jiwon tried to tell me that you wouldn’t come for me, but I know you. He does not.”

“Even still, I should have—”

“There was nothing you could have done.”

Jungkook closed his eyes. It was the truth, but even imagining what Jimin had gone through left an ache in his chest. He didn’t know how it would have been physically possible, but he should have been there. He should have found some way to stop Jiwon from ever taking him in the first place.

“Just know that this will never happen again,” Jungkook vowed. He looked down at this beautiful siren that owned his heart and exhaled, at last feeling some contentedness amidst all of the rage and anguish he had felt the past three months. Jimin looked different now, burdened a bit, certainly stronger, which said a lot considering how strong he had already been the first night they met. He was his own captain now, prisoner to no one.

Jungkook looked out at the rest of his crew, beaming. “Say, how would you all feel about a change of scenery? Shall we see what it’s like to be sailing aboard the infamous ghost ship?”

“I’m getting sick of sailing on this damned Navy ship, anyway,” Yoongi said, and Nana nodded beside him, though Jungkook wasn’t sure if it was because she was agreeing with Yoongi or simply mimicking those around her.

“My father will have a much harder time tracking us down if we ditch his old ship,” Seokjin added with a wink. “I know I don’t want to run into him while we’re out plundering and whatnot.”

Jungkook looked back to Jimin. “Seems as though we are all in agreement. Your ship looks awfully empty without a crew, Captain. What say you?”

“Captain?” Jimin repeated, incredulous.

“The Sea Witch’s Revenge is your ship now, is it not? That would make you our captain.”

Jimin shook his head. “But Jungkook, you… You vowed to never sail under anyone again.”

“Jimin, there is no one I would rather sail under than you.”

With that, Jungkook feeling impossibly lighter, they abandoned Seokjin’s father’s ship at the decimated Navy fort, and set sail once more, but this time with Jimin at the helm and the Sea Witch’s Revenge their new vessel.

“You know, I would say that sailing on a ship captained by a siren is bad luck,” Taehyung said in a voice that only Jungkook could hear, once they had settled in and Jungkook had stepped aside to watch Jimin give his crew orders. “But truth be told, I am just as happy to see Jimin again as you are. Bad luck be damned.”

Jungkook’s palm burned, and he clenched his fist. “Bad luck be damned,” he echoed.

 

It was an interesting affair introducing his crew to Jimin and vice versa; none of them aside from Taehyung had so much as met a siren before, let alone sailed a ship under one. Hoseok, of course, was beyond thrilled. He hardly let Jimin out of his sight or allowed him to slip by without at least one question aimed his way.

Jungkook had taken each member of his crew aside and asked them if they would show Jimin the same loyalty and support that they had shown him, and not one person showed dissent. Namjoon had merely said, “If you trust him, then I do as well. I am just glad to see you smile, Cap— er, Jungkook.”

It warmed Jungkook’s heart to see everyone on the ship getting along and showing kindness to Jimin, something the Black Trident’s crew had never done.

“Would you sing for us?” Hoseok asked the morning after they had officially set sail with Jimin as their captain. “I have always wanted to hear the song of a siren.”

“You will hear it during battle,” Jimin promised. “I’m afraid if I sing for you now, you may fall asleep or lose your mind briefly. Humans seem to react more heavily to my voice the first time they have heard it.”

“Oh, I see,” Hoseok pouted, clearly disappointed.

They had not decided where to set their sights on just yet, merely sailing in the general direction of the next harbor town, so Jimin took the time to show Jungkook the captain’s cabin where he had been sleeping.

“I had to clear it of all of Jiwon’s disgusting things,” Jimin said, “and it isn’t quite as comfortable as your cabin on the Black Trident, but… it is here, if you wish to share it…?”

“Of course I would,” Jungkook said. “I have slept alone for the past three months. Words cannot express how I’ve missed your touch.” He looked around at the room that had no decorations to speak of, merely a desk covered in scrolls and maps that probably had belonged to Jiwon. Most interesting, however, was the wanted poster hung on the wall near the bed; it bore Jungkook’s face, boasting a reward for ten thousand gold pieces if he were brought to the Empire alive or dead. “I see you found my wanted poster.”

“Ah,” Jimin flushed, seeing what Jungkook was looking at. “I did not know it was a wanted poster; I cannot read your human languages. I just… wanted to look at your face, no matter how crude the depiction.”

“You are… beyond words,” Jungkook grinned, pulling him close to kiss him again. Gods, Jungkook couldn’t get enough of him.

“How I have missed this,” Jimin sighed into his mouth, his breath hitching when Jungkook lifted him up by the waist to lie him down on the bed. Jimin’s lips were even softer than he remembered, his moans even sweeter to his ears. His skin was not quite so smooth, now tanned and rough from work, but he was even more beautiful to Jungkook this way. He was more human, as the version of Jimin that the spirits had conjured for him, but this was different. This was his Jimin, through and through.

Jungkook’s hands roamed, his lips moving from Jimin’s mouth to press kisses across his jaw then down his neck.

Just as Jungkook was about to ask Jimin if he was interested in breaking in their newly shared bed, a knock sounded at the door, startling Jungkook into nearly rolling off of Jimin.

“Yes?” he called, attempting to mask his annoyance at being interrupted.

“I apologize,” Namjoon’s voice answered, standing there awkwardly when Jungkook got up to open the door. “The crew want to know where we are headed next.”

Jimin and Jungkook shared a look, and Jungkook held his arm out to gesture for Jimin to step ahead of him. Jungkook and Namjoon followed him up above deck, where he stood at the helm with his crew all gathered, waiting to hear him speak.

“As you all know, I am not human,” Jimin began, his voice enthralling even like this. Everyone was entranced, unable to keep their eyes off him. “I am of the sea, and she does not willingly let her possessions go. Jungkook is cursed by her, and by being part of my crew, you are following the same fate.”

“Cursed or not, I made my vows,” Namjoon said.

“As have I,” Taehyung agreed.

One by one, everyone voiced their assent, causing a smile to spread over Jungkook’s face. He had never imagined that he would be standing here with a crew that he trusted, and that trusted him in return.

“Then as for where we are to sail next,” Jimin continued, “During my travels, I heard whispers of a small religious sect in Japan, and a man who claims to be descended from a child of the sea, and can lift any curse. It is no guarantee, of course, but it would be a good place to start, I think.”

“Aye,” Jungkook said. “What say you?”

“Aye,” the crew responded.

Jungkook met Jimin’s gaze briefly, and it was not the stormy seas that he saw there, but a warm summer with gently rolling waves.

 

Now with renewed purpose, the crew was working twice as efficiently, sailing toward northern Japan where Jimin had heard of this mysterious sect. Jimin stood at the helm, steering the ship just as Jungkook had shown him to so long ago, and Jungkook stood beside him, just content to be nearby.

“I never got to ask you,” Jimin said, hesitating slightly before speaking. “You had mentioned that your crew mutinied. What happened?”

“Ah,” Jungkook laughed bitterly. “Right when you had been captured and Jiwon made off with you, I commanded them to give chase immediately. I was not planning to let Jiwon get off scot free. But… every one of them save for Taehyung turned on me. Conniving, backstabbing fuckers, the lot of them.”

“And they left you alone on an island?”

“Luckily, Taehyung was with me, or I surely would not have survived,” Jungkook said, his eyes finding Taehyung on deck standing beside Yoongi, crouching down to help Nana with the hem of her dress. “And lucky that Namjoon passed by with his old merchant ship. He has proven to be a loyal friend and companion, as have the rest of them. We are in good hands, now.”

“I am so sorry for the hardships you have endured,” Jimin said. “Truthfully, at first, when Jiwon had been trying to get me to believe that you would never come for me… Part of me believed it, that the reason why you hadn’t given chase was that you had simply given up on me. But,” Jimin continued, saying so before Jungkook could interject, “but I had to believe that it wasn’t true. I had to believe in you, so I searched everywhere for you. I’ve sailed to so many different places, all while watching the horizon in the hopes that I would see your ship in my spyglass.”

“All this time, that is all I have been doing,” Jungkook said. “I have not once stopped my search for you, and now that search has ended. Never again will we be separated by another, not when we are surrounded by people we can trust.”

Jimin smiled, then exhaled, his expression falling slowly, his gaze lowering to Jungkook’s gloved hand, where they both knew the black spot was hiding, growing larger with each passing day. “We are not in the clear just yet,” he said. “The sea is still missing something. If this religious sect in Japan cannot help, then I can think of no one else powerful enough to outsmart the sea.”

“You could,” Jungkook said. “You sailed a ship entirely on your own. You were so foreboding that humans spun wild tales about you, cowering in fear that your ghostly ship would spirit them away to the realm of the dead.”

Jimin shook his head. “I am but a servant of the sea.”

“I thought the same about my former masters, and I have the scars to prove how powerless I felt back then,” Jungkook said. “But I overcame that, and became captain of the seas that had once tormented me.”

Jimin smiled wryly. “That sounds awfully similar to the tale of the boy and the sea that you once told me.”

“All stories have some ounce of truth within them,” Jungkook replied, meeting Jimin’s smile with one of his own.

“We should focus on your curse for now,” Jimin said, his grin disappearing. “The story I heard… it has to be true. I do not want to think about what will happen if we fail to find a solution. The sea will not remain merciful for long. If the black spot reaches your heart… she may claim you completely.”

“That could never happen,” Jungkook murmured, brushing his knuckles across Jimin’s cheek, leaning in closer. “The only one who can reach my heart is you.”

 

 

Later on that same night, the crew gathered to drink and swap tales, the mood so merry that one would not think there was a cursed man onboard, dooming them all.

“I got a good story for you all,” Yoongi said, grinning wickedly. “How would you like to hear the tale of how I lost my eye?”

There was a rising chorus of “yes, please,” but Seokjin waved his hand in front of Yoongi’s face, his cheeks already flushed from the rum. “Oh, shut it, you,” he said to him, “I have heard this story a million and one times. Why don’t we talk about my favorite topic— me?”

“I want to hear about Jimin’s stories,” Hoseok said. “He has been sailing as captain of a ghost ship for months; his adventures will be the most thrilling.”

“I agree,” Jungkook said, pressing a kiss to Jimin’s temple.

“Very well,” Jimin said. “Where shall I start?”

“How you escaped from Jiwon’s ship, for starters,” Taehyung said. “Did you use your voice?”

“Yes and no. Jiwon had me bound and gagged, and was nearly about to cut open my chest to retrieve my heart. He had some foolish notion that my heart would allow him to control the seas.”

“Nonsense,” Jungkook scoffed.

“He was a fool, through and through. In any case, he has the knife to my chest, but at the last moment, he hesitated. He decided that he would risk attempting to have me before he killed me. I kept my mouth shut, played along, and then when he finally set aside his dagger, I was able to overpower him.”

“Wow,” Nana said, her hands clasped together. “You must be so strong.”

Yoongi looked at her in surprise, as did a few of the others. Nana hardly ever spoke unless it was to Yoongi or Taehyung, but she appeared so enraptured by Jimin’s tale that she hardly noticed she was being stared at.

“I don’t know if I am strong, or if Jiwon was merely very weak and foolish,” Jimin laughed. He had seemed nervous at first when prompted to tell his tale, but now that he had begun and was seeing the reactions from the crew, it was boosting his confidence, making him sit straighter, speak louder. Jungkook could do little but gaze at him fondly, allowing his words to soak over him like a nice hot bath.

“I am sure it was a bit of both,” Namjoon offered. “What next? How did you best the rest of his crew? I have heard there were quite a few of them.”

“Yes, around sixty, if I counted correctly. It was simple, once I was free. I sang to the sea, and she capsized the ship. They all drowned.”

The crew fell silent, looking around at each other in shock.

“This ship?” Hoseok croaked, suddenly terrified. “This ship capsized?”

“Yes. It was exhausting, but I managed to right her again.”

Jungkook nudged Jimin’s hand with his knuckle, grasping it tightly. He had no idea the true extent of Jimin’s power, and the thought of him having to do something like that all on his own made him even more determined to not leave Jimin’s side even once.

“That’s unbelievable,” Seokjin gaped. “We’re going to be the most feared pirates in the world with you onboard.”

“What next?” Nana piped up again. “Minnow says we have been searching for you for months.”

“I have been searching for Jungkook,” Jimin said. “But in the meantime, I used this ship to take down slaver ships. There are a few ports that were welcoming and agreed to give the freed captives refuge. I am assuming that they are who spread the tale of my so-called ghost ship.”

“You have been killing slavers all this time?”

“I… felt for the captives kept on board those ships,” Jimin said, his voice softening. “I know what it feels like to be kept hostage with no escape. I found myself suddenly in a position of power, and I… thought I would make good use of it.”

“Of all the pirate crews I could have joined, it had to be the one full of pirates with a moral compass,” Seokjin said, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”

“Oh, for sure, the lot of us will steal and kill, but there are some lines that you just don’t cross,” Hoseok laughed.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad that it’s you lot I’m sailing with,” Seokjin said.

“I am glad as well,” Jimin said. “Jungkook deserves a crew like you after everything he has been through. I… trust you all. I hope you can learn to trust me, as well.”

“I’ll trust you as long as you keep the rum stocked, Captain,” Yoongi said, but he was grinning as he spoke.

There was a round of laughter, and they continued well into the night, swapping stories and drinks and filling the ship that had once held so many painful memories with the first of many pleasant ones.

Later that night, Jungkook sat on their bed, eager to spend his first night with Jimin since their separation. “There is something different about you,” he said, watching Jimin undress.

“Nothing bad, I hope.”

“Of course not. You just seem… more human, if that makes sense.”

Jimin dropped his shirt onto the floor and climbed up into Jungkook’s lap, lowering his voice. “I feel it, too. I noticed something, when I was freeing myself from Jiwon and his crew. When I capsized the ship, I was submerged in the water until I could right it again.” He nuzzled his face into Jungkook’s jaw and pressed a kiss there. “And I remained in my human form.”

“What?” Jungkook held Jimin’s face between his hands, looking at him in the eyes. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” Jimin murmured, turning his face slightly to kiss at Jungkook’s cursed palm. “I think that… I have spent too much time out of the water, in this form. My powers have not dissipated, but my true form does not feel like my true form any longer.”

“Are you… so you aren’t a siren anymore?”

“I am,” Jimin said, “and if I were to remain in the water for a longer period of time, I am sure I would regain my old form. But this, the way you see me now, this is me.”

“You have always been you,” Jungkook said, finally bringing their lips together. “Human, or siren, or somewhere in between, you are my Jimin.”

“I am yours,” he echoed, deepening their kiss and nudging open Jungkook’s lips with his tongue. They slid together, slick and wet and a little desperate, but the way Jungkook saw it, they had three months of wanting and aching and despairing to make up for. “And you are mine.”

“Mmm,” Jungkook hummed in response, gripping Jimin’s ass and grinding his leg up. “I am yours a thousand times over,” he groaned, nipping and licking at Jimin’s jaw, his neck, his collarbones.

Jimin was coming apart at the seams already, his head tipping back and moans escaping him, his hips rocking back and forth in Jungkook’s lap, seeking friction on his already hard cock.

“So eager,” Jungkook murmured. He slid his hands up, following the curves of Jimin’s body until his hands were flat against Jimin’s chest, thumbs rubbing across his nipples.

“Oh,” Jimin gasped, still grinding on his lap, his back arched in the most beautiful way.

Replacing his hands with his tongue, Jungkook leaned down to lick at Jimin’s hardened nipples, biting at them gently and tugging until Jimin was keening. He slid his hands back down to Jimin’s ass, his fingers splayed over his firm, plump cheeks and prying them apart. His index finger rubbed across Jimin’s hole that was clenching around air, his eyebrows raising when he found a slick wetness there already.

“Hmm,” he said, lifting his head. “Is this what you were doing when you came here before me?”

“Perhaps,” Jimin said, his voice breaking, high and needy with want as he chased Jungkook’s touch.

“And what do you want me to do?” Jungkook said.

“Take,” Jimin’s breath hitched as Jungkook continued rubbing his fingers across his hole, teasing him by just barely poking inside. “Take your glove off.”

Jungkook stopped, looking into Jimin’s eyes, seeing his blown pupils and parted lips. “But…”

“I want to see all of you.”

Jungkook nodded, biting at the fabric of the glove and tugging it off with his teeth, revealing his cursed mark.

“Now your shirt.”

He obliged again, unbuttoning it and letting it fall to the bed. His entire mark was now visible, halfway to his elbow, blackened veins reaching out like tendrils.

“Does it hurt?” Jimin murmured, tracing the skin with his fingers.

“Only sometimes,” Jungkook lied. It burned like fire just from Jimin’s small touches now, but he had endured worse, would still endure worse for Jimin. “It does not matter.”

“You would still have me, even though this is my fault?” Jimin asked.

“I would,” Jungkook responded. “If you’ll have me.”

“Yes, please.”

Jungkook devoured his lips once more, slipping his fingers between Jimin’s ass cheeks again, this time sliding them inside him, stroking his walls with his index and middle fingers. Jimin rocked back against him, pushing him in deeper.

Jungkook did go deeper, with three fingers this time, slowly thrusting in and out of him with ease, Jimin’s slick walls tight around him but still giving way for his thrusts. Their tongues moved together, hot and wet and messy, until Jungkook stroked Jimin’s prostate to where he could no longer hold down his moans.

He gasped into Jungkook’s mouth, unable to continue kissing, and his voice danced in Jungkook’s ears like a symphony, only increasing his arousal.

“Please,” Jimin whined, practically bouncing on Jungkook’s fingers now for how desperate he was.

“Please?” Jungkook grinned, his thrusts much more shallow, slow, teasing.

“P-please,” Jimin repeated. “Want you inside me.”

“I am inside you.”

“You know what I mean,” Jimin bit out.

“Tell me.”

“I want your cock, please, want it inside me, Jungkook—“

“Yes, Captain,” Jungkook said, removing his fingers and adjusting Jimin on his lap so that he could push his trousers down to free his cock.

Jimin hooked his arms around Jungkook’s neck, lifting himself up off Jungkook’s lap slightly as Jungkook guided his cock to his hole. He settled on the head, his fingers tangled in Jungkook’s hair, and then Jungkook gripped him by the waist hard enough to bruise and slammed up into him in one swift movement.

Jimin cried out and buried his face in Jungkook’s shoulder, his cock leaking onto his stomach.

“Good?” Jungkook asked.

“Yes, yes, go—“

The moment he heard Jimin’s assent, he pistoned his hips, thrusting his cock into Jimin’s tight heat only a few times before Jimin was coming, white spurting over his chest and stomach.

Jimin still hadn’t lost this part of his siren anatomy, his cock still throbbing hard and pink even after coming once, and so Jungkook didn’t slow down. Jimin pressed his palms against Jungkook’s chest, slowly pushing him backward.

“Lie back,” he panted. “Want to ride you.”

Jungkook nodded, lying back and gripping Jimin’s thighs instead.

Jimin’s hands were on Jungkook’s abs, lifting himself off Jungkook’s cock and then dropping back down on him, his hips and ass moving with that same fluidity as everything else he did, clenching around Jungkook’s cock every time he was buried to the hilt.

“Fuck, Jimin,” Jungkook groaned, unable to tear his gaze away from Jimin’s flushed and sweaty face, his plump bottom lip caught between his teeth and his hair moving with every bounce on Jungkook’s cock. “You are so beautiful.”

Jimin moaned in response, Jungkook’s cock so deep inside him, rubbing at his prostate with every thrust. “Mm, Jungk— Ah—“ Jimin came again with a shout, briefly slumping over as he was covered in even more come.

Jungkook reached up to rub it against his chest, come slicking his fingers as he pinched Jimin’s nipples and then brought his fingers up to his mouth.

Jimin opened up, sucking his own come from Jungkook’s fingers, his eyelids fluttering.

“You’re still hard,” Jungkook crooned, still inside him.

“Mhm,” Jimin said, pulling off Jungkook’s fingers with a pop.

Jungkook grinned, pulling out of him and flipping them around on the bed so that Jimin was on his back, thoroughly debauched with tousled hair and a pink flush blooming high on his cheeks. He pushed Jimin’s legs up, grabbed onto his own cock, and once again pushed inside him, sucking in a breath at the way Jimin’s hole looked taking him in.

He bent over Jimin so that they were face to face and began slowly circling his hips as he kissed Jimin, the taste of come still on his tongue and drool sliding down his chin. Jimin’s fingernails dug into Jungkook’s back, his hips canting. “Faster,” he choked.

Jungkook could feel himself getting closer, so he fucked Jimin through his own orgasm, a satisfied groan ripping out of him as his cock emptied inside Jimin, more heat filling the tight space around him. Just as he was beginning to burn with oversensitivity, Jimin came as well, finally spent of energy, his cock soft as the come cooled on his chest.

For a moment, neither of them moved, content to just lie there together and catch their breaths, until Jungkook finally pressed a kiss to Jimin’s sweaty temple and pulled out slowly.

“Ah,” Jimin hissed, still clutching onto Jungkook as if he was afraid he would leave. “Feels so empty.”

“I’m going to clean us up,” Jungkook said. “I will be right back.”

When they had wiped down most of the mess, Jungkook returned to Jimin’s side, pulling him against his chest and tangling their legs together under the blankets. His mark burned with pain that made his eyes water, but he refused to show any of that to Jimin.

“I love you,” he whispered, nuzzling their noses together and stopping with his lips a hair’s breadth from Jimin’s.

Jimin closed the distance, their kiss much softer, gentler than it had been before. “I love you too,” he said. “I never thought such a thing was possible.”

Jungkook’s heart burst with warmth and he pulled Jimin closer to him until he could feel the steady beat of Jimin’s heart in his chest.

Chapter Text

Having a siren for a captain wasn’t something just any crew could boast about. Then again, the Sea Witch’s Revenge wasn’t housing just any crew. What had begun as a rag-tag team of misfits lead by a once-mutinized captain of a ship that was now long gone had become a widely feared or widely respected (depending on who was asked) crew of pirates lead by a being who was not quite human and not quite siren, with a voice so beautiful as to lead sailors to their deaths.

With Jimin as their captain, they were able to see firsthand the power that hid behind his voice, the terror that it could unleash upon their unsuspecting enemies.

The Sea Witch’s Revenge was in better condition than it had been when Jiwon had been its captain, but as it was, it was only stocked for one person, and so the first ship that they had attacked on their way to Japan was a merchant ship. It was a simple matter of Jimin climbing up to the mast, up near the crow’s nest, and once their ships were near enough, singing a haunting tune that forced every crew member aboard the ship to walk right off the edge and into the ocean. Everyone onboard the Sea Witch’s Revenge were instructed to cover their ears so as not to be affected, and once Jimin gave the signal, they sent a small team over to the merchant ship to grab as many supplies as they could carry.

“If only I could hear one of your songs without meeting a sorrowful end,” Hoseok said wistfully once they had sailed away from the merchant ship. “I have always longed to hear a siren’s call.”

“I don’t quite feel like fishing you out of the ocean when you try and drown yourself,” Yoongi said. “Some things are best left to the imagination.”

“This is certainly a much more efficient method of attack,” Namjoon said, changing the subject before Hoseok began another of his woeful speeches about how he just wanted to hear Jimin’s voice once. “Less bloodshed and chance for any casualties. Most of the crew will be able to reboard their ship.”

“It is much harder when they are expecting an attack,” Jimin said grimly. “This may work on merchant ships, but do not become too comfortable at the idea of not having to fight. Other pirates will be much more difficult to use my compulsion on.”

“That’s good,” Seokjin said. “You have a crew now, and we have swords for a reason, Cap’n.”

“I like using my sword,” Nana chimed in, having become much more talkative the longer she had been among them. She still stuck to Yoongi’s side like glue, but it seemed as though spending so much time with Taehyung as well had brought her out of her shell a bit, and she had no shortage of things to say.

“Your eyes are so scary,” she said to Jimin one evening as they drew ever nearer to Japan. “It is like the whole sea is inside you.”

“Is that scary to you, little one?” Jimin asked.

“Yes. The sea is scary. She is angry, and wants us dead.”

Jimin exchanged glances with Jungkook, who shook his head in disbelief. He had never heard Nana speak that way before, almost like she knew something that they did not. She knew of the curse, so perhaps that is merely what she’d meant. They never found out, as Yoongi ushered her away before she could say much else.

Aside from a few scuffles with other pirate ships and Nana’s increasingly odd comments, the trip to the northernmost island of Japan was smooth sailing by Jungkook’s standards. Jimin’s reputation preceded him, leading most ships to sail in the opposite direction when they saw the mist that Jimin summoned around them as cover. It was impressive how widely tales of the ghost ship had spread, and Jungkook could not help feeling a bit proud of Jimin.

Unfortunately, the closer their ship neared the northern island where Jimin’s reports had stated that the monk resided, the colder it became, forcing everyone to bundle up against the icy air and biting wind. The only one not affected was Jimin, who was used to swimming in even arctic waters, and remained the only person on the ship without cheeks bitten pink by the cold and fingers so numb they could scarcely tie a rope.

Of everyone, it was Jungkook who felt the chill the most deeply, his black spot appearing to be the most susceptible even under all of his clothing and glove. It was so unbearable that he was forced to remain below deck most of the time, his teeth chattering and his blood feeling as though it were frozen in his veins.

Jimin attempted to warm him at night while they slept in their shared bed, but nothing either of them did could stop the cold from seeping into his pores, freezing him from the inside out. If they did not reach land soon, Jungkook feared he would lose more than just a few fingers or toes from frostbite.

“Jungkook, I worry for you now more than ever,” Jimin said. “You have survived this long by the mercy of the sea alone, but her mercy will not extend much longer. If this monk does not truly hold the answer to breaking the curse, then you… you will die.”

“I am much more resilient than you think,” Jungkook replied, though his response was lessened a bit by the sound of his teeth chattering and the uncontrollable shivers wracking through his entire body. He had not removed the glove covering the black spot since they had entered these frigid conditions, and was secretly terrified at what he would find. He knew it was growing more rapidly these days, and had considered simply sacrificing his arm, though he knew that would not stop the curse.

The mark was merely a way for the sea to show him that she had him under her thumb; black spot or no, he was marked for death.

It was with relief that they at last made it through the worst of the icy waters and could finally see the small island off the coast of Japan that was to be their destination.

They had replaced their flags with white ones to signify that they were not invading or coming to pillage, but rather in peace. Even so, before they could reach the docks that were slowly coming into view through the fog that surrounded the mountainous island, they were stopped by a large ship with an intimidating kraken figurehead blocking their way forward.

The men aboard the ship were clad in golden armor, matching the gold of the figurehead, with their ornate uniforms cutting through the fog like a sword. The ship, too, had golden filigree in the design, and the figurehead looked to be made of some sort of precious metal that gleamed.

“Is this an Empire ship?” Yoongi hissed. “Were we ambushed?”

Before anyone could answer him, a booming voice came from the other ship, and what looked to be the head of the crew stepped forward, addressing them. “What business do you have with Great Monk Motoharu?” he demanded. “Speak carefully, or we will not hesitate to sink you.”

Jungkook and Jimin exchanged similarly confused glances, and then Jimin spoke up. “We are here to see the Great Monk Motoharu—”

The captain of the other ship sneered, cutting him off. “I will not speak to anyone but the captain of your ship.

Jimin stood up straighter, his eyes narrowing and his jaw setting in anger. “I am the captain,” he said. “And we are here because we are seeking the monk who is said to be able to cure any ailment or curse.”

“You have a cursed man aboard your ship?” the other man said, disbelief and suspicion in his tone.

“Yes.”

The captain looked to his crew, unreadable expressions on their harsh faces, and then, surprisingly, they all lowered their weapons. “Very well,” he said. “You may pass, but not without our guard at your side. We are not so welcoming of visitors as people of your regions may be, Captain.”

“We accept these terms,” Jimin said.

Jungkook had not doubted Jimin’s ability to captain a ship for even a second, but seeing him so confidently lead them and make decisions for the crew was truly a sight to behold, a far cry from the angry, stubborn siren that had been shackled in the brig of the Black Trident so long ago.

The large, intimidating ship moved to make room for them to dock, and as promised, another set of armed guards were there waiting as they climbed down from the deck, not one of them taking their eyes off the crew. There was a village past the docks, not quite the isolated temple that Jungkook had been picturing, and a few villagers had come out to gawk openly at them as they passed.

The villagers themselves were dressed quite plainly, in peasant’s clothes, which struck Jungkook as odd, considering how well-armored the guards were. From the tales he’d heard of monks, it was very strange that the villagers would be so poor and surrounded by such an ornately militarized state. He had been under the impression that materialistic things such as golden armor and gaudiness was frowned upon, as was the concept of battle itself.

Perhaps the monk had no choice but to protect himself, if he truly were the miracle worker that Jimin had heard he was, which was the only explanation that Jungkook could think of as their entourage was lead up to the mountain, where a giant temple sat carved into the stone. It was much different than the temple in Taehyung’s hometown, which had appeared to have grown with the earth— this temple looked chiseled and whittled away, forcing the mountain to comply whether it had wanted to or not.

Gods, I am beginning to sound like Taehyung, Jungkook thought to himself, not daring to voice his concerns aloud to the others for how closely they were being watched. There was something off about all of this, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, and didn’t want to write this off completely just yet. There was still a chance that this monk, however strange he may appear, had the answer to their problems.

If there was a way that Jungkook could rid himself of the curse without ridding himself of Jimin, he wasn’t going to let a little paranoia get in the way of that.

At the extravagant entrance to the temple, there were even more guards, armed with spears and with golden helmets covering most of their faces. They looked ready to aim those spears at them at the drop of a hat, and the guard that had lead them to this point all turned to face them at once.

“Great Monk Motoharu will only see three of you, and you must surrender your weapons,” one of the guards said in a commanding voice that very clearly indicated what he was saying was not an option, nor was it up for debate.

Jungkook glanced around at the other entrances to the temple, which were guarded heavily as well. It appeared that this was indeed their only option to get inside.

“I will go,” Jimin said, looking to the crew, his eyes landing first on Jungkook’s.

“I will as well,” Jungkook said immediately. “I must, after all.”

“Then I will also accompany the two of you,” Taehyung said, stepping forward and giving Jungkook a meaningful look. Jungkook gave him a curt nod. It was good that Taehyung had offered; if even Jungkook was feeling that something was off about this place, he couldn’t imagine what Taehyung was feeling at that moment.

As the guards had stated, they had to surrender all of their weapons before entering the temple, something Jungkook was extremely hesitant to comply with, as heading into an unfamiliar and suspicious area defenseless was not usually his method of dealing with things.

Of course, they were not entirely defenseless thanks to Jimin’s voice, but he would rather not rely solely on Jimin to get them out of a potentially deadly situation. That hadn’t exactly worked out in their favor last time, and Jungkook was not about to let Jimin slip from his grasp again. Never again.

Not only that, but if this monk was powerful enough to break a curse created by the sea, something not even Taehyung’s family of powerful clairvoyants could do, he could only imagine that Jimin’s voice may not have an effect on him at all.

“We will be fine,” Hoseok said.

“Be careful, Taetae,” Nana said, holding tightly onto Yoongi’s hand, her eyes staring daggers into Taehyung’s. “I will be here with Minnow.”

“I am always careful, Miss Nana,” Taehyung assured her, but that expression on her face did not falter, sending a small chill down Jungkook’s spine. Sometimes he wondered if Nana perhaps knew more than she was letting on.

Reluctantly, he handed over his sword and daggers to his crew members, while Taehyung and Jimin did the same, and then the guard formed a wall between them and their friends, blocking them from being able to go anywhere but forward into the temple. As it was now their only option, they trudged forward, climbing the steps and over the threshold into what was perhaps the most extravagant and gaudily decorated building Jungkook had ever seen.

Were it not for the statues of gods lining the golden walls, Jungkook would not have even known that it was a temple at all. Their footsteps echoed against the polished gold floors, and it seemed as though everywhere they looked, something gleamed back at them, be it displayed jewels or simply the glittering walls catching in the lantern light.

They were, of course, being watched closely, making it impossible for the three of them to exchange words, but Jungkook saw the uneasy look on Taehyung’s face out of the corner of his eye and knew that he was not the only one who sensed that something was off here. This couldn’t be right. No monk lived like this, so lavishly and shamelessly, while the village below appeared to be one entrenched in poverty.

The temple seemed to be shallowly dug into the mountainside, but it had plenty of width, with winding passageways to the left and right. The guard lead them to the left, down passageways that seemed to be getting more and more dimly lit until at last a bright light greeted them at the end.

The passage opened up into what Jungkook had always imagined the Emperor’s throne room to look like, with intricately painted walls and golden floors and ceilings with jewels hanging from them, a giant throne with carvings crawling up the sides, and a rug woven with beautiful designs and patterns. Atop the throne, as if he were a king, was the monk, his golden silk robes hanging from his rotund body and no less than five scantily clad concubines clinging to his arms and caressing his legs.

Jungkook and Jimin shared a hint of a glance. Something was very, very wrong here.

“Leave us,” the monk boomed to the guards, and shooed away the concubines, who looked grateful for the moment’s reprieve, scurrying away into a room hidden in the shadows.

Now it was just Motoharu, Jungkook, Jimin, and Taehyung in the room, and Jungkook felt impossibly small. Motoharu appeared larger than life up on that throne, and the gaudy accessories he was decked head to toe in certainly didn’t help matters. He found himself itching to ready his sword hand, but they had been thoroughly disarmed, and were now entirely at this monk’s mercy.

“So, travellers,” Motoharu began, looking down at them with clear condescension. “What brings you to my humble island?”

Humble? Jungkook had to stop himself from externally scoffing. He exchanged glances with Taehyung and Jimin, this time not bothering to hide the looks from Motoharu, and then Jungkook spoke up. “I have a curse from the sea,” he said, and began to slide off his glove and roll up his sleeve to expose the black spot that had consumed his entire arm.

Motoharu slid forward off his throne in shock, his eyes widening and his mouth parting, making him resemble a fish. He strode toward Jungkook, ignoring the other two, and examined the mark closely, bending down and peering at it from all angles. “My, my,” he said. “Now what did you do to anger the sea, boy?”

Jungkook swallowed down his discomfort; the monk smelled of opiates and some other strong fragrance that felt as though it was clogging his nostrils. “I, ah. I stole something from her.”

“And what exactly did you steal?” Motoharu asked, holding Jungkook’s wrist gingerly and bringing his palm up to examine closer, his breath now ghosting across Jungkook’s blackened skin.

Another red flag went up in Jungkook’s mind; if even a blind soothsayer could tell right away that Jimin was a siren, why wouldn’t this monk, who was claiming to be a descendant of the sea herself? Why was he asking Jungkook what was stolen when it should have been quite obvious?

Something was terribly off, and he could say nothing to the others, could do nothing to signal them, could not even prepare himself for a fight as he had foolishly agreed to surrender his weapons. It was then that he realized the guards had pressed in closer, no longer standing outside the room, but slowly but surely encroaching on the three of them.

“It was something priceless,” Jungkook choked out, attempting to sound like he hadn’t noticed a thing, hoping that his suspicions did not show through his tone. “Something I cannot return. Is there any hope to remove the curse?”

Motoharu released his wrist, only to grab his upper arm, feeling at his bicep. Ignoring Jungkook’s question, he leered, “You are quite strong,” he said, his grip tightening. “No wonder you are a sailor.”

This was a trap; that much was clear now. The guards had them surrounded, spears pointed at them from all sides, and Motoharu had such a firm grip on Jungkook that even if he were to attempt to fight him off, he would certainly lose.

Before he could even begin to formulate how the hell to get out of this, Jimin moved so quickly that Jungkook thought he had imagined it at first.

It was nothing from his imagination. Before anyone could react, Jimin had pulled a dagger hidden away in his trousers, appearing to have been strapped to his upper thigh, and slashed at the throat of the guard nearest to him, stealing his spear and tossing it to Jungkook.

By the graces of the gods, Jungkook caught it, and began to battle with the guards as Jimin and Taehyung managed to secure their own weapons, the three of them facing off against what felt like endless swarms of golden helmeted men, all while Motoharu slipped out of the fray and watched, appearing amused more than anything, even as some of his men lay dead on the floor.

Just as it seemed as though the tides were shifting in their favor, Motoharu reentered the battle, stopping Taehyung mid-strike and holding his arm as if in a vice. Jungkook and Jimin immediately stopped, not wanting to accidentally hurt Taehyung, and the rest of the guards took their pause as surrender, closing in even further.

“You,” Motoharu said, closing his eyes and inhaling for a moment as he gripped Taehyung’s arm. “You have clairvoyancy in your blood.”

Taehyung struggled to wrench his arm from the monk’s grip, but it was no use— Motoharu had more strength than he seemed, and he pulled Taehyung along with him, down to a shadowy corner of the room where he seemed to disappear.

Jungkook furiously fought his way through the remainder of the guards, Jimin following closely behind, and stormed after Motoharu, who had taken Taehyung down a winding staircase hidden away in the darkest part of the room.

They emerged in a much deeper part of the mountain, where Jungkook was horrified to see dozens of men, women, and children chained up just as Jimin had been, sitting in their bonds and looking to Jungkook and Jimin with nothing but pity in their eyes. It was clear that they had long since given up hope of rescue.

Motoharu was still holding onto Taehyung, but now he had something else, a golden contraption aimed at Taehyung’s temple, a sneer on his lips as he stared at Jungkook and Jimin.

“Leave your weapons at the door, boys, or I won’t hesitate to kill your little seer friend here,” Motoharu said.

“What is that?” Jungkook demanded, having never seen something like it before.

Motoharu’s grin widened and he aimed it at the floor in front of their feet, pulling a trigger on the contraption and cackling at their reactions of shock and horror as it set off a shot that exploded through the room and left a scorching mark on the ground before them.

“Do you like it? It was a gift from the English. Pistols, they call them.”

“What do you gain from this?” Jimin demanded. “Let him go. We want nothing from you but to lift Jungkook’s curse.”

“What do I gain?” Motoharu laughed. “The sea does not curse just anyone and allow them to live this long. There is something special in him, something that I can use, just as I’ve used these doomed souls you see around you.”

The prisoners hardly blinked, and Jungkook felt bile rise to his throat. “You use them for free labor?”

“No, no, nothing like that. You see, I may not be a descendant of the sea who can lift curses and all that nonsense, but I do have a gift that was passed down from my father, and his father before him.” Motoharu gripped Taehyung even tighter, pressing the pistol to his head even more insistently. “With just a touch, I can absorb someone’s strongest traits. Like this one’s clairvoyancy, here.”

“So what, you just… you collect cursed souls and leech their life away?”

“Their life, any special abilities they may have… It all comes to me. It doesn’t have to be just those who are cursed, either. Everyone has a curse, be it literal or figurative, and everyone is a slave to it.” He looked to Jimin first. “You, siren of the sea. You are empty, are you not? An empty shell borne of the ocean’s malice, wearing a human face to mask how hollow you are. You claim to love, but you don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

He caressed Taehyung’s cheek next, sneering against his ear as he held the pistol just as tightly to his temple. “Little orphan Taehyung, raised by clairvoyants but still so blind, so naive. You cling to your superstitions like you know it all, but you see nothing. The future means nothing because you can’t let go of the past.”

“And you.” The monk finally turned his gaze to Jungkook, eyes locking and lips curling. “Cursed by the sea herself, dancing with death, and even still you sail her waters. Most would settle on land, but you won’t do that, will you? Because you are nothing without your title, nothing without your ship, nothing without the sea.” He paused, narrowing his eyes and holding Taehyung’s arm even more harshly, as if draining even more of his seer abilities. “But… There is something...different about you,” the monk said, furrowing his brow at Jungkook. “Something in your blood.”

“Yes, I am well aware of the curse,” Jungkook spat.

“No, this is something else. Something more…”

As the monk continued babbling, Jungkook noticed that something had shifted in the atmosphere. He glanced at Jimin, who returned his look with one of warning. He was beginning to hum. It was low, so low that even Jungkook, who was standing right beside him, could barely hear, but the effect it was having on the people in the room was starting to show.

Taehyung was going slack a bit, and Jungkook was fighting against his mind to stay vigilant, but most importantly, Motoharu’s grip on both Taehyung and the pistol was beginning to weaken ever so slightly.

As Motoharu continued to speak aloud about the oddity of Jungkook’s blood, Jimin continued humming, maintaining eye contact with Taehyung, until finally Taehyung was able to catch Motoharu off guard, ducking out of his hold and snatching the pistol away from him.

It was clear he had no idea how to use the thing, so his aim was entirely off, but he managed to slow Motoharu down by shooting a blast into his arm. He cried out in pain and fell to his knees, blood spurting from his wound, and the three of them wasted no time in running as fast as they could back toward the staircase.

At the very last moment, Jimin hesitated, looking back to the prisoners with a helpless look in his eyes, but Jungkook shook his head, watching as Motoharu was beginning to struggle to get back to his feet. “We cannot,” he said to Jimin, regrettable as it was. “Our crew are still outside, and who knows what could be happening to them.”

Jimin closed his eyes for a moment, clearly conflicted, but in the end he nodded and followed after Jungkook and Taehyung as they emerged back into the main part of the temple.

Most of the guards seemed to have either already been slain, fled, or had gone outside, so fighting their way through the temple was relatively simple.

Once they reached the outdoors again, however, they were met with a bloodbath. Bodies were strewn across the stairs, and there was shouting and screaming from down below, where a battle was raging in front of the temple.

Thankfully, Jungkook saw that most of their crew were still on their feet and fighting, and the moment Yoongi caught sight of the three of them emerging, he bellowed out a call to retreat, and they all hightailed it to the ship to prepare them for a quick getaway.

It was no easy feat fighting through the guards and some peasants armed with nothing but sticks, but it was with minimal injuries that they managed to catch up with their crew and board the Sea Witch’s Revenge.

The winds took them immediately, Jungkook’s heart hammering in his chest as he stared back at the island, relieved that Motoharu’s army had not been able to assemble on their own ship in time to give chase.

After a head count, they had only lost two men, the rest of them sporting minor injuries, save for Nana. She had been told to remain on the ship, but at seeing the rest of them fight, had picked up a sword and attempted to join them, only to be stuck through with a poisoned spear.

She was resting in the room they had turned into the infirmary, with Yoongi and Taehyung tending to her, and Jungkook felt nothing but guilt twisting at his gut.

“I am so sorry,” Jimin said, his head hanging low and his voice dripping with shame and guilt. “I almost got everyone killed, I… I truly thought that I had found our solution, but now we are worse off than when we began.”

“This is not your fault,” Jungkook said. “We have to take these kinds of risks if we want to move forward.” He paused, remembering the look on Jimin’s face as they had to abandon the prisoners there in the temple. “I should be the one apologizing that we could not stop and rescue the prisoners.”

“I understand,” Jimin said. “I am glad we put the lives of the crew and of our friends first, but…”

“But?” Jungkook prompted.

“But I remembered how it was to be a prisoner. Prisoner to the sea, then to pirates, then to more pirates, and…” He sighed. “Nothing is worse.”

“You will never be a prisoner again,” Jungkook said. “You are captain of a ship, flying under your own colors with the world at your fingertips. No shackles will ever hold you back again, love.”

“Not all shackles are made of steel,” Jimin said, leaning his head against the mast and staring out at the horizon. “The sea calls for me, even now.”

“She can’t have you,” Jungkook responded, tugging Jimin gently by his hand so that they were facing each other, his other arm looping around his thin waist. “I am yours just as much as you are mine.”

“For now, anyway,” Jimin murmured, pressing his lips ever so lightly against Jungkook’s. “Until she comes to take me.”

Jungkook pulled their bodies flush together, kissing him fiercely, refusing to let go until both of them were left gasping into each other’s mouths. “I would like to see her try,” he said.

Chapter Text

The atmosphere on the ship as they sailed away from the hellish island in the north was nothing short of utter despair. They had lost two good men in the fight to escape, Jimin was still wracked with guilt that came twofold: he could not save the prisoners kept by Motoharu, and he was convinced that his intel leading them there made him responsible for everything that occured. Not only that, but Nana’s infection had spread to the point that Yoongi and Taehyung weren’t leaving her side for even a moment.

“How is she?” Jungkook asked one evening, when Taehyung finally emerged pale-faced from the infirmary with bloodied rags in his hands.

Taehyung just shook his head. “There is not much else I can do for her,” he said. “With luck, the gods will usher her to their side as painlessly as they can, but…”

“Shit,” Jungkook whispered, pressing a hand to his forehead. “How is Yoongi?”

“He found her dying in an alley abandoned by an abusive family and has raised her as his own for six years,” he said. “He is not doing well, nor would I expect him to.”

Jungkook exhaled, shaking his head. “Nor would I. I am just grateful that he has you, my friend.”

“He does not have me any more than he has the rest of you,” Taehyung said quietly, excusing himself and brushing past Jungkook to the storage rooms, likely to switch out the bloodied rags for fresh ones.

Jungkook looked once more at the closed door, where Nana was slowly dying behind it, and Yoongi, one of his most hardened crew members was likely consumed with grief. The mark on Jungkook’s hand, though it was more accurate to say arm now, burned red hot and he let out a small hiss of pain.

This was his fault. No matter how much guilt Jimin had built up from the incident on Motoharu’s island, when it all came down to it, this was Jungkook’s fault. Jungkook had been the one foolish enough to fall in love with a siren and steal him away from the sea, bringing a curse upon himself and thereby his entire crew.

It was no coincidence that the tragedies they had suffered had been on their quest to rid himself of the curse. The sea would not let him free so easily, and she was demonstrating this to him now in the worst possible manner.

They were nearing the end now, he could feel it in his gut, though he wasn’t sure what the end would bring, exactly. Would he perish by the sea’s hand? Would he have no choice but to relinquish Jimin back to whence he came? Or would he continue on his journey to break his curse, only to watch as his crew members took the fall for him one by one until only he remained, alone and plagued by the ghosts of those whom he’d sacrificed for his own selfish gain?

It was these thoughts that haunted him as he sat in his quarters, stripped down to only his trousers. His cursed mark had spread to his shoulder, black streaks stretching as if trying to reach toward his chest and eventually to his heart.

There was a constant pain now, one that only grew more prominent every time he was near Jimin, but he had become so used to it that it was like a part of him now. It stung like the lashings on his back had, but those had scarred and healed. This was like being lashed over and over with no end, no chance for any scarring, no chance for it to heal.

He never let his crew members see just how badly the curse had spread, but there was no hiding it from Jimin, whose pained expression every time he saw it was burned into the back of Jungkook’s eyelids with no hope of erasing it.

“What do we do?” Jungkook asked one night as Jimin hovered his fingers above the blackened skin, his bottom lip tugged back by his teeth.

“I don’t know,” Jimin whispered, defeat in his voice. “I truly don’t, my love.”

They had no time to discuss it further, as later that night, Taehyung appeared, blanched and tight-lipped, to inform them that Nana had nearly succumbed to her infection at last.

Jungkook quickly shrugged on a shirt and his glove, rushing to the infirmary along with the rest of the crew, only to be hit with the smell of death and rot.

Nana was alive, but only barely, her face void of any color and the bandages on her torso discolored and peeling despite Taehyung changing them several times a day and applying his healing salves. Each breath was a rattle, her eyes unfocused and her small body nearly motionless there on the cot.

“Minnow,” Nana choked, her dry, cracked lips forming Yoongi’s nickname desperately. “Minnow, I’m scared.”

Yoongi, who was knelt beside her, brushed her hair from her pale, clammy skin and said, “I’m here. I’ll always be here.”

“Will Taetae take care of you?” she asked, weakly reaching one hand up to cup Yoongi’s cheek. “Promise me?”

“I promise,” he said. “I promise, Miss Nana.”

She closed her eyes then, her eyelashes fluttering and one more breath escaping her lips, which had turned upwards at the end ever so slightly.

Jimin exhaled and looked away, one hand covering his mouth, despair in his eyes. Seokjin muttered an expletive under his breath and Hoseok had to leave the room, choking back a sob.

Before Jungkook could attempt to try and comfort Yoongi, Taehyung walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, murmuring something in a voice too soft for Jungkook to hear. Yoongi said nothing, but reached up to where Taehyung’s hand was resting on his shoulder and laced their fingers together, leaning his head against Taehyung’s arm.

Deciding it best to leave them alone to mourn, Jungkook ushered the rest of the crew out of the room, and exchanged glances with Taehyung, who nodded once. Jungkook shut the door, hearing Taehyung begin the funeral rites he had grown up with to send a soul on to peacefully part with the gods.

There was a mournful silence that had fallen over the Sea Witch’s Revenge after that, all of them now having become used to death and fallen crew members, but never one so young, so innocent.

“We must do something,” Jungkook said to Taehyung, when he had finally emerged with a Yoongi that had emptiness in his eyes, a hollowness that was not there before. “We cannot go on like this.”

“I know,” Taehyung said. “This is not your fault, but Jungkook… The end is drawing near. The sea hungers.”

“This is my fucking fault,” Jungkook said, his voice raising without meaning to, his fists clenching subconsciously, as if his body was moving on its own. “I should submit to the sea. She demands blood, my blood.” The voice he was speaking with was not his own, and yet he felt trapped in his own skin.

Taehyung’s eyes widened, and he looked to Jimin.

“Jungkook, my love,” Jimin said gently, gripping him by the shoulders. “Do not let her take your mind. This is what she wants.”

“I know what she wants,” Jungkook snarled, attempting to pull away even as Jimin held him steadfast. He may have become more human with time, but his inhuman strength remained. “Let go. Let go, so that she may have her revenge.”

Taehyung reached over and tugged down Jungkook’s shirt, exposing the black tendrils that were stretching toward his heart. “Just as I suspected,” he said.

“Jungkook, you must remember who you are. Please hold on, just for a bit longer. We will figure this out, I promise you,” Jimin pleaded, his voice melodic and harsh on Jungkook’s ears all at once.

Foolish, foolish boy, you have stolen from me for the last time, and I will haveblood, your blood and flesh and bone for what you have done. Your heart will be mine, just as—

“Agghh!” Jungkook cried out, lurching forward and clutching at his head as the same voice that had haunted his nightmares since the first night they’d found Jimin exploded through his mind as if from every direction, making his ears ring and his head pound.

“Jungkook!” Jimin knelt down, peering at him with concern. “What is wrong?”

“The...the voice,” he croaked, echoes of it still making everything else sound so far away, as if he were underwater. “The voice, it…”

“What voice?” Taehyung demanded.

Jimin, however, had adopted a grim expression. “The sea,” he said. “She is speaking to you, is she not?”

“I… I think so,” Jungkook said.

“When did this begin?”

Jungkook took a steadying breath, attempting to regain his balance. “Since… since the very first night we met,” he admitted. “She has been coming to me in my dreams ever since that night, but never… never like this.”

“Jimin, what does this mean?” Taehyung asked, for once appearing to be at a loss.

“It means that we must move quickly,” Jimin said. “Make for the nearest port. It doesn’t matter which. Someone out there, somewhere, will have heard of a way to break this curse.”

Jungkook nodded and followed along with their captain’s orders, but truthfully, he was already beginning to accept his fate. If soothsayers, if a monk who could leech the abilities of others, if even the Great Dragon himself did not have a solution, he doubted there was anyone in the seven seas who did.

The next port was a rather large trading hub with a bustling harbor town, and Jimin gave the order to investigate as much as they could here without drawing suspicion. “We can stay here for as long as necessary,” he explained to Jungkook. “We need to at least get you away from the sea for now, for the longer you are sailing on her waters, the more of a hold she will be able to have upon you.”

Jungkook hated being on land more than anything, but Jimin was right. There was a clear difference in his level of anxiety and how volatile he was once he stepped onto the docks and away from the water.

The inn they selected was a large one, with each of them obtaining their own rooms, save for Yoongi, who was still heavily mourning Nana and who Taehyung had followed wordlessly, and Jimin and Jungkook.

“‘Tis a good thing you came now, travelers,” the master of the house said, ushering them all inside. “A storm is brewing something awful out there, and any ship would be worse for wear in weather like that.”

Jungkook looked out the window past the pub area to the dark clouds rolling overhead at a frightening speed, a chill running down his spine. This could be no coincidence.

“No matter,” he muttered to Jimin. “The sea cannot reach us here.”

Jimin nodded, tight-lipped and anxious.

The crew spent the day casually asking around the pub and the inn, even braving the rain to visit other pubs to ask about any leads the hardened sailors around these parts might have until the storm became too ferocious and they had to return to the inn, downtrodden and defeated.

Taehyung and Yoongi had been scarce for much of the day, and Jungkook was itching to ask what Taehyung’s thoughts were on all of this, if his intuition was telling him anything at all. He climbed the stairs to the bedrooms, but before he could raise his fist to the door to knock and ask if it was alright if he spoke with Taehyung, he heard hushed voices from within.

“W-wait.”

“Hmm? Is something wrong? Have I… Have I misread your intentions?”

“No, not at all, Yoongi, I just. I don’t… like being touched,” Taehyung whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” came Yoongi’s reply. “You don’t owe me anything.”

“I know. But I’m sorry. I know that you… want to.”

“Not if you don’t.”

“You… Thank you.”

Jungkook hurried away after that, deciding to give them their privacy. Whatever advice or thoughts on the matter that Taehyung had could surely wait until the morning.

His mind a jumbled mess, he returned to his own room, where Jimin was already waiting for him, his arms open to accept his embrace. When they touched, it almost felt as though they were desperately clinging to every bit of each other, as if one of them was going away for a while and they wanted to keep a piece of the other.

Jungkook feared that they both could sense the end drawing near.

By morning, the storm had not settled, and Jimin held Jungkook tightly in their bed, pressing a kiss to his bare chest and then his neck, stroking his hair. “I am so scared for you,” he said. “It is thanks to you that I was able to learn about love, about fear, about worry and friendship and humanity, and now… now the sea is trying to take you from me. The curse is so close to your heart, Jungkook.”

“It is,” Jungkook said, for there was nothing he could say other than the truth. They could both see it, and there was no point denying it or looking at things through an optimistic light. Not anymore.

“Jungkook, you have saved my life time and time again, and yet I still have not been able to repay my debt to you.” Jimin squeezed his eyes shut. “It kills me.”

“Jimin…” Jungkook reached over and took Jimin’s hand. “Is that what you see this as? Just you trying to repay a debt to me?”

“No,” Jimin said, opening his eyes and shaking his head. “No, Jungkook, I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Jungkook said, gripping his hand tighter. “That is why I don’t care if the sea takes me. At least… at least I got to be with you, even if it was only for a little while. That alone made all of this worth it.”

“I won’t accept that. We will find a way to be together,” Jimin insisted, fire in his eyes. “We will find a way to defeat the sea.”

Months ago, Jungkook would have agreed with him, fierce never-say-die energy coursing through his veins. But now? After everything? After having traveled across the sea searching for any sort of solution, after losing his ship, his crew, after losing Jimin, and then gaining it all back only to start losing them again one by one… He just wasn’t sure anymore.

For once, he wasn’t sure if this was a fight he was going to walk away from.

Not wanting to instill more worry into Jimin’s heart, however, Jungkook said nothing and simply held him tighter, deciding that if he were to be spending his last moments on earth, he would want it to be with Jimin.

 

The following days were spent once again scouring every tavern, pub, and shop for stories, whispers, tales of anything that could set them on the right path to break the hold that the sea had upon Jungkook, but as expected, they had no luck whatsoever. One woman who ran a clothing store had heard of “a monk somewhere up north, on some snowy island,” but that was the closest to a hint that they found.

The mention of Motoharu made Taehyung shudder, and they once more made to regroup back at the inn and decide where to go from there. They couldn’t stay here forever, not with their cover of being merchants so flimsy to begin with and whispers of their true identities as pirates being spread throughout the town, but they also couldn’t sail out into this storm with no direction, either.

They had reached an impasse, and Jungkook only saw one end, here.

As they turned the corner toward the inn, Taehyung opened his mouth to say something to Jungkook, only for the both of them to stop dead in their tracks, Jungkook’s heart falling to the pit of his stomach when he saw who was standing just a ways down the road, familiar even through the fall of rain around them.

Junho, though he supposed it was Captain Junho now, with Tanaka and the rest of the crew around him, their faces burned into Jungkook’s mind even after so long without seeing hide nor hair of them.

“Jungkook, what—” Jimin began speaking, only to fall silent as well when his eyes fell on the old crew, the very same crew that had treated him as nothing more than a prize to sell. Jungkook was sure that Jimin would never forget their faces, either.

“Well, well, well,” Junho sneered, looking them up and down, his cruel eyes lingering on Jimin before settling on Jungkook. “Look who survived, somehow. Tell me, Jeon, how did you escape? We were sure certain we’d left you for dead, you and the little fairy there, weren’t we, crew?”

“Sure were,” Tanaka said. “Little siren made its way back too, how precious, aye? Still got that valuable blood running through your veins?”

“Jungkook,” Jimin muttered, his hand on the dagger at his hip.

Jungkook’s crew were tense behind them— none of them had ever seen Jungkook’s old crew before, but it was obvious who they were. On the horizon, down by the docks, the golden colors of the Great Dragon’s stolen flags were billowing in the stormy winds, and the lot of them were decked out in silks and velvets from their ill-gotten riches, all of it from the Dragon’s island.

“See, we’d been looking for that ghost ship we heard so many rumors about,” Junho said, licking his lips as the rain poured around them. “Didn’t take long to realize it was Cap’n Jiwon’s ship that had all the sailors from here to Japan quaking in their muddied boots, so we’d been tracking ‘im, figurin’ he was using that siren magic to do all that ghostly horseshit.”

“But it ain’t Cap’n Jiwon here, no,” Tanaka continued, cackling. “It’s old Jeon and fairy Kim, with their little pet siren. And a whole new crew of suckers who got roped into following their doomed quest.”

“How’s that curse going for you, Jeon?” Junho crowed, probably expecting Jungkook’s crew to not have known already. “The sea still nipping at your ass?”

“Has to be, since he’s got little fishy boy still with him,” Taeha chimed in, her hand firmly on the hilt of her sword. By now the villagers had realized what was going on outside, and had barricaded their doors and windows, leaving the cobbled streets vacant save for the two opposing pirate crews.

“Then you won’t mind if we take him from you, will ye?” Tanaka said, his lips curling up and a pair of daggers twirling in his gloved hands. “Since you went through all the trouble of killin’ Jiwon to get him back and all. Seems like a waste for ‘im to die with you.”

“Over my dead body,” Hoseok growled, surprising Jungkook by being the first to step forward, his sword drawn. The rest of the crew stepped forward as well, each of them unsheathing their weapons to stand beside Jungkook and Jimin.

“Not every crew is as quick to abandon their captain in times of hardship as you,” Jungkook said triumphantly, drawing out his own sword and relishing the sound it made, the weight in his hand as he stared directly into Junho’s traitorous eyes. He had been waiting a long time for this.

“Not every corrupt captain is as stubborn to die as you,” Junho sneered. “You should be rotting at the bottom of the ocean with our dear old friend Captain Li.”

“Jungkook is nothing like him,” Taehyung spoke up, standing at Jungkook’s side as always, since the very beginning. “You, on the other hand, I am sure he would love to see after all this time.”

Junho snarled and as if in an instant, both crews crashed together in a clashing of swords and mingling of war cries. Unsurprisingly, Junho made a beeline directly to Jimin, probably certain that he could repeat what Jiwon had done and use Jimin against him.

What Junho didn’t know was that Jimin had captained a pirate ship that had thousands fearing him across the sea, and could fight back with the sword in his hands that had been roughened with time. He didn’t need his voice to hold his own; he was as much a fighter as the rest of them, and Jungkook grinned triumphantly as he watched their swords dance off each other.

He couldn’t focus much on Jimin or the others, however, as Tanaka had rushed him and was currently trying his very damndest to stick his daggers anywhere he possibly could, forcing Jungkook to concentrate on blocking his quick jabs.

All around him were the cries of battle and the sounds of metal clashing together, the smell of blood and rain and mud as the waves and thunder crashed in the distance. It wouldn’t be long before the gong at the town square was rung and the Navy was called upon; they needed to get back on their ship, and fast.

Jimin appeared to have the same idea, as he was pushing forward as they fought, forcing the battle closer and closer to the harbor. Jungkook at last managed to overthrow Tanaka, his blade running clean through his gut. He stopped to double over and grip the blade of Jungkook’s sword, but he ripped it out of him in a splatter of blood and kicked his body over, moving onto the next attacker.

It hardly registered in his mind that these were the men who had taught him to become a pirate, that these were the men who had once sworn to sail under his command, no matter the circumstance.

All he saw were a crew of opportunistic traitors who had taken advantage of a young, cock-sure man and manipulated him into becoming their puppet.

He was a puppet no longer.

Tanaka and a few others were still lying in the mud when they reached the harbor, and Jimin was still locked in a fierce duel with Junho, one of them possessing years of experience in combat and the other possessing the wisdom of the sea and the desperation to win at any cost.

Jungkook and Taehyung gave each other a firm nod, and Taehyung began instructing the crew to board the Sea Witch’s Revenge, Jungkook stepping in to help Jimin catch Junho off guard just long enough to board the ship along with them.

After a quick head count in all the chaos, they didn’t appear to have lost anyone, though it was difficult to tell with how frantically everyone was moving to sail away from the docks as fast as they possibly could. They could take Junho’s crew, but they couldn’t take both him and the Navy at once, and Jungkook was already hearing the reverberation of the gong being sounded.

“Cover your ears!” Jimin bellowed to everyone aboard the ship, and everyone did so without hesitation, watching as he opened his mouth to sing, rendering Junho and the rest of his men incapacitated and in a daze, one of them who had tried to climb up onto the Sea Witch’s Revenge after them developing a glazed look and falling with a crash into the sea below.

Once they were at a distance that Jimin’s voice would no longer have its effect, Jimin made a signal for the crew to uncover their ears, and they all instantly exploded into raucous cheers.

“We’ve done it!” Hoseok cried. “That’s our Captain! That’s the power of a siren, the power of the sea!”

Jungkook, however, was not so optimistic. “Prepare the cannons!” he roared to the crew, who scrambled to follow his orders immediately.

Yoongi pulled him aside, nodding his head back toward the hazy outline of the shore in the distance. “They’ll never catch up at this rate,” he said.

Jungkook simply shook his head, his lips tightly clamped together in a grimace. “The Black Trident is the fastest ship in the sea.”

Yoongi glanced back, the fog having blanketed most of their surroundings, and sure enough, the hazy outline of a ship that had no business having come that close to them could be seen. “By the gods,” he muttered.

“Prepare yourselves,” Jimin announced to everyone. “You all know of Jungkook’s curse. You know what it means to be out on the sea like this, already disadvantaged. But all of you are still here. Why?”

“Because we believe in him,” Taehyung responded, the rain falling in his face, and yet he’d never looked so open and clear before, even when Jungkook had first met him. “And we believe in you.”

Lightning struck somewhere in the distance, lighting up the sky with a crack of yellow, and the crew lifted their swords up to the thick, rolling clouds and let out a thunderous roar of approval. Jungkook looked to Jimin, who looked back with pride and something else in his eyes, too. He’d never looked more real, more human.

Their spirits heightened, everyone got to work as quickly as they could to prepare for a sea battle and the storm that only seemed to be getting worse the longer they were out on deck.

It felt like no time at all had passed when at last the Black Trident came into view, Junho’s furious expression visible even through the fog and battering of rain around them. “Fire!” he boomed, immediately when the ship was able to line up their cannons at them. The Sea Witch’s Revenge rocked with the force of the blast, but they had their cannons ready with a counterattack just as quickly.

As much as it pained Jungkook to see the cannonballs punching into his old ship, he had to do what was best for the crew. If taking Junho down meant sinking the Black Trident, then so be it.

Taeha, who Jungkook remembered being one of the first to teach him to tie knots back when he’d joined their crew, swung over onto the Sea Witch’s Revenge with her sword in hand, heading straight for Jimin. When he parried her attack and dodged away, attempting to gain higher ground, Jungkook stepped in and slashed at her side while she was distracted.

Instantly she buckled, blood pouring from between her fingers as she gripped at her wound, and it was with no joy that Jungkook finished her off with a stab through her chest.

Hoseok dispatched Jaejoon, who had been fitted with a new hand in the time that they’d last seen each other, and out of the corner of his eye Jungkook saw Yoongi and Taehyung fighting back-to-back with several of Junho’s crew that had also snuck aboard.

The storm above them was the largest Jungkook had ever seen now, the waves rocking both ships so violently that he feared they may topple over completely. At last, Junho made his way onto their ship, leaving the Black Trident in the hands of a still-injured Tanaka and a few others, and faced Jungkook with fiery rage in his dark eyes.

The wind picked up around them as the two of them charged at each other, swords drawn, and Jungkook scarcely heard Taehyung cry out, “Maelstrom!” for how fiercely he was engaged in his duel with Junho.

Junho took advantage of the brief distraction by shoving Jungkook with the hilt of his sword against the side of the ship, which was leaning at a dangerous angle, and sure enough, Jungkook could see that the ocean below them had turned into a swirling vortex that was swallowing up driftwood and the fallen bodies of the dead as if it were a gaping maw consuming everything in its path.

With a grunt, Jungkook shoved Junho off and dodged a swipe of his sword, attempting to rush in to kick his legs out from under him, but Junho was fast for his age, and side stepped him. The ships were beginning to be swept up in the maelstrom, but Jungkook couldn’t think about that right now, not with Junho kicking him to the ground and raising his sword to stab him directly through the heart.

He rolled to the side, and in the brief second it took Junho to pull his sword from the wood of the ship, Jungkook had the upper hand and drove his blade into Junho’s shoulder, causing him to cry out. He switched hands, though his left was not his dominant one, and he was noticeably weaker now, unable to parry as quickly, and just as Jimin was screaming something behind him, Jungkook knocked Junho’s sword out of his hand and held his own blade to his throat, forcing him against the side of the ship instead.

“I should thank you for leaving Taehyung and I to die on that island,” he said, as Junho whimpered while the rain carried his blood across the deck. “Otherwise I would never have been able to let you have your reunion with Captain Li.”

With that, he shoved Junho into the depths of the maelstrom, not bothering to give him a second glance as he was swallowed up by the sea. He could see now that they were dangerously close to the edge, and the Sea Witch’s Revenge was already caught in its path, with no hope of sailing out.

Jimin’s orders were to abandon ship, and head onto the Black Trident, where the pathetic remains of Junho’s crew were easily dispatched. With the nature of their battle, the Black Trident was in much better condition than the Sea Witch’s Revenge, and they immediately turned the sails to ride the wind away from the currents attempting to drag them into the maelstrom.

“What do we do, Captain?” Jimin asked, turning to Jungkook.

“But— Jimin, you—”

Jimin smiled and shook his head. “I was Captain of the Sea Witch’s Revenge. The Black Trident is your ship, my love. No one deserves to be captain of her more than you.”

“We can decide who is captain when we get the hell out of this storm!” Yoongi shouted, squinting against the rain and checking over his shoulder to check the proximity of the massive whirlpool. “You said this is the fastest ship in the sea, so get us the hell away from here!”

Jungkook knew exactly what to do, but as he shouted out orders to his crew, he felt the familiar burn and sting of his cursed mark, and felt those blackened tendrils at last reach his chest, reaching and stretching and clawing at his heart.

His time was up, but no one in his crew needed to die here.

The Black Trident was on a path out of this, but they would never survive with him on board. He glanced around to make sure that everyone was busy with keeping the ship on course away from the maelstrom, and then walked to the edge of the ship, grabbing one of the ropes that Junho’s crew had used to board the Sea Witch’s Revenge.

Jungkook gripped the rope with a fierce determination, looking down into the depths of the ocean crashing and pulling and devouring the Sea Witch’s Revenge, closed his eyes, and jumped.

The wind and salt in the air stung at his eyes, and the shouts from his crew were drowned out by the thunderous sounds of the whirlpool below, but as he landed on the doomed ship, he took one last look behind him.

There, on the Black Trident, sailing safely away, was his crew. His beautiful, adventurous, loyal crew that he’d grown to love like a family. And in the center of all of them, growing smaller by the second, was Jimin, who could now finally live as a human, free of the cold clutches of his prison beneath the sea.

Jimin was the last thing he saw before the ship buckled under his feet and the sea claimed her revenge at last.

Chapter Text

“Did you ever love me?”

“No.”

“You lie. You humans, you are liars.”

“I am no longer human. The sea has granted me power that even you cannot imagine.”

“You are a foolish mortal, and if you leave me, our love will follow you to the ends of the earth. You will not escape me any more than you will escape the sea.”

And he left anyway.

“No, I… I am not like him.”

All of you humans are. You lie. You steal. You, more than anyone.

“I am nothing like him. I would never abandon the one I love. Have I not… proven this?”

You have his blood in you.

“Where did he go?”

He thought he was immortal. Foolish man. No one can escape me. He lies in the darkest depths, long since nibbled away by the creatures that live within.

“All along, his treasure was…?”

Yes. And just like him, you stole it away. Stole it from me, stole it and took it for yourself. Did you think you would become immortal like your ancestor before you, boy? Did you think yourself immune to my wrath?

“No. I… I stole nothing. My heart is Jimin’s just as much as his heart is mine.”

You lie.

“I do not. I am dead, am I not? What use is there for me to lie?”

You are not dead.

“Then where am I?”

Where you belong. The blood of the sea runs through your veins just as much as the blood of man.

“What do you mean?”

The child. She survived, living as human but carrying the life of the sea within her. She passed that down through your lineage, just as she passed down his blood.

“I… I had no idea.”

It matters not. You are here, where you belong.

“Where is Jimin?”

You… are an interesting one. I sense no dishonesty in you. Your heart is bared to me, just as his was, and yet you...

“Where is Jimin? My crew? They are alive, yes?”

They are alive.

“Where are they?”

Open your eyes.

“What?”

Wake up.

“I don’t understand.”

“Jungkook, wake up!”

Jungkook opened his eyes to blinding light and a figure leaning over him that slowly came into focus as his vision adjusted. Jimin was leaning over him, his hair golden as the day they met, his skin shimmering with a translucent sheen that caught the light in a way that made him look ethereal. His arms and torso were shimmering as well, and his body stretched out into a scaled fin, though the both of them were on a ship, the salty sea air in Jungkook’s nostrils and gulls above them cawing as they flew across the bright blue sky.

“Jimin?” he croaked, his voice garbled as his lungs still worked to dispel the sea water caught within them. He coughed out a dribble of it, his head pounding and his heart racing. He should be dead, and yet he was not. He was here, his palm running across the slick wet wood of the Black Trident’s upper deck, and Jimin’s touch on him was real, the smell of the brine of the sea, the sounds of his crew members talking around him, it was all real.

“Oh, Jungkook,” Jimin choked out a sob, and slid his arms around him, burying his face in his neck. He was cold to the touch, but he was unmistakably still Jimin, despite his appearance. “I thought I had lost you.”

Jungkook lifted his arm to embrace Jimin, and stopped when he saw his own body.

Instead of the blackened, cursed skin that had marred his arm for so long, the figure of a golden dragon had taken its place, its body curving around his muscles, its tail at his knuckles and its head opening its mouth to breathe tendrils of fire over his chest. It glinted in the light, a tattoo of a kind Jungkook had never seen before.

“How… What… What happened?” Jungkook asked, managing to sit upright as Jimin stroked his hair and cheeks and pressed kisses to his neck and shoulders.

“I finally repaid my debt to you,” Jimin said.

“What do you mean? You aren’t… You aren’t leaving, are you?”

Jimin shook his head, smiling. “No. I offered myself to the sea in exchange for you, but she wasn’t satisfied. I had become too human, and she had something else in mind. A change of heart, she said.”

“She just… gave up so easily?”

“No. The Great Dragon stole the heart of the very first siren of the sea all those years ago, leaving her with a child to raise on her own, and so she punished him with an eternity at the bottom of the ocean. You… are descended from that child, but she saw something else in you, my love. She saw that you hadn’t stolen my heart any more than I’d stolen yours.”

“The Great Dragon was not the hero I had always pictured him to be,” Jungkook said weakly. “If he is truly my ancestor…”

“Not just him. The sea, as well. You have the blood of the sea in you, and that makes all the difference.” Taehyung was speaking now, and Jungkook looked over, reminded of the presence of his crew once more. “Jimin, you said she made a compromise?”

Jimin nodded. “There’s a reason why you don’t like being on land,” he said to Jungkook, smiling softly. “That’s the part of you that harks back to that very first siren, who knew love and had it ripped from her. You love the sea because you are part of the sea.”

“And the compromise?”

“You sail her waters forever. Together, with me.”

Jungkook exhaled slowly, looking again to the golden markings on his arm and chest. “She appointed me as the next Great Dragon?”

Jimin nodded. “You… will never be able to set foot upon land again, but…”

“I don’t care about that,” Jungkook said, now able to get to his feet, lifting Jimin up with him, his pearlescent scales glistening in the sunlight. “I said that I would sail the seven seas with you, and I meant it.”

“Oh, Jungkook. You are the only man I know who has stolen from the sea and lived to see another day,” Jimin said, stroking his hair.

Jungkook pressed their lips together, holding Jimin close, feeling his heart swell as he held Jimin there in his arms with no burn on his palm telling him that this was forbidden, no vengeful voice in his head promising to kill him. He was here with Jimin, and this was where he would be for as long as both of them lived.

Jimin had been out of the water for a while now, and was beginning to lose his siren form again, leaving him exposed in Jungkook’s arms. Seokjin shrugged out of his jacket and handed it to Taehyung, who rushed forward and allowed Jungkook to wrap it around him, setting him down but not removing his hand from around Jimin’s waist. He stood there still shimmering with the traits of the sea, but standing on two legs.

“Wow,” Hoseok gaped. “This is more than I could have ever imagined, coming on this journey with you, Captain. To see a siren in his true form… Unbelievable.”

“What will you all do now?” Jungkook asked. “I cannot ask you to sail with me with no purpose. Many of you had lives, before…”

“And we pledged them to you,” Namjoon reminded him. “I would be honored to continue sailing with you, if you will have us.”

“Me as well,” Seokjin added. “I would rather not face my father after stealing and wrecking his ship, and I believe I make a better pirate than noble, wouldn’t you say?”

“Speaking of wrecking a ship, the Black Trident suffered a few cannon blows during our last battle and will need repairs. I think I should like to stick around for that,” Hoseok said with a smile.

“I can’t go back to the pub, not after everything. I owe it to Nana,” Yoongi said, and Taehyung squeezed his hand.

“And my friend, you know where I stand, where I have always stood. Right by your side,” Taehyung said, nodding at Jungkook.

Jungkook’s heart felt too big for his chest in that moment, but he remained composed, feeling more like a captain than he ever had in his years as a pirate. “I am unable to set foot on land,” he said. “You all do not share that fate.”

“So we will do as we always have done,” Taehyung said. “We make port when necessary with you still onboard the ship, and continue sailing. If there ever comes a time when we need an extended stay on land, you will know where to find us again.”

Jungkook looked to Jimin, who was still glistening, but significantly more human than before. “What do you think, Jimin?”

“I think that you will not find a more loyal crew in all the seven seas, my love,” he responded.

“I agree,” Jungkook said with a grin.

 

Tales of the revival of the Great Dragon of the East spread faster than wildfire through the sea, tales of golden sails and a captain with the mark of the sea glinting on his arm being told in every pub from Japan to China. Jungkook didn’t quite think of himself as being the ‘revived’ Great Dragon, but it filled him with a sense of pride to know that with every wave their ship crested, the sea was around them and with them, working with them rather than against them.

His fire to find treasures and plunder from other pirates had dissipated, as there was no treasure greater than sailing the world with the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen at his side, a creature who had loved so much that he had nearly become human.

As promised, his crew stayed loyal, even as they did take breaks and leave the ship for a while, they always returned. Taehyung and Yoongi spent a year on the island Taehyung grew up in, performing proper funeral rites for Nana and taking time to heal emotionally. When they returned, it was with the both of them sporting smiles Jungkook thought he may never see on their faces again.

Namjoon visited his old crew for a short while, who were all eager to hear tales of their former captain that had become a pirate and now sailed with the man who was both human and not, the man who was cursed and then blessed by the sea herself.

Hoseok returned to his hometown briefly to publish his findings about sirens, but his days as a fisherman were long behind him, and despite his initial hesitations, he was all too eager to return to the Black Trident.

Seokjin was the only one who never left for very long, claiming that he simply was keeping out of reach of his governor father and loved being a pirate, but Yoongi smirked and said that Seokjin had grown rather fond of all of them, despite his attempts at remaining aloof.

Jimin, of course, never once left Jungkook’s side, the both of them content with sailing the world together, seeing everything there was to see with the ocean herself guiding their ship and its sails.

All his life, that drive to never give up, to never back down, to always search for something greater, he was sure now that it was simply to fill the void inside him that he hadn’t even known was there in the first place. Being out on the sea, feeling the push and pull of the tides within himself, smelling the salty air and feeling at home, the wind guiding him with the love of his life by his side, this was what he had been seeking all this time.

And Jimin, who had never known true freedom, always shackled by the sea, now finally had his own voice apart from hers, able to sail on her waters just like Jungkook, bound by nothing but his own compass, and it was as though a visible weight had been lifted from his slender shoulders.

Neither of them would be prisoner to anyone or anything ever again.

One warm summer evening, when all was peaceful out on deck and Jungkook and Jimin could slip away to their quarters together, Jungkook was reminded again of the very first night he had brought Jimin to this exact room, and how he could never have imagined this sort of outcome back then.

Then again, he supposed it was in his blood, practically part of his destiny to have ended up here, having fallen in love with a siren just as his ancestor had done years and years ago.

The difference was that Jungkook wasn’t planning on letting Jimin go. Not now, not ever, not for as long as Jimin would have him.

“You know, I think I’ve figured out the ending to the story you told me,” Jimin said, nosing along Jungkook’s jaw. “About the boy who knew nothing but hardship until he found his love in the sea.”

“What is it?”

Jimin pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth, eyelashes fluttering and stormy gray irises gazing into Jungkook’s own. “The broken and battered boy who grew to be a strong pirate captain fell in love with the sea.” He closed his eyes and captured Jungkook’s lips next in a searing kiss. Then, his lips still brushing against Jungkook’s, he whispered, “And the sea loved him back.”