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Our Dreams Are Getting Bigger Now

Chapter Text

Our dreams are getting bigger now.

Hold my hand,

and come fly with us.

The first couple of days after their escape had passed in a blur that was spent focusing on getting as far away from Port Royal, as fast as possible and once they'd hit open water they'd made remarkable time, which was to be expected of the fastest ship in the fleet. Even so, they didn't dare stop, not even to drop anchor at night so they could rest, the gap between them and any possible pursuit the Navy might have managed to summon or commandeer getting larger by the hour. Ideally, they'd be so far out of reach that in the end the Navy would never be able to catch up, but that was just Yeosang's wishful thinking, he was sure.

In order to keep the ship continuously moving, they slept only when they had to and in shifts, taking turns with the various different duties required to keep the ship moving. A near constant presence was required at the helm, and after Hongjoong, Wooyoung was the most skilled at navigating, meaning he'd earned himself the unofficial title of First Mate, whereas Yeosang was fairly sure that if he tried to steer the ship they'd end up lost who knows where, or sailing around in circles...that is if he didn't steer them in to a reef and sink the ship out from under them first. Wooyoung wouldn't even let him touch the compass as if his terrible sense of direction would rub off on the thing, and affect it.

After a few days of this, Hongjoong had deemed it apparent that if there was anyone chasing after them...they'd no longer be able to catch up to them any time soon and so they'd finally been able to relax a little. Their first order of business had then been tying a rope around Yeosang's waist and having Wooyoung dangle him over the back of the ship in order to use a pot of black paint they'd dug out from the deepest depths of the storage, to paint over the ships name. Its only identifying mark after Wooyoung had gleefully ripped down the Royal Navy flags waving obnoxiously from the mast. Hongjoong had forbidden him from burning the things, albeit reluctantly, and only because they were on a wooden ship for christ's sake. Yeosang was, unfortunately, the lightest amongst those of them not required to steer the ship and so he drew the short straw, Wooyoung holding the rope he was attached to as an extra precaution even though it was tied to the base of the helm.

Yeosang couldn't say he'd fully enjoyed the experience, with the risk of falling to the waves below and potentially being eaten by something nasty lurking in the water, but he'd found it oddly therapeutic at times, the sea breeze ruffling his hair, the sun warming his face, and a task to keep his mind off of what had happened to him. Yeosang wasn't sure when, if ever, he'd be able to overcome it, or how it would affect him in the future...or more specifically how he'd react around other men. Wooyoung obviously wasn't a threat to him, he was the one person Yeosang trusted implicitly and he could never be afraid of him.

Hongjoong on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. Despite not having known the older man for long, he found that he did trust him, after all he'd tried to help him at the Fort, and then ultimately helped them to escape from it. Yeosang had also felt a strange connection to the man long before they'd spent an evening talking about their pasts and where they'd come from, all the way through to the events before their escape, Hongjoong reciprocating as the bond that had already started to form not only during their escape but as they tried to keep the ship afloat, grew and strengthened with the pain of their pasts and the common ground they found within it.

 Yeosang didn't want to be wary of him, but he was afraid of how he'd react to him without Wooyoung's comforting presence next to him. Will I freeze up if he comes too close? Will I be able to be around him alone at all? It was something he hadn't had to think about, worry about, during their hectic first few days but as they'd been able to relax their pace Yeosang couldn't ignore it as Wooyoung couldn't be stuck to his side constantly. Hongjoong, for his part, must have picked up on the situation somewhat, because he made a point to never crowd Yeosang, to make sure he was never too close to him until Yeosang had closed the distance between them himself one day when they'd been left alone, indicating to Hongjoong that it was okay...that he felt comfortable around him, upon the realisation that he actually felt safe with the older man. Time would tell how he'd react to others though.

He hoped time would also see the passing of the nightmares and flashbacks that had made their presence known as they'd slowed their pace. He could be doing something mundane and something as simple as a word...a scent...a sound, would have him back in that room with Simmons on top of him, hands around his neck. Despite his desire to hide them Wooyoung had noticed immediately, as had Hongjoong and the younger was always there for the nightmares, a reassuringly warm hand on his arm or back with a comforting rub, or a tight hug when he jolted awake from one. Yeosang slept as close to Wooyoung as he could, Wooyoung's arm usually thrown securely over his waist, making him feel safe and protected, Hongjoong on his other side and actually allowing him to fall asleep in the first place.

When it came to the flashbacks during the day, Wooyoung was usually there immediately, as soon as he noticed Yeosang zoning out or ceasing to respond to him, his soft voice murmuring in his ear and his familiar scent helping to snap Yeosang back to the deck of their ship. Only then would Wooyoung dare to reach out and hug him tightly to his chest, soothing him with comforting words and stroking his hair. The few times Wooyoung wasn't nearby, Hongjoong tried his hardest to take his place, although Hongjoong's voice and scent weren't as familiar to him and therefore as inherently comforting as Wooyoung's, his quiet voice would eventually filter through the nightmare vision to reach Yeosang, pulling him back to the deck of the ship where Hongjoong's hesitant hands would be fluttering just above his skin, unsure if it would be best to touch him, but wanting so badly to comfort him. As soon as he'd realise that Yeosang was back with him, Hongjoong wouldn't hesitate to pull him in to a tight hug, rubbing his back and murmuring to him like he'd no doubt seen Wooyoung doing, and causing Yeosang to realise that he'd found himself another protector.

As the days wore on they'd fallen in to a pleasant rhythm aboard their ship, and he and Wooyoung had found it strangely easy to relax around the older man. Hongjoong seemed to have adopted a big brother role with them rather than that of Captain, playfully ruffling their hair, laughing and joking with them at any opportunity and his bitterness fading more each day. Yeosang assumed from his past and how things were at the Fort that Hongjoong had missed having someone to fuss over and someone to fuss over him. Missed having someone to banter and laugh with, someone to care for and someone to care for him. Not that they minded in the least, Hongjoong had swiftly carved a place in their hearts, something that they hadn't thought would be possible for anyone to do. But then again Hongjoong had been doing things they'd thought impossible for others since they'd met him. He'd tried to protect Yeosang, something that no-one besides Wooyoung had ever tried to do before.

But despite Wooyoung's happiness at forming such a relationship with the older man, Yeosang could tell he was getting anxious at the thought of Hongjoong abandoning them. Wondering when or if the older man would leave them like everyone else had, and Yeosang would have to gently remind him of the fact that they had no-one but each other now, and nowhere else to go. He wouldn't do that Wooyoungie because he knows what it's like to be the abandoned.

Five days in to their journey, they finally got around to figuring out their sleeping arrangements, rather than just curling up in a nest of blankets and sleeping on the main deck, a tactic they'd been employing in order to quickly wake and switchover that had become a hard habit to break. Hongjoong obviously took the Captain's quarters at the back of the main deck and to the left, under the helm. Next to his quarters and to the right, lay the first mate's, a position Hongjoong offered permanently to Wooyoung who excitedly accepted, pleased for once to be acknowledged for his skills. Yeosang was left free to choose any room he wanted among the Officers rooms below deck, on the first level. The 6 officers rooms made up the first half of the mid level of the ship, the latter half being the area the rest of the crew were supposed to sleep in using hammocks that would be strung up once night fell, two canons at home towards the very back, and a table that was supposed to be used to eat at, which they'd neglected in order to eat their meals on deck under the stars or the shining sun depending on the time of day. Yeosang had elected to pick the middle room on the right, putting his books on to the small shelf, including the ones he'd reclaimed from Wooyoung, and his mothers locket finally around his neck. He'd never been able to wear it before because it was against regulations and he'd been wary of losing it, and so he'd kept it tucked away in his belongings but now..he could wear what he liked and he could wear it with pride.

Hongjoong's room was a bit more decadent with a bed tucked against the right wall that connected the two cabins and draped in velvet curtains. A desk with a lamp and various maps scattered across it along with the tools needed to navigate was situated in front of the windows at the back of the cabin. A globe resting in one corner, and windows ran along the left side of the cabin, with a low shelf in front of them, the doors below indicating more hidden shelving, decorated with some candlesticks and books that Hongjoong must have put there himself ready for the voyage. A large map of the Caribbean and some additional navigational charts had been tacked to the wall immediately to the side of the desk, but before his bed and a chest lay at the end of it. Hongjoong's coat however, was not on its door hook, heaped instead in a sad little pile on the floor to the side, after he'd shedded it almost immediately upon making it out of the bay.

It was strange concept to Yeosang... having his own room, being apart from Wooyoung. When Wooyoung had first come to live with his family they'd shared a room, and had continued to do so ever since. It was almost...lonely without him nearby, so while it was a place for him to go to when he needed a quick moment to himself, to gather himself back together after one of his episodes usually, he had yet to actually sleep in there. Despite assigning themselves rooms, they still elected to sleep out on the deck, piled together with the warm breeze, the quiet sound of the waves hitting the hull and the stars twinkling above making for a peaceful mood that would quickly lull Yeosang to sleep.

It had been those stars that prompted Hongjoong to rename their ship one evening, out of the blue.

"Aurora" he'd blurted on the sixth night.

"Pardon?"

"Aurora….we should call her Aurora"

"Her...you mean the ship?" Wooyoung had said uncertainly, as if the Captain could be talking about anything else when they were in the middle of nowhere with nothing and no-one else in sight.

"No Wooyoung my pet kraken...yes the ship" Hongjoong had snorted.

"Why?"

"Because we can't go around calling the ship The Victory, and we can't go around without a name"

"I meant why The Aurora?"

"Ah, because an aurora lights up the darkness, makes it less scary…makes the darkness beautiful like the stars and this ship took us away from the darkness we'd all been living in for too long." Wooyoung had given the Captain a strange look at his words. "What? You disagree?"

"No, I just think it's funny that someone who threatened to cut a man's dick off and orchestrated a prison break, blowing up a treasury and stealing a ship in the process is sitting on said ship waxing poetic about some night lights" he giggled as Hongjoong hit him on the arm with a loud slap.

"Night lights…yo- " Hongjoong had sighed, his eyes rolling heavenward. Wooyoung had scampered away to his room, returning with a bottle of rum that he'd found, presumably placed there by whoever was supposed to live there for the next few months because they certainly hadn't had time to raid the booze before they'd left, along with three glasses and they'd toasted to their new home, it's new name and their new lives. To taking something bad and making it good. They'd basked in the feeling of a new beginning, a new start with nothing holding them back or tying them down...of truly being free and shaking off the darkness and ugly feelings that had clung to them, before Hongjoong had then broached the subject of their next move. Something they hadn't quite had time to discuss properly yet, focused as they had been on just simply getting away, and not caring too much about where 'away' was.

"Right now, we aren't a known pirate ship, and word shouldn't have made it this far about a Navy ship being stolen. Especially if Flint does as expected and attempts to cover it up to save his pride and reputation. Even if it has, however, the name's now covered and no-one will be able to tell it from a nameless merchant vessel. Flint liked to talk this ship up like it was the only one of its kind, but all it is really, is the exact same sort of design used by merchants with a fancy flag and name slapped on it with gun ports that could quite easily be explained away as necessary for oars. According to the maps in my quarters, we're near to a port, if we want to head there…we need to decide now because this is the best opportunity we'll get."

"We're nearly out of the fresh supplies already…it'd be nice to get some more so we could keep from eating rations for as long as possible" Wooyoung pouted. Well at least he's thinking with his stomach for once. "And as much as I enjoy your company…it'd be nice to see someone pretty for once" Ah, there it is.

"Are you saying I'm not pretty?" Yeosang had said archly.

"No, we all know you're beautiful Yeosangie, I was talking about Hongjoong" Wooyoung dissolved in to giggles and Hongjoong had just stared at him, heaved a sigh, and then turned to look at Yeosang.

"This, is the guy that threatened Simmons, beat the shit out of him and can allegedly flirt his way out of anything? The guy acting like a small child? The giggler?" Yeosang simply nodded at him. He knew that despite the fact he loved Wooyoung with his whole heart, thanks to the other boys childhood and what had been done to him...how he'd been treated, beaten and then abandoned as if he was nothing. Wooyoung constantly sought love and affection in any way he could get it. It was why he was so clingy with Yeosang, although he hadn't quite managed to make it to that stage of comfortable with Hongjoong as yet, although he was making progress. But because of his need for affection, for love, to feel wanted he donned a flirtatious mask to hide his vulnerabilities and allow him to get what it was he so craved, as much as it may make him hate himself on some occasions.

The flirting...it allowed him to get what it was he desired, allowed him to feel like he was good enough even if only for one night without things getting serious and emotions becoming involved. Without becoming attached. He would be the one to leave without looking back and not the other way around. He wouldn't be abandoned again by someone who was supposed to love him, supposed to care about him. But underneath all of that was a boy who loved to giggle, snark and tease. Who read Yeosang's romance novels of true love and soulmates and secretly dreamed of finding his own soulmate, if such a thing existed. Dreamed of finding the person who was supposed to be his fated other half, who was never supposed to leave his side, who was supposed to love him wholeheartedly and who would never hurt him...but at the same time he feared ever finding such a person in case it proved the stories were a lie. In case he found his soulmate and they turned out to be just like everyone else, Wooyoung wouldn't be able to survive a heartbreak like that...an abandonment from such a person. But still he dreamed, his mind fighting a battle between what he had experienced of life and love, and what he wished he could have but was too scared to find. Wooyoung's mask was just a means of protecting himself.

"This is Wooyoung" Yeosang had said, seriously, maintaining eye contact with Hongjoong as he did so and the older man must have picked up on something in his tone and gaze because he looked at Yeosang, then finally broke their stare as he turned and looked at Wooyoung. Really looked, studied might be a more accurate description, before nodding slightly in understanding. "This is Wooyoung" he'd repeated softly, evidently knowing it was a step in the right direction that Wooyoung was allowing him to see this playful, silly side of himself.

"Don't worry Hongjoongie, I'm only joking, you're pretty too of course" Wooyoung had winked, sidling up next to him and latching on to his arm. Hongjoong had become used to Wooyoung's clingy tendencies, even if he didn't experience them himself. He'd watched how Wooyoung was with Yeosang, constantly attached to him, constantly touching him or at the very least within arms reach of him whenever possible. Yeosang had seen the curious look in the older mans eye, the slightly longing look...wanting to be included but seemingly knowing it would take some time, as he didn't push the issue. Merely waited patiently for Wooyoung to come to him, much like Yeosang had, and slowly Wooyoung had allowed Hongjoong a touch here or there, a squeezed arm, a quick side hug. Evidently he'd finally reached the 'losing a limb to Wooyoung's need to hug something' stage. Hongjoong had just ruffled Wooyoung's hair, a delighted smile lighting up his face, before getting the conversation back on track. Wooyoung continuing to cling to his arm, not that their Captain seemed to mind. I think we're all a little touch starved. Hongjoong more than the rest of us. At least I had Wooyoung these last few years...he had no-one once he'd left his surrogate family behind.

"This isn't a pirate port, it's one of the more...upstanding ones and it will most likely be the last of the more respectable ports that we visit. Once word spreads of us, our actions and our descriptions starting to circulate, no doubt by way of wanted posters pasted everywhere, we won't be able to set foot in a regular port without the soldiers chasing us down as soon as they get wind of us and they will because as we all know...money speaks to everyone. It'll be hard to resist for those sorely lacking and I can't say I'd blame them. Anyway, I say we make port here one last time before we hit pirate territory and buy some last supplies. It wouldn't hurt to stock up on fresh water to replace what we've used so far just in case and perhaps grab some extra barrels as a contingency measure, alongside any other fresh produce because I think we'd all like to eat the good shit for as long as possible." Those hardtack biscuit...monstrosities are truly foul. "We also need to get some new clothes because shitting Christ do I want to get out of these." Hongjoong plucked at his shirt. "And I think we'd all like more than one outfit option before it starts to get...ripe, aboard"

"Clean clothes….new clothes….clothes that aren't white or that hideous bright red" Wooyoung sighed, dreamily.

"We haven't bought clothes in…I don't know how long" Yeosang chimed in. "We didn't really have the money before and we were always in uniform after that." Wooyoung let out a horrified gasp in realisation.

"But..we don't know anything about fashion?"

"Like anybody aboard this ship is going to care, Wooyoung" Yeosang rolled his eyes playfully. Hongjoong raised an amused eyebrow at them.

"Well…knock yourselves out. Buy whatever the hell you want. Get more clothes, books, whatever….this ship's our home now and we may as well make it as homey as we can. Oh, and I want to make sure we have extra medical supplies too, just in case" Hongjoong eyed Wooyoung as he said it.

"What?" Wooyoung said, innocently. "Why are you looking at me like that?!" Wooyoung finally relinquished his grip on Hongjoong's arm to stand in front of him with a huff.

"You know why" Yeosang and Hongjoong said in unison.

"That was one time!" Wooyoung tried to defend himself to Hongjoong while Yeosang looked past his best friend, mouthing the words "no it wasn't" to an amused Hongjoong.

"We all know that's a blatant lie and I haven't even known you that long." Wooyoung attempted a puppy dog look on the older man, who simply ignored him and continued "Right, so, supplies, clothes….and I think it would be a good idea to get some paint, most likely brown, so we can paint over the lighter wood parts of the ships hull. It will make it look even less like a navy ship, and remove the final thing that could make it even remotely resemble The Victory. When the ship was built and christened I'm sure they included drawings of it in the papers, but I can't recall if they described its colour way. It's best to remove it entirely"

"Why brown?" Wooyoung cut in.

"Hmm? What do you mean?" Hongjoong frowned.

"Well why does it have to be brown, why can't we paint it something…different. Like black."

"Black?"

"It's piratey right? A black ship looming out of the darkness, striking terror in to people's hearts" Wooyoung deepened his voice. Yeosang snickered.

"That'll make us stand out more Woo, we'd be an easily identifiable target. People wouldn't get close enough to us to identify us before they'd start shooting."

"But the ship's half black anyway" Wooyoung pointed out, a slight whine in his voice. "And I'm sure there are other pirate ships that are black...or at least dark coloured. Who ever heard of a pirate ship being a light colour? It doesn't seem very intimidating and the whole point of being a pirate ship is for it to look as intimidating as possible." Wooyoung did have a slight point, the entire back part of the ship along with the broad strip in the middle of it and the entire hull were all painted black, the rest of it being a light, oak colour. Most pirate ships they'd happened to come across had, in actual fact, been a deep brown if not black. "We may as well go all in" Wooyoung shrugged. And it will give us less work to do...or me because I'll probably be back on painting duty. Yeosang hummed his agreement, eyes turning to Hongjoong to gauge his opinion.

"Okay, it'll make the job easier on us if we have less that needs to actually be painted, and I don't quite feel like fitting in with everyone else now we're out of that shit hole of a fort…." his voice turned thoughtful. "But you just made me realise we're missing something that every pirate ship has." The boys looked questioningly at him and Yeosang started to mentally inventory everything they had. Keel...hull...stores...anchor...deck...canons...ammunition...fresh water...ropes...rigging...sails...masts...a name... "A flag, specifically...our own Jolly Roger" he grinned.

"Somehow I doubt there'll be a pirate flag shop in this port so I don't think we'll be able to get one" Yeosang commented bluntly. Hongjoong stared at him.

"Wow, he really is a mood killer"

"Told you" Wooyoung giggled, pouting at Yeosang when he hit him on the arm softly.

"I'm a realist, unlike you two, I don't ignore the practicalities." he sniffed.

"There might not be a shop specialising in pirate flags specifically…but there's probably a shop that has the materials for one. I can make it myself" the boys blinked at him. "What?"

"You can sew?!" Wooyoung gasped.

"Yes….can't you? It was a requirement of our...previous occupation. How do you mend your uniform? Sew on loose buttons?" he frowned. Wooyoung scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, avoiding his gaze and pressing his lips together.

"He just flirted with the laundry girls to get them to do it for him" Yeosang replied.

"And what about you?" Yeosang cleared his throat, and it was his turn to avoid the gaze of the older man.

"That's the only time he's ever said that my flirting was actually useful" Wooyoung nodded proudly.

"That…that was not meant as a compliment but okay" Hongjoong said, exasperated. "Every cadet is supposed to be….never mind. This is what I have to work with. It's too late now Hongjoong." he trailed off. "I am not becoming your personal tailor" he warned.

"Sorry Hongjoong, Wooyoung and I weren't very good at practical things like sewing…cleaning…" Yeosang trailed off. Anything useful, you could say. We always got too restless.

"I'm kind of surprised you can do it actually, it doesn't really fit the…image" Wooyoung commented, gesturing up and down at Hongjoong.

"What ima-I don't want to know." Hongjoong cut himself off and settled for just sighing instead of asking a question he evidently knew he'd regret the answer to. "It's settled then. We're going to Kingstown."


It wasn't until two days later as they were approaching Kingstown's bay, on the evening of the seventh day since they'd caused havoc at the fort and fled, that they realised they'd forgotten one tiny, little, seemingly insignificant detail to their plan.

"We don't have identification papers" Yeosang had realised, as they sailed in to the bay of Kingstown, twilight descending over the bustling port town, lights flickering to life in the windows along the sea front and beyond, as the stars started to make an appearance in the sky above. "Well..you do. Yours are still in your jacket pocket, mine and Wooyoung's are long gone with our own jackets. They've probably gone up in flames during the chaos at the fort. Not that you can actually show your papers to any officials at the dock, just in case word has spread here." Yeosang had pointed out as the three of them had stood at the helm of the ship, taking in the sight of the rapidly approaching town. Yeosang had seen the bright smile drop from Wooyoung's face, Hongjoong on the other hand simply remained completely unbothered about their impending crisis.

"We'd be leaving a trail for them if we handed over identification papers, the navy would be able to plot exactly where we're heading, it would be like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs right to us…and we can't tell the dock master the ships real name because then they'd know something was strange. There's no way they won't notice that there's only three of us crewing a Navy ship, which should quite obviously have a much larger crew. Let alone the fact two of the crew don't even have a proper uniform. We can't dock without showing our personal ID papers, and the papers for the ship. It's against the rules, it's...it's illegal."

"Out of everything highly illegal, one might even say in one instance, treasonous, that we've done...illegally docking at a port is where you draw the line Wooyoung?"

"Look at this place!" Wooyoung hissed, gesturing to the approaching port, "Does it look like the kind of place that allows anyone to illegally dock? Respectable you called it, well there's nothing respectable about us, they'll have us clapped in irons and dragged from the ship and then they'll contact the nearest navy outpost, find out all about us and they'll...what's the term the pirates use for it? Give us a short drop and a sudden stop."

"Wooyoung, calm down" Yeosang tried but Wooyoung brushed him off.

"No. We didn't just go through all of that shit to end up right back where we started because of some fucking stupid pieces of paper." He turned imploring eyes on Hongjoong. "What are we going to do? We don't have any papers, and we don't have time to try and forge any...not that it'd hold up anyway because the last time I checked none of us were master forgers" distressed as it made him to see Wooyoung so panicked, Yeosang had to nod in agreement with him. How the hell didn't we think this far ahead...as if it would be a simple matter of sailing up to the dock, dropping anchor and going about our business. We can't make port anywhere but pirate ports now, regardless of whether word has spread or not, let alone at a port that looks like this.

Kingstown, according to what Hongjoong had been able to find in his books, was a stop on the way to the capital much further in land when approaching by sea. There were other ports further around the island it was attached to, but Kingstown was the nicest of them all, and one of the busiest meaning it would be easy for them to get lost in. It was frequented by the odd merchant vessel dropping off stock to either be delivered to the capital, or the shops in Kingstown itself. It's main clientele were nobles looking for a nice getaway without sacrificing any of the usual comforts that they were accustomed to. They weren't necessarily from far off places, visiting by ship either, a good chunk of the nobles frequenting the place were from the city chasing a nice day out, or a chance to shop somewhere else. It wasn't quite as big as a city, but it was big enough to get lost in. The buildings themselves were clean, grey brick from what they could see. Smart and tidy looking, kept in good order and the streets appeared organised in neat lines, unlike the ramshackle town of Port Royal with buildings crowding in and streets pressed close together. Kingstown appeared thoughtfully laid out, and well cared for. There were even carriages on the street, I sight you were never likely to see on the smaller streets of Port Royal.

In short, Kingstown reeked of money which made perfect sense when you considered the clientele of the port, and who likely made a home here. There was no strong Navy presence here, in fact the Navy probably didn't come here at all...however there were likely to be soldiers somewhere in the place. Stationed there to keep the peace between the inhabitants, keep the wealthy and their fortunes safe and to remind everyone that this island belonged to the Empire. They most likely had a garrison that would be further in to the port, if not outside of it. Kingstown was a port that was no doubt fashionable to live at. Close to the city, without the cramped conditions and close proximity to the class of people the nobles hated so much...the poor. The air was no doubt fresher, the streets were no doubt cleaner and the three of them couldn't look more out of place if they tried. They'll know something's odd by our attire, and if they realise we're Navy they'll have questions that we can't answer. We can't even lie and say we're merchants because-

"We don't have papers" Yeosang and Wooyoung turned in unison and informed the Captain, just in case he hadn't heard them the first time, the former stressing the sentence in despair, the latter bypassing that emotion entirely to continue straight on with panicking while the rough wooden dock crept closer and closer as Hongjoong manoeuvred the ship towards it, and a solution still yet to be presented by the oldest among them. 

"Just act natural, it'll be fine" Hongjoong sounded suspiciously unbothered.

"Act natur-" Wooyoung choked on his sentence. "I'd feel a lot more comforted if that hadn't been the same tone you'd used when you told us 'everything's under control' 'it's all going according to plan'" Wooyoung imitated his voice, "But it wasn't, was it?! They fired canons at us!"

"What else would they fire at us?" came the blasé reply as Wooyoung threw up his hands.

Yeosang merely looked down at their attire, which consisted of the white pants, waistcoats and shirts along with the black boots that made up what was left of their uniform and it was still quite clearly a uniform despite how grubby it was from being lived in for seven days. Not that they had any other options, there were no other clothes onboard, and even if there was...they'd still be stuck with wearing the same thing albeit cleaner...an obvious Navy uniform even without their distinctive jackets, as there's was the only uniform requiring so many items of white clothing. Apparently it makes perfect sense to have a white uniform when you're firing canons and fighting pirates in bloody battles.

"Oh yes, everything will be perfectly fine. There's not a single thing that's out of place and out of the ordinary about us, nothing glaringly obvious that they'll notice, I'm sure" Hongjoong just rolled his eyes at the sarcastic comment, steering the ship in to the dock until it rested alongside the stretch of rough wooden planks. He shooed Wooyoung over to the anchor, and threw down the line to the waiting dock workers who immediately caught it and went about tethering their ship. Wooyoung grumbled to himself the entire time, in what sounded suspiciously like an imitation of Hongjoong's voice, but made quick work of dropping the anchor. Hongjoong eyed the sails, still unrestrained.

"I think it would be best if we left them as is, don't you? Knowing our luck and considering our current circumstances, we'll no doubt need to make a quick getaway in the very near future" Yeosang muttered. Hongjoong didn't deign to comment, but seemed content to leave the sails as is anyway. Because he knows I'm right, and he knows we're totally fucked. I am not rushing around in that rigging again, with canon balls flying all over the place.

Wooyoung, who'd previously been busy laying out the gangplank so they could make their way down to the dock, sauntered over to the two of them looking eerily calm all of a sudden. 

"It's okay. It'll all be fine" he declared.

"That's what I've been saying" Hongjoong cut in. Wooyoung didn't appear to hear him, seemingly talking more to himself than either of them. Is he….trying to psyche himself up? For what? Yeosang narrowed his eyes at his best friend in suspicion. 

"Not usually the type I go for, but I'll have to work with what I've got." Wooyoung murmured to himself. What the hell is-

"What are you talking about?" their Captain's exasperated voice finally got through to Wooyoung, who immediately looked up at Yeosang and Hongjoong as if suddenly realising they where there.

"I'm talking about the fact that it doesn't matter that we don't have the papers we need, because I can take care of this entire situation myself." He reached out and grasped Hongjoong and Yeosang by a shoulder each. "I've got this" Wooyoung nodded to himself. "Everything is-"

"For the love of God don't say everything's under control, every time Hongjoong says it, it ends in disaster"

"HEY! I resent that"

"Why? It's true" Yeosang retorted before turning back to Wooyoung."Woo, wh-" Wooyoung cut him off.

"No Yeosang, I need to do this now before I lose the will to stomach this" with a squeeze to their shoulders, Wooyoung turned and hurried over to the gangplank. Yeosang and Hongjoong shared a look of pure confusion, before reluctantly following after him. They watched as Wooyoung took a breath upon reaching the top of the gangplank, gave himself a small shake, and then sauntered down the gangplank.

"I bet you he's doing the face" Hongjoong snickered as he realised what the youngest of their crew was about to do. Looking at Yeosang over his shoulder, and attempting to mimic Wooyoung's flirty gaze, lips slightly parted and looking up at him from under his lashes. Yeosang couldn't help it, he started to laugh with him, we were worried for nothing. Wooyoung can handle this, of course he can. He'll flirt a little here and there, and we'll be able to dock with no problems. I don't know why we were so worried. Sure it might take a bit more effort than usual depending on the official but this stuff is like child's play for him. Yeosang turned his head to follow Wooyoung's progress down the gangplank gaze drifting to the poor sap who had the misfortune of being his unsuspecting target. Yeosang's laugh died in his throat when he caught sight of the official waiting at the end of the dock...the dock master of Kingstown. Oh no. Oh fuck no. Don't do it Wooyoung...don't...he's really not your usual type and...I don't think you're his type either.

Hongjoong turned to see what Yeosang was staring at in horrified silence, gaze following his and his smile firmly in place before he too, finally caught sight of the terrifying sight awaiting Wooyoung. Hongjoong's face twisted with horror.

"Is he fucking nuts!?" Yeosang didn't reply because he honestly didn't know the answer to that in that precise moment, he merely watched with a horrified fascination as Wooyoung continued his casual saunter, feet eventually hitting the dock and coming to a stop in front of the dock master. Wooyoung tilted his head down, eyes no doubt fixed on the ground and running his hand through his hair. Oh God don't tell me he's going to do it...Hair suitably mussed, Wooyoung tilted his head back up slightly, his smouldering gaze no doubt meeting the dock masters and Yeosang would put a substantial amount of money on the fact that he was probably biting his lip right now too.

"You must be the dock master" No shit Woo, who else is he going to be? The tooth fairy?! Wooyoung sauntered closer to the man, "I was wondering if you could help me, you see we've had a little bit of trouble with our papers" Wooyoung purred in the voice that had never let him down yet. Right in to the face of a very unimpressed, fifty something man who was very clearly wearing a wig of deep grey to no doubt hide the lack of his own hair as most of his class did, the short locks at the front curled to his skull while the rest was pulled back in to a low tail with a ribbon. He was clean shaven with spectacles perching at the end of his nose, a few wrinkles visible from where Yeosang was standing. He also appeared to have more than one chin which his ruffled cravat did nothing to diminish and his well tailored yet plain, dark attire couldn't hide his growing paunch. He did not seem the least bit moved by Wooyoung's tactics thus far and Yeosang highly doubted he would be. Young gentlemen...young ladies...ladies of a certain age...all of them fall to the power of Wooyoung's flirting. Fifty something men with the look in their eyes that declares they hate their life, and probably have a wife and five children making said life a misery...not so much.

"I was wondering…." Wooyoung trailed off coyly, and Yeosang could picture his friends next move playing out vividly in his head. Tongue darting out to wet his bottom lip, before pulling it in to his mouth to gently bite yet again, attempting to look as coy as possible. Don't say it…don't say it…."if we could come to some sort of an…arrangement" Wooyoung was clearly eyeing the man up and down suggestively. It could have been worse, he could have tried the tactic with the whispering and the ear biting and...Yeosang shuddered and then promptly dropped his head in to his hands.

"He doesn't have this" his voice was muffled by his hands but he was sure the despair was clear.

"Right, well, we're fucked" Hongjoong's tone was casual, laced with disgust as he took in the scene.

"No papers no docking, we don't want any riff raff here" the man barked, making Wooyoung flinch back. Yeosang watched as Wooyoung pointed at himself in disbelief.

"Me?…Riff raff…but….I just…" Wooyoung was no doubt pouting at the man, his hand reaching out for the mans arm-

"Scram" the man bellowed in his voice and Wooyoung flinched back from him, presumably blinking in disbelief as it took him a moment or two before turning and scampering back up the gangplank, somewhat like a kicked puppy, to where Yeosang and Hongjoong met him half way.

"It-it didn't work….it always works" Wooyoung bleated to Yeosang, a lost look in his eyes. Well, there's a first time for everything. 

"I don't think you're his type Woo" Yeosang consoled, patting him on the shoulder.

"I'm everyone's type…have you seen my face?" Wooyoung gestured to it, framing it with his hands for a few moments. "I screwed up my dignity and my pride to flirt with…that…..that." Wooyoung shuddered while Yeosang pulled him in to a comforting hug, gently patting him on the back.

"And we appreciate the sacrifice" it had, after all, taken a lot of courage and a severe lowering of standards for Wooyoung to attempt what he did...and he did do it for them after all, wanting to help them in the only way he knew how. 

"I've…I've lost my touch" was Wooyoung's plaintive response.

"Don't be silly, of course you haven't! He's obviously blind and clearly lacks taste Wooyoungie" Hongjoong looked at Yeosang, facial expression screaming 'what the fuck are you talking about?' The younger retorted with a hiss.

"Do you want to have him moping about the ship for the next few days, self esteem in shreds because of that coffin dodger? We knew he was fucked the minute we saw his target, but he genuinely thought he'd be able to help us. No-one's ever said no to him before-"

"Yes, because he presumably flirts with people who are receptive to his advances, not fifty year old Geoffrey down there who's probably been married for thirty years of his life, popped out a brood of equally as ugly offspring and probably hates the fucking lot of them" he hissed back.

"He just wanted to help, it's the only way he knows how...you know how much it took for him to go down there and do that and he did it for us. Look at the man he's...he's..." both Yeosang and Hongjoong looked at the man in question, noses wrinkling in disgust, Hongjoong even going so far as to retch before collecting himself. He threw an arm out in front of Yeosang. 

"Move, I'll handle this the old fashioned away" he declared, swaggering down the gangplank.

"We appear to have misplaced our papers, terribly sorry" Hongjoong said, without preamble or remorse. The dock master opened his mouth, no doubt to bark at him, but Hongjoong stopped him before he could even start. "Yeah I know, no papers no docking, but you look like a reasonable guy" Yeosang raised an eyebrow at the monumental yet smooth lie. "So how about this, instead of our papers, hmm?" Hongjoong slapped down six gold pieces on to the man's open ledger, clutched in his hands. The mans eyes widened at the sight of the gold, before he quickly schooled his features in to a suspicious look. He brought one of the coins to his mouth, biting in to it to check it's authenticity. Yeosang doubted he saw many gold pieces, he clearly wasn't hurting for money, his clothes were neat and well made and he was of the middle class, but he wasn't rich either. Six gold pieces was probably more than he made in a month. A slow smile spread across his repugnant face.

"Everything appears to be in order here" he declared, cheerfully. 

"Wonderful" Hongjoong grinned back. "I thought we'd be able to come to an understanding with a gentleman of your...class"  

"Ship name?" the man readied his quill. "Procedure, you understand" 

"The Aurora"

"Your name? Or...the name of your crew at the least?"

"Just put…ATEEZ" Hongjoong smirked, the dock master scribbling it down for his records, before snapping the ledger closed, trapping the coins between the pages. He gave Hongjoong a nod.

"Welcome to Kingstown, I do hope you enjoy your stay" The man finally scurried off, no doubt heading back to his office along the sea front to hide his newly attained gold. Yeosang felt Wooyoung's breath on his ear.

"Yeosangie, what's ATEEZ?"

"I have no idea, just let him get on with it…it's easier that way" Wooyoung nodded sagely at the older boys words and they strolled the rest of the way down the gangplank to meet Hongjoong on the dock. Their Captain spun to face them, his smile wide as he threw his arms out to the side grandly.

"You heard the man...welcome to Kingstown"

Chapter Text

Despite being in a brand new place and being excited to explore, Wooyoung was feeling out of sorts, and it was definitely not because he'd failed to win around that old dock master with his usually impressive flirting skills. And even if it was...he didn't need to look quite so..so...disgusted or be so damn rude. I know full well I'm not ugly and I'm actually quite good looking even if I do say so myself, but that knowledge is backed up by plenty of evidence from others. I have never failed to flirt my way in to or out of anything before, I can't believe this is happening to me. No. No I'm not the problem here. It was him. There must be something wrong with the old codger. Maybe flirting doesn't work on people over the age of forty?

He was trying very hard to let it go, to shrug the incident off and move on and pretend like it had never happened, but despite the fact he didn't have any interest in the man whatsoever, it was still a bit of a blow to his ego. One Yeosang had said he could definitely take and still survive, earning a huff from Wooyoung in response. He stood at the end of the dock with his arms folded, eyeing the town and definitely not sulking, with Yeosang and Hongjoong to either side of him. From what he could see it was like a different world from Port Royal, where nature intruded on the town at the outskirts and everything was a little bit ramshackle, one might say...disorderly, Kingstown was organised, well spread out or more accurately just very neat and tidy in comparison to the slightly worn and grubby looking Port Royal. It exuded a feeling of…wealth and class and we're definitely going to get the look. You know the one? The "you look like something I scraped off my shoes" look. That's if we even make it any further than the sea front, I wouldn't be surprised if they kick us out or bar us from entering. Everyone here's got to be either filthy rich or moderately well off, I don't see any beggars or people down on their luck.

Wooyoung couldn't see any signs of poverty at all in fact, the streets were clean of...well, anything. No mud, no litter and no horse excrement to be seen. The buildings were well maintained in that they looked brand new, no rusting metal. No chipped paint. The people he could see from his place on the dock were respectably dressed, if not outright showing off their wealth with fancy jackets and hats, then at least wearing perfectly tailored clothing and looking impeccably dressed. No careworn, 'this is the only shirt I have and I've worn it to death' clothing to be seen, no patches or signs of mending. Boots were perfectly polished, lacking any scuffs. It's not natural. If there is anyone lower class lurking about they've probably been shoved to the far end of the town out of sight so as not to ruin the aesthetic. We're definitely out of place here, thank God night's getting closer, it'll offer us some cover.

"It's getting dark" Hongjoong announced, eyes turned up to the sky.

"Well spotted Captain, nothing gets past you" Wooyoung snickered at Yeosang's quiet voice, the more comfortable he got with the older man, the more he felt the license to lightly tease him if not outright vocally eviscerate him depending on his mood. Hongjoong determinedly ignored them, having gotten used to Yeosang's tendency to be quietly savage when he felt like the occasion called for it, and having been informed by Wooyoung that it was a sign of endearment from Yeosang, not that he was entirely sure Hongjoong believed him. 

"Therefore," he continued. "We won't be able to get much done in the way of supplying and buying everything else that we need. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to visit the shops and acquire everything, so I say we head to the tavern" Wooyoung raised his eyebrows.

"I'd have thought you'd want to look around, find out where everything is and everything. You really don't seem the sort to head straight to the nearest tavern to get drunk" he commented.

"I'm not, and I don't plan on getting drunk." Hongjoong said primly. "But, we need food so why not go and get something hot and home cooked rather than eating the rations we have on board? Besides, I'm sure we'll be able to pick up some much needed information as well….like what the Navy is up to right now, for example, and if they're hunting us…the only people who gossip more than guards are people who frequent taverns for an evening drink"

"Do you think this place even has taverns" Yeosang pointed out, and Wooyoung had to agree. This place seemed to frown upon anything remotely deemed fun.

"He's right, this doesn't seem like the place for anything...disorderly. Taverns mean drunk people and drunk people do insist on staggering through the streets, being overly loud and on occasion even decorating the pavement. All of which is no doubt frowned upon here, it'd probably bring their standards down."

"This town may be for the more…upper class, that's clear enough, but they'll have to have a drinking establishment of some sort here. It may not be what we're used to, but either way it should be a fountain of information, those places always are"

"We just need to find one first" Wooyoung muttered. Eyes scanning what he could see of the streets in the descending gloom. Kingstown wasn't in quite the same league as Port Royal with its large sea front home to multiple docks, it had been made for merchants and sailors after all. Kingstown did have a dock...but only the one and it was smaller. Not that much of a surprise when you considered the fact that the only visitors it ever got were nobles looking for a good time and the odd merchant. That, and Port Royal was the only port on that particular island...Kingstown was not. There was no doubt one further around the bay that was meant more for the ordinary folk. Because heaven forbid the nobles have to interact with anyone they deem lesser. They might catch something.

The dock itself was right by the beach, pristine white sand stretching out either side of the dock. The end of the dock closest to the town itself was elevated over the sand completely so that once you reached the end of the dock, you were deposited straight on to the cobbles of the street. The street facing the sea ran parallel to it with a big main road branching up vertically to make a T shape. A few smaller roads appeared to branch off similarly here and there, and the sea front was dotted with a few buildings. The dock master's office, of course, a few warehouses for the merchants to deposit goods in to be collected by their owners, a cafe or two...but no tavern was immediately visible.

After stepping off of the dock, the three of them headed towards what appeared to be the main road by virtue of the fact it was much wider than the others they could see. It was the closest, but it made more sense to try and locate what they were looking for via the main road, than wondering down the smaller ones where there was a higher chance of getting lost.

Wooyoung looked around in interest as he walked, trailing along with the older two. Thanks to his previous occupation, he'd seen a fair amount of different places, and of course there were certain places they visited more than once. But Wooyoung had seen ports similar to this one before, although not as well kept and quite obviously reeking of wealth and privilege. Towns like this were just stops on the way to the big cities further in land. Close enough to said city that it's a nice place to make a home in if you don't want to stay in the cramped, smelly city, or even just to stay at temporarily while you visited, and often inhabited by middle class business owners and said businesses. There were usually nobles present in such places as well, those who preferred the sea air and to be away from society. Perhaps they permanently made their homes here, commuting to and from the city to see to affairs as and when the occasion called for it, perhaps they split their time between a home here and a home in the city itself depending on the kind of work they did...if any. Some nobles were known to run business empires, or to do various work for the King. Perhaps they were in charge of this area, or that area, or it was their job to keep an eye on this business or that business. Kingstown appeared to be more populated by the upper classes than was usual for this kind of port town, from what he could see. 

Wooyoung couldn't stop marvelling at how well kept the place was, nothing was out of place, everything was kept in order. No signs missing letters, or half hanging, no smashed or cracked shop windows. In fact the glass in the windows didn't even have a single smudge. There were plants decorating the shops and restaurants, wisteria climbing around windows, plants in boxes in front of others. Everything just looked so...perfect. It was starting to creep him out, and he shivered a little as he walked despite the balmy early evening air. The shops were the usual kinds though, bookshops, stationary shops, hat shops, clothing shops and tailors if you didn't want to buy anything ready made, and so on. All had large front windows that curved outward, cheerfully showing off their best wares in neat displays. Wooyoung walked past shop after shop, all closing if not already closed for the evening. The restaurants they passed were still open, but Wooyoung didn't like their chances of actually making it inside to a table. I believe we would be officially classed as riff raff by the establishments owners and politely encouraged to leave. The cafes had already closed, cake stands empty in the windows, and there were trees dotted along the street. Definitely not the kind of place to have a rowdy tavern or two.

The very centre of the road they walked along was cobbled, much like the road along the sea front, with sections of paving to either side made of flat stone for people to walk along. Fancy wooden carriages trundled past them, pulled by well groomed horses with shiny coats, and tangle free manes, that would turn off the main road on to smaller side roads to either the left or the right. Although side roads was quite a generous term, they were more lanes than anything, it was a wonder the carriages could fit down them. It was as he was watching a particularly fancy carriage, with gold accents, make its way down the road that he finally spotted exactly what they were looking for...or at least, close enough. Someone was staggering out of one of the lanes on the right, towards the main road, with their arm up and lazily waving in the air in an attempt to hail a carriage. Or at least Wooyoung assumed that's what the man was doing, and not some kind of bizarre dance. Wooyoung immediately started to thwack Hongjoong on the arm repeatedly in excitement.

"Ouch, what?" the older man grumbled, peering up the left side of the road.

"Look! Look!" he started to tug on Hongjoong's sleeve.

"What? What am I looking at? Don't tell me you've never seen a horse before, Jesus Christ, which ports were they sending you to?!"

"No, not that…..that" Wooyoung pointed. Hongjoong squinted in the general direction of Wooyoung's pointed finger, Yeosang also turning to gaze up the street ahead of them, eyes narrowed in thought before the two started to throw out suggestions...or more accurately guesses.

"…..a tree? What, is it some kind you've never seen before? I fail to see why that's something to get excited about"

"No"

"…..bakery? I think it's closed Wooyoungie, we'll come back tomorrow."

"No"

"Dog? I know, I know, everyone just loves dogs. Especially in a place like this when they're all cute, and fluffy and not mangy and half feral, but now is not the time to go and pet what looks to be a fluffy foot warmer, we have more important things to attend to"

"Are you blind?" Wooyoung asked them, seriously. "Because we can probably get you something for that here. Glasses…or would one of those monocles look more piratey?" he pondered. "Although aren't they only for if you have one eye? Or are you supposed to use it an eye at a time? No, never mind the monocle, regular old spectacles it is. Might do your desired reputation as a fearsome pirate captain some harm though, sorry Joongie" Wooyoung clapped him on the shoulder.

"I'm terribly sorry Wooyoung, would you care to give us a clue?" sarcasm tinged Hongjoong's words, but Wooyoung was too exasperated to pay it much mind.

"We're not playing I Spy, Hongjoong. As you said, we have more important things to attend to, so why would I play a game? It's not even a fun one" he grumbled.

"Then what, pray tell, are you pointing at?"

"It's right there" Wooyoung pointed his arm again. "How can you not see it? Seriously Joongie, I'm worried. How many fingers am I holding up?"

"You'll be holding up none if you don't get them out of my face" Hongjoong snapped. Wooyoung gasped and pulled his hand back, clutching his fingers protectively.

"You wouldn't"

"Oh, I would"

"Ah" Yeosang interrupted their bickering, finally catching sight of what Wooyoung had been trying to point out to them.

"What? What?!" Hongjoong looked between the two of them, then looked in the direction both boys were staring. "Maybe I really am going blind" he murmured to himself, rubbing the back of his neck, ignoring the fact he'd never had a problem with his vision up until this point. Wooyoung couldn't hold back a sigh. 

"Oh come on-"

"Just say it, Wooyoung. For the love of God" Hongjoong threw his hands up in to the air in frustration.

"There's what I'm sure this place would call, a 'heavily intoxicated individual' attempting to alight on that carriage now that he's successfully managed to flag it down after 4...or has it been 5 attempts by now" Wooyoung made a point to speak how the nobles and other clientele of this place no doubt would before dropping back in to his regular way of speech. "Which, to the rest of us, is a drunkard, Hongjoong. And where there are drunks, there is alcohol...copious amounts of alcohol, and the only place that would have enough alcohol, and would actually let someone get to the state of our friend over there is…"

"A tavern" Hongjoong finished, understanding flooding his features.

"Bingo" he pointed his finger at the older man.

"Why didn't you just say that in the first place? Oh look Hongjoong, drunk man at 11 o'clock, tavern must be nearby. Was that so hard?"

"Well I kind of get the feeling that even talking about alcohol, let alone saying the D word would end up with a horde of angry rich people descending on us and chasing us out of down for lowering the standards but...here we are so I guess it's fine."

"...why-no. Never mind. I need a drink, let's go." Hongjoong led the way up the road, Yeosang and Wooyoung hurrying after him but pausing to watch the drunk man fall on his ass as he struggled to heave himself up and in to the carriage. He does know that there's a step there...doesn't he? Although it became more and more evident that he did not as he repeatedly attempted to use his arms, and grip on the open door, and door frame to pull himself up. His upper body strength didn't appear to be much but from the look of him the most exercise he probably got was lifting his knife and fork. He completely ignored the steps that had been placed at the open doorway in to the carriage and kept inexplicably missing his footing on the carriage's floor. As they watched, his feet slipped out from under him after once again failing to find a purchase, Wooyoung could only assume it was the alcohol rendering him so useless, the man kept his grip on the various parts of the carriage he was holding, and ended up hanging from the side. He released his grip, crumpling to the ground before clawing his way up and staggering over to the nearest of the horses drawing the carriage, where he then promptly started to yell at the horse, which he'd seemingly mistaken for the driver. Rich people are so weird, can't they just stagger to, and collapse in, a doorway like regular people? Or better yet, stagger home themselves? It would do wonders to sober him up.

"He's definitely what you'd call 'drunk and disorderly' and I'm sure that's against the rules here" Wooyoung mused.

"It's agains the rules everywhere Wooyoungie, you usually get dragged to a cell to sober up although here I feel like the consequences would probably be more dire. Perhaps they'd throw him in the sea? Or merely settle for completely ruining him, I hear that's a favourite past time of the upper class." I'm not at all surprised, although I'm sure it takes less than merely drunkenly shouting in the street for them to decide to ruin one another. I'm pretty sure they mostly just do it when they're bored...or when someone uses the wrong knife at dinner. Wooyoung chose to focus on the more important part of Yeosang's sentence, however.

"Really? It's really against the rules? Are you sure? I've never been arrested and you know I can be quite disorderly when I'm drunk" Wooyoung couldn't hide his pride at the fact.

"At some point we're going to have to address what you should and shouldn't take pride in, because that certainly isn't one of them. But you never got arrested because in Port Royal the navy...meaning us, were in charge. We were supposed to keep law and order there, but policing the town was mostly down to those whose job within the navy ended up being guarding. They'd never arrest anyone in a navy uniform. As for everywhere else we've visited that you caused havoc at, let's just say that when you stick to your target demographic, things go a lot smoother and as you know, there's nothing you can't get out of Wooyoungie" Yeosang patted him on the cheek. 

"That was an unnecessarily cruel reminder far too soon Sangie" Wooyoung groaned. "Where's this damn tavern, I need a beer". They quickly caught up to Hongjoong who'd waited for them a few paces up and continued walking for a few more minutes before they finally spotted it. It was perched on the corner where the main street branched off to one of the side roads. The bulbous windows, two facing the main road, and two either side of the door facing on to the side road, spilled out warm light on to the pavement. Wisteria crawled along the sides of the windows, and deep red flowers blossomed under them. The door was a simple dark wood affair with black hinges and handle. A heavy sign swung out above the door, painted a deep burgundy colour with a golden crown in the centre. In case they were still confused as to the name of the place, fancy gold lettering spelled out "The Crown" at the top of the sign. Wooyoung stared, and he could feel Yeosang frozen at his side.

"This is a tavern?" the shock was palpable in his voice.

"No, it can't be, look at it. It's clean" Yeosang chided.

"There's no chipped paintwork, the sign...it has all of its letters you can even see what's painted on it" he realised.

"You can actually tell what colour it is"

"The glass in the windows is clean too, not all fogged with grime"

"It looks...it looks…"

"...pretty" they finished together.

"You mean that it looks like you can eat here without running the risk of catching something?" Hongjoong blinked between the two of them as they nodded vigorously. "Seriously, which ports did they send you two to?"

Hongjoong's question went unanswered as Wooyoung and Yeosang eagerly pushed through the door in to the heat and noise of the alleged tavern. The loud voices talking and laughing blended in to a pleasant and familiar background hum, barmaids bustling through the busy tables with tankards or dishes of food. It was more spacious than Wooyoung had expected from the outside…or perhaps just more than he was used to in general. The heavy wooden bar was familiar territory, barrels and bottles lined up behind it. Clean tankards stacked on a shelf at the back and on the side of it. It was all so familiar, even the heavy wooden furniture, yet also...not. The bar was smooth wood, no nicks, no stains from spilled alcohol. The barrels behind the bar were stacked neatly, the bottles on the shelf just above them neatly laid out. The tankards occupying the shelf above that and crowding the edge of the bar weren't missing handles and didn't appear to have any chunks missing, or dents. The furniture all appeared to be in once piece, and none of it looked cracked or to have wobbly legs. It didn't look as lived in or in some cases just plain run down, as the taverns they'd frequented before and as strange as it was, it was also quite novel.

The ceiling was high with an iron chandeliers hanging from it, candles flickering and lighting up the space nicely, whereas they were used to dark and dingy interiors that you could slope in to and out of undetected. Wooyoung tugged self consciously at his shirt. We're definitely under dressed for this place.

"You two go and find a table, preferably in one of those dark corners over there. It seems the kind of place people of our...sort, should sit. I'll order for us seeing as I look the least unusual." Hongjoong instructed them, gesturing to the edges of the tavern. Wooyoung nodded in confirmation before Yeosang grabbed him by the arm tugging him along after him as he led him further in to the tavern while Hongjoong made for the bar that was set against the back wall and ran from the second of the windows, to mid way along the back wall. There appeared to be a doorway to another room, most likely the kitchen just before the bar ended, the slab of wood and barman no doubt preventing people from trying to enter.

"I don't think it has any dark corners" he whispered to Yeosang as they went. They made a beeline for the far right of the tavern, and the tables placed against the plain wall. Unfortunately they weren't as shadowy as they'd hoped for so they continued along, heading towards the back of the tavern until they reached an appropriately shadowy corner. The tables were placed in neat rows throughout the room, and where the bar ended, the tables were neatly placed in. Their table was level with the bar, against the wall and and tucked right in to the corner, the only place the bright lights of the tavern couldn't quite reach. Wooyoung made himself comfortable sitting on the side of the table that meant his back was to the bar, while Yeosang sat to the side of him, safely boxed in with Wooyoung on one side and the wall the other with a space for Hongjoong in front of him. Wooyoung gazed around him in interest. The taverns they usually frequented were always dimly lit with deeper and more plentiful shadows than this place, dark and dingy if you wanted to be less polite. While this place was fairly loud, it lacked the boisterous atmosphere of their usual haunts. The laughter was loud yet reserved, the chatter calm yet rising in to a loud hubbub all together. I would imagine this place hasn't seen a good brawl...or someone shattering a chair over someone else's head. A broken tankard or a smashed plate is probably the height of chaos in here.

The Crown was lighter...neater, than any they'd been in before. Tables and chairs neatly arranged as opposed to the jumbled mess of just shoving them wherever they fit that they were used to, mismatched chairs a regular sight due to the fact chairs were a favoured weapon when it came to fights or friendly disagreements. While he'd been to plenty of ports, they were mostly ones that were frequented by sailors and were used to their custom. The people in those ports spent their days sailing the seas with the hot sun on their backs and so definitely didn't stand on ceremony when they finally made it to a port, much less a tavern. They all had the same vibe, the same aesthetic of well worn, lived in places filled with friendly yet loud conversation, often stretching across more than one table, and unrestrained laughter. The clientele here looked like shop workers and perhaps a shop owner or two. Not the most well off inhabitants of the town, but still not hurting for money either and they still seemed to be observing the polite rules of society.

It didn't take long for Hongjoong to materialise at their table, carrying three tankards of beer in his hands. He plopped them down in the middle of the table, causing some of the liquid to slosh over the rims of the cups.

"Hongjoong" Wooyoung hissed. "They'll probably fine you for that here" he wasn't entirely joking but Yeosang chuckled and nudged him in the ribs, while Hongjoong just rolled his eyes before taking his seat at the table. Hongjoong reached out and grabbed a tankard, encouraging he and Yeosang to do the same and once they all had hold of one, Hongjoong raised his in to the air.

"To our first destination of many and to successfully getting out of the absolute fucking shit hole they call the Royal Navy!" he proclaimed. Wooyoung and Yeosang echoing him, a bright smile stretched across his face.

"And to saying the biggest fuck you to Flint" Wooyoung added to Hongjoong's approving nod.

"Fuck yes. I can honestly say it's been a highlight of my life, the bastard had it coming for far too long" They brought their tankards together in a clash of wood, causing more liquid to spill over on to the table, before each taking a long sip. 

"I can honestly say, that this is the most deserved beer I've ever had" Wooyoung sighed in satisfaction.

The only alcohol they had on their ship was one full bottle of rum and one now half empty one that Wooyoung had found in his quarters and had assumed was stashed there by whoever the the first officer was supposed to be as Hongjoong clearly wasn't responsible for it and speaking as a former cadet, he knew none of his former comrades would have the balls to do it either. Not that Wooyoung could blame whoever it was because sometimes you just needed a little pick me up when it came to working for the Navy, as they'd established. Other than that all they had was the rubbing alcohol used for medicinal purposes, like cleaning wounds. None of it was quite as satisfying and pleasant a drink as good, old fashioned beer. One was an acquired taste and the other was like liquid fire and both were only available to them in a limited quantity. Wooyoung had searched the entire ship, just in case the rum fairy had hidden any more bottles in other nooks and crannies, but he'd found nothing. The only thing they had to drink in copious amounts on board was water. Because the Navy, much like this town, frowns on anything fun.

"Did you hear what happened over at Fort Charles?" a voice floated to them, the mention of their old home making the three of them tense up and they shared a look. "Some sort of squabble amongst the cadets and a Lieutenant. I heard from one of the merchants just yesterday that two cadets actually tried to murder their commanding officer. They'd had it in for him for a while and….I suppose they finally just snapped. Rumour has it they were supposed to sail out the next day, the popular theory is that they were going to kill him, hide his body in a barrel, load it on to the ship and then toss it overboard once they'd gotten a fair distance away. His body would never have been found and they'd have gotten away with it. Chilling" What the f-

"That makes no sense whatsoever, why would I go to all the trouble of fetching a barrel, squishing his corpse in to said barrel, which sounds like far too much hard work if you ask me. Then rolling it all the way to the ship and then getting it all the way down in to the hold. Then sneaking it out of the hold and all the way back up to the main deck to then push it over board once we were underway?" the complaint burst out of Wooyoung. "It's far too complicated, it would have been much easier to just hide it in the bed. Pull the blankets up, and no-one would know it wasn't someone sleeping. By the time they figured it out we'd be long gone"

"Obviously you'd cut it in to pieces, then toss them in different places around the Fort and the town. As long as the head went in to the sea they'd never be able to tell who it was if you removed the badges from his uniform, of course you could cut it in to pieces and then stuff in to the barrel, and just take a body part up each day to throw overboard but I imagine the smell would become quite unpleasant after a day or two" Wooyoung stared at Yeosang, noticing that Hongjoong was doing the same. "What?" his friend asked softly.

"You're quite terrifying at times...know that. Even more so when you deliver a plan to mutilate a body and get away with murder in that...soft, quiet, gentle voice." the Captain turned to Wooyoung. "If you're finished complaining about something you didn't and weren't even planning to do….be quiet so I can hear" you're not the one being made out to be a murderer….and a dumb one at that. If I was going to kill someone there are more time efficient ways to get rid of the body. How ridiculous.

"So what…they're locked up in the cells of Fort Charles then? I assume they'll be executed if they haven't been already that is."

"Not quite…." the voice trailed off, Wooyoung and his companions leaned in the direction of the voice, somewhere behind and to the side of Hongjoong, as no doubt was everyone at the persons table and within earshot. "They escaped. And get this...a Captain freed them. Then he led them as they ran rampant through the Fort. They even managed to steal a ship and get away. They could be anywhere, no-one even knows what they look like."

The three looked at each other. Gossip always makes it out of the Fort, and it always makes it's way around Port Royal…and inevitably to other places. But…"No-ones talking about the treasury"

"Or what we did to The Valiant" Yeosang added. Hongjoong smirked.

"The Navy's kept a tight lid on that. I didn't know they had it in them. I expected they'd be able to keep the other officers and cadets quiet but the merchants? That I didn't see coming. They've made sure no-one spreads the word about what happened to the treasury, or their precious warship..they haven't even released which ship we stole and it would seem our likenesses haven't been released to the public yet. I assume they don't want the public to know we made fools of them and threaten the authority they have, and they certainly don't want to have to explain all about the treasury and the extra money going in to the Commodore's pockets. It would make them look weak. An easy target for the pirates and they definitely don't want them knowing about the weakened Fort, not that there's anything for them to steal now." Hongjoong smirked. "Which means boys…if they're coming after us…they're doing it themselves, no soldiers, no civilian help, just them, although personally I think they have bigger problems right now. Either way…we're in the clear, at least for as long as we need to get what we need and get out of this port. Maybe they'll set every other port on alert for us once everything's in order and they've come up with a way to spin this that doesn't shake their reputation, but we'll be long gone by then" they shared a victorious smile, before clanking tankards rowdily once again and cheerfully chugging down the rest of the contents in them. They slammed them back down on to the table in unison, bellowing for another round as a bar maid passed by them, acknowledging she heard them with a nod of her head and a smile.


After enjoying a hot, freshly cooked meal for the first time since they'd left the fort and unable to pick up anymore gossip about themselves, the trio had decided it would be best to head back to the ship for the night. Wooyoung strolled along the road, the beer making him feel pleasantly warm and enjoying the cool night air on his skin. Yeosang and Hongjoong were trailing behind him because apparently their Captain wasn't very good at holding his alcohol, a hilarious surprise to both he and Yeosang who had assumed Hongjoong was the type who could drink a man under the table and still walk away. The discovery that he was in fact, not, had delighted them to no end. Yeosang had an arm wrapped around the older mans waist, supporting him and keeping him mostly upright as the pair of them staggered along. Hongjoong had wrapped his arm around the younger mans neck, his free hand waving about in the air as he spoke.

"Y'know Yeosang, this pirate shit's pretty easy don'tcha think? Why didn't I do this before?! Stealing ships…piece of cake. I could steal a whole fleet if I wanted! Oooooohhh, maybe we should do that next? We can have one each! Picture it..The ATEEZ Armada"

"….three ships doesn't make a fleet, Joong, let alone an armada"

"But it could, it could be a mini fleet….armada...thing. A mini fleet of black painted pirate ships, terrorising the high seas, no-one would fuck with us again, no-one" the older man slurred.

"…..there's only three of us, and one man can't run an entire ship on his own I fail to see what would be so terrifying to anyone, other than us, about having to choose between steering or firing."

"Jesus Yeosangie, just once….just once can you go along with it hmm? A little encouragement, throw out an idea or two, instead of shitting all over it, that's all I ask. Just once...give in to the bullshit."

"Why am I the most level headed one here?! Why is Wooyoung more level headed than you!?" Yeosang exclaimed.

"Cause I'm better than everyone and I resent the implication that I'm not"

"If you're going to lie, at least make it believable Wooyoungie"

"I am…shocked, at this sudden betrayal from you Sangie. Best friends until the end...no, brothers. We're brothers, supposed to have each others backs but you turn around and betray me like this? Plant a knife in mine? I thought I knew you" Wooyoung turned so he was walking backwards, pouting at his best friend.

"You two really are fucking idiots" Yeosang grumbled. "You could help you know!" he shot at Wooyoung.

"But you're doing such a good job on your own Yeosangie! It's not like I'm better at helping drunk people or something. Apparently I'm not better than anyone at anything"

"Oh for fucks sake" Wooyoung was sure Yeosang would have thrown his hands in to the air if doing so wouldn't have caused their Captain to face plant. Wooyoung finally cracked and smiled. For a minute there, I wondered if Yeosang and I would ever be able to joke around like this again...and now we can. All thanks to that drunken idiot over there, which is quite frankly the most unbelievable part when you look at him like this.

"Besides, Hongjoong decided to cling on to you, not me and one of us should be hands free in case there's trouble" Wooyoung reasoned, turning back to face the way they were going.

"What trouble do you possibly anticipate in a town like this? Someone trying to forcefully smarten you up? Perhaps lash you for not walking with the correct posture?"

"I don't know…but just because this place looks fancy doesn't mean it's not got a shittier side. It's too...perfect, and quiet. It's not right."

"Listen to meeeeeee" Hongjoong whined liked a child and Wooyoung looked over his shoulder at him in time to see him reaching across himself and Yeosang in order to shake the arm of the younger man that wasn't currently helping to hold him up.

"Do I have to?" Yeosang groaned.

"Yes, because I'm the Captain. Or what's it in Spanish? I heard the Spaniards back in Port Royal saying it all the time. El...El...Capto? No that's not right. El Cipitano? No, that's not right either. El Capitano? Doesn't sound right either, fuck, what was it" Wooyoung couldn't hold in his laughter any longer, especially as Yeosang pinched the bridge of his nose, looking like he quite wanted to drop Hongjoong on his ass in the street and leave him there to go and get another beer.

"Jesus Christ it's El Capitán. I'm failing to see how you're qualified for the job right now, though."

"That's it! That's the one! That's me!" Hongjoong pointed at himself vigorously. "So, as I was saying. If we get more people…if we get more ships….we could be the best pirates….the kings! Doesn't that sound fucking brilliant? Pirate Kings. Then the Navy wouldn't come after us, they'd be too scared. There'd be no-one willing to screw with us and we'd all be safe because we'd have power." Hongjoong threw his arms out, staggering to the side as he did so, Yeosang lunging to catch him before he face planted in to a gutter.

Wooyoung snickered at the sight but as he turned back from looking over his right shoulder to face forwards once again, but he failed to notice the sound of running feet slapping the stones, or the dark shadow coming towards him at high speed from out of a side road on his left. Before he could finish turning his head, he found himself colliding with a black shadow and being knocked a step or two to the side by the impact. The person who'd run in to him lost their footing, and would have taken a nasty tumble to hard ground, but Wooyoung instinctively shot out his arm, lunging forward a little so the persons back hit his arm rather than the solid stone beneath their feet. His other hand coming to rest on the persons arm, effectively catching and steadying them but also caging the person in his arms.

"Woooooo Wooyoungie saved the day!" Hongjoong cheered and Wooyoung's eyes snapped up to him. He watched as the older man attempted to clap but had evidently forgotten he had one arm around Yeosang's neck. "What a hero!" Hongjoong pretended to swoon, letting himself fall backwards over the arm Yeosang had around his waist, Yeosang straining under the dead weight of their Captain and nearly dropping him. First he nearly throttles him by trying to clap...or at least twists his neck, now he nearly wrenches his arm out of its socket. Poor Yeosangie.

"Shhhhh" Yeosang hissed, eyes darting about the street to make sure they hadn't drawn any attention. Wooyoung looked down at the person he'd caught in his arms, or rather…the man as he now saw. Wooyoung ran his eyes over him, checking to make sure he was alright and noticing the well made black pants, tucked in to expensive looking black leather boots. His gaze took in the black shirt, the black cravat tied around the mans neck with a red waistcoat decorated with black swirls over the top of it. An expensive looking long, black, leather coat completed the look. In fact the mans entire outfit looked expensive, in that it was clearly tailored for the persons body and the finest materials had been used. He could feel the leather of the coat beneath his fingers and it was soft and pliable and not nearly stiff enough to be the cheaper stuff. All of which meant that the person he'd saved from taking a nasty fall was probably a noble. If I'd have realised what he was I would have let him fall to the ground.

Wooyoung noticed that the mans hands had latched on to his arm at some point, his attention drawn to them by the increased pressure. The fingers were long and looked almost delicate. Yeah, he's definitley a noble. Those hands scream 'I've never participated in manual labour and I don't intend to while there's breath in my body'. Wooyoung internally sighed. So much for my dashing heroic moment, he'll probably screech at me to get my filthy commoner hands off of him.

He finally brought himself to look at the mans face, expecting a haughty sneer, or a look of disgust but instead he felt his breath catch a little in this throat. He's….pretty. Wooyoung couldn't help but notice. The man looked to be about the same age as him with high cheekbones giving him a narrow, angled face. The mans mouth was parted slightly in shock, the bottom lip slightly fuller than the top. His dark eyes were wide with surprise and his black hair was parted on one side allowing the bangs to flop in to one eye and completed with deep red highlights. He doesn't look like a privileged asshole...aside from the clothes I suppose, but I can look past that when he's got a face like that. Wooyoung blinked…..the noble blinked back at him.

"Awwwwwkwaaaarrd" Hongjoong probably thought he was whispering. He wasn't. Wooyoung turned to glare at him. "Woo, release your inner pira-" Yeosang's hand slapped over their Captain's mouth with surprising speed, Hongjoong's hands immediately reaching up to try and pry it off and managing it momentarily. "and….relieve him of-mmfff" Yeosang managed to muffle their Captain once again before Hongjoong bit the younger mans hand, making him let go. "PILLAGE AND PLUNDER WOOYOUNGIE, THAT'S AN ORDER FROM YOUR CAPTAIN" he yelled before Yeosang once again slapped his hand over his mouth. Wooyoung gaped at him, too shocked to even blush.

"Will you be quiet" the younger of the two hissed. "You're making a scene" Hongjoong shook his head adamantly and Yeosang sighed before releasing his grip on him to allow him to speak.

"Someone's making a scene, and it's definitely not me, it's Mr. 'I stepped out of the pages of a romance book' over there. You can't tell me this isn't a scene from one of your books Yeosangie, although I guess they're Wooyoungie's books too. Oohh did you practice this kind of situation with help from the book? So you could look as dashing as possible?" Hongjoong snickered and Wooyoung felt his cheeks flush, he shot the older man a vicious glare.

"I know where you sleep" he hissed at him before closing his eyes to compose himself for a moment. Once he'd felt the flush die down, he opened his eyes and looked at the man in his arms again.

"Um…are you…okay?" he asked hesitantly. The man nodded jerkily after a pause as if he was mentally checking himself over.

"Oh…yes. Thanks to you. Thank you…for catching me" the man gazed up at him. Hongjoong started to hum some sort of flowery sounding tune in the background and completely off key at that. Wooyoung ignored him, internally swearing vengeance for later.

"Oh uh…it was nothing" he really is, very pretty. "Why, um….why were you running? Do you need…help? I can help if you do" Why did I say that, I don't even know him and we need to get Captain Lightweight back to the ship before one of us decides to leave him to fend for himself.

"No, no, not at all…this is just the usual for me" he laughed awkwardly, and Wooyoung blinked as the words registered in his brain.

"You're…usually running away from something or someone at night?" he couldn't keep the skepticism from his voice.

"Nowadays, yes, believe it or not." more awkward laughter followed the statement. "Um…please…please excuse me" the man made an attempt to get out of Wooyoung's arms which caused him to finally look down and realise that he was still holding the noble tightly. With a start he hastily released his grip on him, luckily the man gained his footing and made it upright, otherwise Wooyoung would have just deposited him on the ground.

"Sorry" he mumbled to the other man.

"Smooth" Wooyoung ignored Hongjoong's stage whisper.

"If someone's chasing you, I really can help."

"No, no…it's fine. I've-everything's under control. No need to involve yourself in this"

"When someone says everything's under control they're usually talking shit" Hongjoong piped up.

"You would know" shot back Yeosang.

"Are you sure? I could…I could walk you home?" Wooyoung offered quietly, but clearly not quietly enough because he heard Hongjoong let out a burst of obnoxiously loud laughter. What is his problem? It's polite….

"Honestly, it's fine, it really is." the man glanced around him, before looking at Wooyoung again. "Thank you, once again, but I really do need to get going." the man hurried past Wooyoung, heading up the main road and further into Kingstown.

"Wait!" Wooyoung spun on his heel and lunged to try and catch his arm, but the man was quite light on his feet, even if he didn't watch where he was going. By the time Wooyoung had finished turning, the man was already gone.

"But…what's your name?" he whispered to the empty space the man had previously occupied, watching as his shadowy form vanished in to the darkness. Wooyoung felt a little bit disappointed, before abruptly shaking himself after realising what it was he was feeling. The man may have been pretty but he was still a noble, one of them. The rich and the powerful, who took joy in bringing others pain. Who threw money at any problem they encountered. A pretty face could disguise the ugliness within, but he'd felt a strange sort of…attraction to the man.

Yes, of course I did…because he's pretty and if I have one weakness it's a pretty face and I can freely admit that. I'm obviously still feeling out of sorts from earlier…with that…that….creature at the docks and then I suddenly find myself with a beautiful man in my arms, of course I'm all over the place. It's been an emotionally trying day for me, going from my lowest moment to a sudden high, and I'm being ridiculous. Either that or I'm too kind for my own good because getting involved in whatever he has going on is definitely not a smart idea. He's probably running from a girl after his fortune, or maybe even an entire horde of marriageable young ladies, all eager for his wealth. He doesn't seem the type to be running from the angry suitor of whichever young lady he's stolen the virtue of and he appears to be genuinely wealthy so I don't think he's running from creditors. None of which is a mess I want to find myself in the middle of, although I am quite skilled when it comes to the angry lovers of whichever lady or gentleman I-oh. This is one of the things I'm not supposed to be proud of, isn't it?

Yeosang sidled up next to him, a smirk on his face, dragging a giggling Hongjoong along with him.

"You shouldn't smirk like that, it twists your face up and it's horrifying" Wooyoung grouched before his friend could even open his mouth.

"I didn't say anything" he could see the amusement in the other mans eyes, and hear it suppressed in his tone.

"But you were going to" he hissed back. Yeosang just gave him a nonchalant shrug. Then their illustrious Captain decided to join in.

"You're a real Prince Charming Wooyoungie" he crooned. "Catching him before he hit the ground…gazing in to his eyes as you held him in your manly arms…." Hongjoong burst in to giggles, Yeosang pressing his lips together to stop himself from doing the same, no doubt.

"I was just being nice and polite." Wooyoung sulked. "Don't read too much in to it. This just proves you're not responsible enough, no, adult enough to be allowed alcohol Hongjoongie. And I don't just mean your height...or lack of it"

"Low blow Woo" Hongjoong ignored both of them.

"Pirates aren't nice though Wooyoungie, you know that. You shoulda let him fall to the ground and then robbed him blind, maybe even kick him while he's down…that's what a pirate would do! We need to start…start….getting in to character! No, s'not quite right ,it's our new job so's it...role...in to the role? I don't fucking know" Hongjoong groaned, his brain clearly starting to fail him. Wooyoung just rolled his eyes at the older man. But feeling Yeosang's gaze on him, burning a hole in the side of his face, he turned to look at his best friend and sighed when he saw his expression.

"Whatever you want to say…whatever joke you've got planned…just say it. Go on"

"No joke…just…what was that you told me back at Port Royal? About soulmates not just falling in to your arms?"

"Shut up, he's not my soulmate don't be ridiculous. He's just some boy, and a noble at that…I'll probably never see him again. Not that I want to, but we're leaving in a day or two, so it's unlikely that we'll cross paths again" Wooyoung's tone was airy but his heart sank a little at the prospect. Am I having flirting withdrawals? Is that it? I'm sure I can find someone equally as pretty in this place to flirt with if that's the issue. Get a grip Wooyoung, this isn't the first pretty face you've come across.

"Yeah he's just some boy. Just some boy who's really….really pretty" Yeosang commented. "And judging from your blush, I think you thought so too..and here I thought a noble wouldn't be your type"

"Yeosangie" he whined. "I wasn't blushing it-it's the alcohol okay"

"Sure Woo, whatever you say" Yeosang chuckled.

"I thought you were supposed to be a master at flirting" Hongjoong slurred. "But that's the second time today you've proved otherwise….unless stuttering is a new form of it? Am I that old? Am I behind the times? Or are you just losing your touch?"

"I'm going to push you off the dock, I swear I will" Wooyoung grumbled, grabbing Hongjoong's other side. "Let's go"


San raced the entire way home, dashing through the dark streets as fast as he possibly could before following the winding road up to their estate. Once outside its gates he paused momentarily in order to compose himself, before tugging the gate open, ensuring it was firmly shut and locking it with his key before hurrying up the sweeping driveway towards the steps. He took them two at a time, sweeping across the porch and through the front door. Closing it softly behind him, he locked it, checking it twice before he finally crept up the stairs to his room on the second floor. Once inside, with the door shut tight, he allowed himself to slide down it to rest on the floor. Made it, and I managed it in one piece.

He'd lost track of time something that hadn't happened since the incident at the dock, he usually made sure he was safely home and ensconced in his room before the sky even started to think about getting dark. But tonight he'd stayed out far later than he'd meant to, and he couldn't quite believe he'd made such a stupid mistake. He never ventured out at night, not anymore, yet he'd stupidly agreed to meet some friends for an early dinner. He was supposed to have been home in time, but he'd allowed himself to get carried away. Losing himself in the mundane society gossip that allowed him to finally take his mind off of the shadow that haunted his every step.

By the time he'd realised his mistake it was completely dark out, the streets gloomy and wreathed in shadows. Of course he couldn't be sure if his shadow was really there, watching him, following him...waiting for the perfect opportunity to end his life, it would be easy at this time of night of course. Easy to make it look like he'd drunkenly wandered off the dock or had some other accident befall him. Maybe he was merely being paranoid because of the darkness and what it could hide..but he'd felt the itchy, prickling sensation that someone was watching him. When he'd looked, no-one had been there, but he could feel the eyes on him, he was sure of it. So he'd run, determined to get home as fast as he could and hoping he could outrun the shadows.

Unfortunately he'd been too busy checking over his shoulder as he'd approached the main road, not paying any attention to where he'd been going as he'd been sure he could hear footsteps echoing his, chasing him down. He didn't see the other man until he'd already collided with him, even then only getting a blurred impression as he lost his footing completely, scrunching his eyes shut as he waited to hit the ground. But the impact never came. Instead a strong arm had caught his back, preventing him from crashing in to the ground, the other seeming to automatically grab his shoulder. San had instinctively brought his hands up, gripping the mans arm and ready to push it away, ready to fight...when he'd opened his eyes, looked up...and seen the face of his rescuer bathed in the moonlight. Pretty...he's so, so pretty. And he was certainly not the shadow he so feared. He'd stilled as he took in the other mans features.

He was truly incredibly good looking, even with a bruise marring one cheekbone, with smooth skin and big, bright, deep brown eyes. They were slightly uneven but San just thought that added to his beauty, if he was honest. Let alone his full lips, that San had a hard time looking away from they were just so…perfectly shaped. His blonde hair had been parted in the middle, the tips of his bangs brushing his eyes as it flopped over the sides of his forehead messily. San had been unable to do anything but blink at him. Even more so when he noticed his strange attire, what appeared to be a Navy uniform shirt and waistcoat, grubby and missing the jacket but his sword was hanging from his belt. Despite all of that, he wasn't dressed the way a regular Navy cadet or officer would be, or would be allowed to be. He'd never seen anyone from the Navy, regardless of rank, without their uniform jackets and with the rest of their uniform this particular shade of grubby.

It was an odd sight and piqued his curiosity, but it wasn't any stranger than the current situation he'd found himself in so he'd shrugged it off, choosing to ignore it and not dwell on it. Unfortunately, after exchanging a few words the man had let go of him, upon realising that he'd still been holding him for longer than was actually necessary, not that I minded. But much as San would have liked to admire the good looking man some more, and listened to his soothing voice, he also needed to get back home and off of the streets as soon as possible in order to lock himself in the safety of his house, or more specifically, his room, what with the little matter of the shadowy figure that was no doubt following him as always, looking for an opportunity to finally kill him once and for all.

The man had seemed reluctant to let him go, asking if he was alright...asking questions San had struggled to answer when he couldn't exactly tell him the truth. Oh yes, don't mind me, just running away from what I suspect is the shadowy man trying to kill me..again. That makes the third time this week would you believe? Then again it could just be me being paranoid, having someone out to get you will do that to a person. Ah well, just another Tuesday, no need to worry.

He wouldn't have believed him, it sounded ridiculous to his own ears and besides…why would he care? He was a stranger who'd never met him before, who just happened to be in the right place, at the right time to save him from a nasty fall...after San had rudely crashed in to him of course. But even so, it would have been a fall that ended in him losing his life. If the shadowy man was really following him like he'd had every reason to believe, if the pretty man had let him fall to the ground, if he'd walked away from the incident with a curse and a grumble like most people. San would have been too stunned by the fall to get up fast enough, the shadow would have grabbed him and...who knew what he'd have done to him. I suppose...I suppose I owe him my life.

Not that he'd have been able to tell him that, either. He was sure the man would have awkwardly offered some advice if he'd confessed why he was running through the streets with such reckless abandon, not entirely believing him, no doubt thinking he was crazy. 'Why don't you go to the authorities?' Oh well, I don't exactly have any proof you see, and I don't quite feel like becoming the town laughing stock and things at home are already dire enough without me seemingly throwing around wild accusations and stories, so….it's best to suffer in silence.

Although to his surprise the man had seemed to be genuinely concerned about him and even offered to walk him home. Something that San couldn't allow under any circumstances…not when his shadow could be watching him that very moment. The man might end up as collateral damage as the shadow tried to get to San himself and he too would end up as an obstacle to be removed. So he'd hurried off before the man could stop him again, feeling slightly more despondent than usual. After all, it's not every day a beautiful man chivalrously saves you from death himself, it's a shame I didn't get his name. Then again…it wouldn't matter if I did, it's not like I have any say in anything to do with my life, least of all when it comes to anything romantic. Oh well, at least it'll be a nice memory.

Chapter Text

Hongjoong groaned in pain, his head absolutely killing him as it pounded with a dull, continuous thumping that was no doubt thanks to the copious amount of beer he'd consumed the night before. But in all honesty it was well worth it considering the occasion we were celebrating. That being the Navy's decision to not alert the rest of the Caribbean to how monumentally they fucked up, by keeping our and our ships description to themselves...at least for now. We won't have to skulk about in the shadows and we should be safe for the short amount of time we'll be spending here. We can spend our time in this port like regular people, no looking over our shoulders, no creeping around and trying to avoid soldiers, we can enjoy one last trip to a relatively normal port before we head in to pirate territory. We should also be able to get away from here without engaging in a battle between ships which will make a nice change of pace from last time, if we never have to do that again it'll be too soon. By the time they make whatever move they're going to make, we'll hopefully be in pirate territory, where they won't dare to follow so in my book...that's worth a horrendous hangover in order to celebrate.

Although in truth it had been a while since Hongjoong had drunk quite so much and he didn't remember his hangovers being quite this bad, a fact he'd be keeping a secret from the other two members of his crew. He could already hear the 'it's because you're so old Joongie' response he'd get from one or both of them. As it turns out drinking alone and brooding isn't nearly as fun as it sounds, and it does not prepare you for drinking in earnest with others. Hongjoong lay in the warmth of his blankets, steeling himself to get up, knowing full well that despite the fact it felt like his head would be torn in two if he dared to move it...he couldn't lie in bed all day. They might have a small grace period thanks to the Navy's actions, but that didn't mean they could push their luck. It was best to get in and get out, while still enjoying whatever delights, if any, this town had to offer. As Hongjoong finally summoned the willpower to move, he attempted to roll over. However, he felt a warm weight on his arm preventing him from doing so. Puzzled, he looked down to see Wooyoung cuddling it as if it was some sort of teddy bear. Arms wrapped around it, and face pressed in to his bicep.

This kid…..He couldn't help the fond smile that spread across his features. I should probably enjoy this while I can because when he wakes up he'll no doubt have it in for me for last night. I'll be fielding snarky comments all day and he'll most likely exclude me from his cling behaviour..if he even comes near me at all. At the reminder of the previous night, Hongjoong mentally slammed his hand in to his face as the memory of screeching, or at least attempting to, about their identity as pirates, and the piratical behaviour they should be embodying, in the middle of the main road of a town that was most definitely not pirate friendly, started to replay in his mind. I actually yelled the words pillage and plunder. On the main road. Thank God no-one was around because I don't think this is the kind of place that would accept me playing the whole thing off as a joke. I would imagine they'd take it quite seriously and we'd be detained without question.

Hongjoong carefully disentangled his arm from Wooyoung's octopus like grip, leaving he and Yeosang, who had also somehow ended up cuddled in to his other side, asleep in his bed. How? Why? I know they're clingy, and we've bonded somewhat so I'm included in that but I didn't think we were at the 'mass cuddling in bed' together stage just ye-….oh. The memory came flooding back to him in the harsh morning light filtering through the windows. The two younger boys wrestling him up the gangplank of the ship before depositing him on his bed with a soft thwump, making no attempt to be gentle and clearly just wanting to be rid of him although still taking the time to swing his legs up and on to the bed. They'd then turned to leave...except unfortunately for them Hongjoong was a bit of a needy drunk, as they clearly found out for themselves the previous night. Rather than letting them go on their merry way to their own bed, Hongjoong had latched on to them with a surprisingly iron like grip for a drunk man, dragging them down on to the bed with him and refusing to relinquish his grip under any circumstances.

"Let go, I'm still angry at you, you can't win me over by trying to be cute and drunkenly cuddly. It won't work on me. I'm immune." Wooyoung tried to pry his fingers from his arm, although despite being angry at him, he was doing it without being too rough, while lying awkwardly half across Hongjoong's legs thanks to how he'd been tugged down by the older man. Yeosang had fared better and ended up with his face in Hongjoong's stomach but only half on the bed.

"Don't wanna….wanna snuggle" Hongjoong whined, earning a half horrified, half disgusted look from Wooyoung.

"Did you just...whine? That's it...you're never having alcohol again...whiny, cuddly Hongjoong is fucking terrifying"

"Snuggle!" Hongjoong repeated adamantly.

"You seriously want to snuggle…..?" Yeosang asked quietly.

"Mmmmm, the friends who snuggle together…they…..uh, no…that's not right…the pirates who snuggle together pilfer together? Pillage, no, plunder together? Pirate together? That makes no sense" Hongjoong giggled, earning another horrified look from Wooyoung.

"Don't say those words to me, I never want to hear them again" he grumbled.

"Too soon Woo?" Yeosang teased.

"Shut it" Wooyoung growled at him, causing Yeosang to stick his tongue out at him in response. Hongjoong started whining wordlessly, tugging on them.

"We have to snuggle together, to stay together...best pillaging friends forever!...or does plundering friends sound better? What's more piratey, pillaging or plundering?"

"Make him stop saying the words Yeosangie, I'm begging you" Wooyoung moaned.

"Okay Hongjoong, whatever you say, good ni-" Hongjoong had yanked Yeosang back down before he'd even made it halfway up from his stomach or managed to finish his soothing words.

"Crew now, my crew….basically family…..just wanna….be…together. Always" Wooyoung was staring at him, as was Yeosang, both looking at him with strange expressions on their faces. Hopeful, yet also slightly wary before Wooyoung awkwardly coughed.

"This is really uncomfortable Hongjoong, seriously let me up" Wooyoung whined, slapping at his hand lightly.

"No. Want snuggles! Captain orders SNUGGLES"

"What the fuck, Sangie. Isn't he supposed to be some badass Captain, threatening to cut dicks off and plotting to blow shit up….what is wrong with him?! Oh God, is he broken? Did we break him?" the youngest panicked.

"No, I think he's just a really bad drinker…and lonely. You know he kept to himself right? Everyone called him Captain Broody when he wasn't around, he was always alone. Things might have been shitty for us but at least we had each other. He was all by himself...I guess he wants to stay with us as much as we want him to stay. As much as we don't want him to abandon us...he wants the same. We...I really don't think we have to worry about him Wooyoungie. We...we finally found someone who won't leave us...abandon us like everyone else." Yeosang murmured the realisations quietly as they eyed their Captain. Wooyoung sighed, shifting himself off of Hongjoong completely, to settle on to the bed beside him.

"I can't believe this" he'd said, while allowing Hongjoong to clutch his arm tighter in order to yank him closer, until Wooyoung was pressed up against his side.

"What happened to 'It won't work on me, I'm immune'?" Yeosang asked, imitating Wooyoung's exact haughty tone of voice.

"I-I-It's just-He's just-He's so…so…."

"Soft" Yeosang had supplied, trapped on Hongjoong's other side, but now shifted so his face was no longer anywhere near Hongjoong's stomach and he was lying down comfortably on the bed. Hongjoong had yet to relinquish his grip on Yeosang's arm either. He'd quieted down, seemingly content snuggled between the two of them and they'd fallen asleep not long after.

Hongjoong felt a slight blush dusting his cheeks at the incredibly vivid memory and leaving Wooyoung and Yeosang still tucked up in his bed and sleeping soundly, he quietly hurried out of his cabin, waiting until he was outside of it to put his boots on. In the bright light of a brand new morning, Hongjoong ventured back in to the town, looking for the bakery he'd spotted the night before. Everything and everyone in the town were just starting to stir. Windows being thrown open, 'open' signs making appearances on doors or in windows. Instead of the empty cake stands of the previous night, the cafe's had cakes of all kinds proudly displayed in pastel shades along with macaroons, croissants, jam tarts, any confection, cake or tart that you could think of as well as little sandwich triangles arranged on tiers of their own. Hongjoong had been momentarily surprised to see such a selection before he remembered where exactly he was, and who occupied the place. Nothing but the best of the best for those who can afford it. Hongjoong had hurried on, eventually locating the bakery as the town sleepily came to life around him and pushing inside to the smell of fresh baked bread and pastry.

By the time he'd made it back to the ship with his purchases, and ventured back in to his room to see how the two sleeping beauties had fared in his absence, Wooyoung and Yeosang were sleepily stirring from the depths of his bed. Although clearly in no rush to actually get up from it.

"Wakey wakey" Hongjoong called cheerfully.

"You're awake surprisingly early for someone who should be dying from a hangover…if there was any justice in the world, that is" Wooyoung muttered darkly from underneath one of his blankets. The eyes glaring balefully at him, all he could actually make out of the younger boy.

"As we all know, there is no justice in the world unless you get it yourself. But..." Hongjoong added quickly, sensing an aura of gleeful malice emanating from his bed. "I got us all breakfast to make up for...well...you know" he announced, tossing them a bag each as the scent of warm, fresh pastries flooded in to his cabin. Yeosang immediately dug in, but Wooyoung on the other hand, hesitated. Clearly the youngest was attempting to hold out, refusing to give in after the previous night but eyeing the pastry bag longingly. The blanket that had been over his head, slowly falling back to reveal more of his face. Hongjoong bit his lip before simply biting the bullet.

"Look I'm sorry about last night okay, for the...snuggling and embarrassing you with that boy. I'm not used to people...or being close to people or any of that stuff, and the only people I had been used to were my….my adopted siblings. They're the only ones I've ever been close to before and you guys...you guys kind of remind me of them, is all." he rubbed his neck. "I guess I just felt...comfortable, being myself around you, letting you see that side of me." he finished awkwardly. Wooyoung heaved out an over dramatic sigh, reaching for his bag and sitting up so the blanket he'd been swaddled in fell around his shoulders.

"You're lucky I can be bought" Hongjoong smiled at the youngest, watching as he started to stuff his face. "You know if you ask nicely instead of becoming a human octopus, it maybe wouldn't be so bad….if it happened again" Wooyoung mumbled. Yeosang paused eating, cocking his head at his friend. "What?"

"Usually it takes you longer to warm up to people like this Woo"

"Yeah, well, it's like you said last night. He's like us. Besides, he could have abandoned us multiple times by now, yet here he is. So it looks like we're stuck with him" ah. Hongjoong had noticed how clingy Wooyoung was with Yeosang, putting it down to their friendship and everything they'd been through together, but he had the vague sense of Wooyoung keeping Hongjoong himself at arms length initially. Over the days they'd sailed here, Wooyoung had become touchier with Hongjoong, not to the same extent as Yeosang, but it was obvious he was affectionate to those he felt warranted it, to those he felt close to and connected to.

Listening to the two boys speak now and putting it together with what he knew of the boys past and what he'd heard and vaguely remembered Yeosang saying in his cabin the previous night...something finally clicked in to place for him. He's scared of being abandoned by the people he cares about and he only trusts Yeosang not to leave him. Of course he does, look at everything they've been through together. He's probably been half expecting me to abandon them the first chance I get, but I didn't. I didn't abandon them in the cells, I didn't abandon them when we ran in to the guards at the gate, I didn't abandon them in the streets of Port Royal, and docking here, in this port is a prime opportunity for me to leave them behind...but here I am. Maybe he doesn't usually warm up to people this quickly, if at all, but our circumstances are different to everyone else he's met. I've more than proved myself, not least because of my stupid whining last night...I've shown them over and over that I'm here to stay...and I'll keep on doing it if I have to. But I wouldn't abandon them...not like I was abandoned. They're mine now...my crew.

Hongjoong looked Wooyoung dead in the eye, making the younger boy momentarily stop eating his pastry, as he put a hand on his shoulder. Wooyoung looked up at him, mouth open and ready to take another bite of his food.

"You couldn't get rid of me even if you tried." Wooyoung's mouth snapped closed at his words. "This ship…us…we're all each other has now. We've all been abandoned...been broken by people. We understand the scars that leaves on a person. So I'm promising you that I won't leave the two of you behind, I won't abandon you, ever. We'll be together as long as you want to be. I swear. This crew, this ship, I want it to be a place, a haven, a home for people like us. People who've had no-one, who've been abandoned and kicked to the side like they're nothing. People who've been hurt, beaten, broken and bruised. People who need a new family...a family that they've never had. That need people to care about them, look out for them...have their backs. We'll be a crew of misfits no doubt, but we'll be loyal...and happy. We'll all finally have a place to belong. Crew? Family? There's no difference, not to us, not on this ship. They're one and the same. You are my family now, and I am yours as long as you want me to be." Wooyoung swallowed, bottom lip trembling slightly and unable to meet his eyes any longer, giving him a quick nod before the younger boy threw himself at Hongjoong in a quick hug. His first from Wooyoung. He glanced over at Yeosang, over the youngest's shoulder, meeting the other boys eyes and receiving a solemn nod decorated with a slight smile.

Hongjoong wasn't sure Wooyoung believed him entirely, it would take time for him to believe such words. Time backed up with the actions to prove it, but he meant every word of what he said. This ship and it's crew would be a family, and he'd make damn sure that no-one abandoned any of them again. The two boys were already like family to him, had been nearly instantly. They felt so familiar to him, like annoying little brothers with the way that they bantered with him, teased him and joked with him. He saw no reason for them to part in the future, unless it was on the boys own terms. They'd started this journey together, and it had bonded them like no other, and he hoped they'd be together for a very long time to come.

After eating their breakfast, the trio had divested themselves of as much of their uniform as they could in an effort to look as inconspicuous as possible. In Wooyoung and Yeosang's case this meant that they were down to just their white pants, black boots and their white shirts having removed their waistcoats in an effort to hopefully look like mere sailors. In Hongjoong's case it meant not only losing his coat, but losing his waistcoat as well. Although at least his looked fancy, rather than the plain white of the other two. He would hopefully be mistaken for a merchant.

"Hopefully no-one will look at us too closely and we'll be able to blend in long enough to get a change of clothes and everything else we need." Hongjoong commented, eyeing their outfits dubiously. It was painfully obvious the previous night that they were in military uniform, the all white was a hint but the waistcoats were a dead giveaway. Without the waistcoats you could pass for anyone really, although in this town it was no doubt a social faux pas to go without a jacket and he doubted all white was an acceptable colour choice. But with the waistcoats? They added something to the plain, loose shirts, smartening the appearance and lending an air of the familiarly uniform about them. With the waistcoats people would be one thought away from exposing them. A casual thought on how similar it looked to a uniform they were sure they'd seen somewhere before, could lead to a realisation that would bring about questions they couldn't answer. So he hoped with the removed clothing items they'd just be mistaken for sailors who didn't know the etiquette of the town. Perhaps coming ashore from one of the merchant vessels in the bay, or a new sailor on one of the nobles ships who wasn't yet familiar with the rules of the place, or was used to a more lax atmosphere when it came to clothing.

"While I'm getting the things we need for the ship, you two are in charge of getting clothes okay?" he instructed.

"Aye Captain!" Wooyoung happily responded, with a quick salute. No doubt happy at the prospect of new clothes, something none of them had enjoyed in...too long.

"Do you have any preference on what you want?" Yeosang asked him.

"Not really, as long as it's not white, has no scratchy lace or embroidery or...other ostentatious shit. Oh and I'd like to actually be able to move in it" Hongjoong replied, thinking of that god awful jacket he'd had to wear as part of his uniform. The younger two boys nodded in agreement with him. White's a reminder of before. Of what we've come from and the place we never want to go back to. Any colour but white…and I'm not too fond of red either these days.


The three of them had strolled down the gangplank together then made their way along the dock, admiring how the sunlight had sparkled off of the water. Admired how peaceful and serene the waterfront was in the morning, the cafe's along the waterfront starting to open up, people starting to take places at the tables and chairs outside of them for a quick breakfast before getting on with work. Once they reached the main road, they split up. Hongjoong heading in one direction to acquire their supplies along with the paint and flag material, and Wooyoung and Yeosang headed in the other to start their quest of finding clothes for the three of them...as well as anything else they might take a liking to.

The two made their way along the main road, peering in to shop windows here and there as they went, admiring the fancy cakes in one window, the beautiful jewellery in another, and in no particular rush to actually complete their task. Wooyoung had spotted a ring he liked in the window of one particular shop, thick and silver. Nothing overly ostentatious, simple, with a small chunk cut out of the centre. He'd never owned any jewellery of his own before, neither had Yeosang aside from his mothers locket. Yeosang himself had taken a shine to a pair of earrings, one a simple silver hoop, the other a stud with a small black gem.

"You don't have your ears pierced you know" Wooyoung had pointed out, as Yeosang sighed wistfully.

"I know...I just like the look of them is all"

"No, you didn't let me finish...you don't have your ears pierced yet" Wooyoung had grinned, Yeosang's eyes snapping to him. Which is how they walked out of the place not long after with Yeosang sporting the earrings he'd liked so much in slightly red ears. Wooyoung opted to get his own pierced first to reassure Yeosang that it really wasn't that bad and really wouldn't hurt that much. Not that he'd know having never had it done before but really, how painful could it really be? Turned out not very...at least when it came to his earlobes. He'd chosen a pair of simple silver hoops for his, and then convinced Yeosang, upon discovering that it really didn't hurt all that much, to get a matching second lobe piercing, a 'friendship' piercing as he'd called it. Yeosang had agreed after experiencing the piercing process for himself and Wooyoung had picked two silver hoops for them. One each. But rather than the simple, smooth silver of the hoops they already had, Wooyoung chose a pair made of two thin ropes of silver, woven together. Yeosang opted to get his in his right ear, above his other hoop, and Wooyoung decided on his left.

However, he'd also decided it would be fun to get one more piercing, perhaps elated by doing something so very against Navy regulations, but unfortunately for him that one hurt more than any of the others combined and he'd actually yelped during the process. It was worth it though, because he thought the stud pierced through the cartilage of his left ear, paired with the hoops made him look quite roguish. And pirates are nothing if not roguish. Our transformation is well and truly on it's way...now all we need are the clothes.

When it came to finding clothes, it was a little bit harder than anticipated. They needed affordable ones as there was no sense in buying something extravagant when they'd be living on a ship, attacking any ship they deemed a worthy target, and just causing general mischief and mayhem. They also needed their new clothing to be nondescript and comfortable to wear...the latter being necessary for the previously mentioned mayhem causing. They had to be able to move in them easily in order to fight. Of course, having spent the last few years of their lives in the stuffy, uncomfortable uniforms of the Navy, they weren't especially used to such items of clothing. The issue with acquiring them, however, lay in the fact that this town catered to those of the upper class. Those with money. Therefore most of the shops selling clothes weren't selling anything readily available. It was all a case of going in and having your measurements taken, ordering what you want and then walking out to come back and collect it in a few days time. Or if it was pre-made, it involved a lot of fancy embroidery and lace and the finished products, at least when it came to the waistcoats and jackets, would probably make you sink like a stone if you were unfortunate enough to fall in to the water while wearing them.

After a trip in to no less than three bookshops so that Yeosang could acquire some more reading material now he had the space for it...Wooyoung himself may or may not have made a couple of purchases of his own. Mostly tales of daring pirate adventures to help him get in to his new role, and a couple for Hongjoong as well as he thought the man might enjoy them himself. Although he did slip in a romance or two...ones Yeosang had been looking at but hadn't made his final roster of choices. I just bought them because Yeosang clearly wanted them and now I have the means to treat him to these things...that's all. I definitely won't be reading them first...they're all bullshit. Yeosang had, in fact, bought so many books they'd had to have the shops deliver them to the ship for them. Yeosang himself had picked a mix of romance, adventure and...more yawn inducing medical texts under the reasoning "Someone aboard is going to have to act as ship's doctor and you two...are nowhere near qualified". They finally stumbled across the exact kind of shop that they'd been looking for down one of the side streets.

It was selling clothes of a reasonable price, and ready made to wear. They were of good, solid quality and should last them a while, without being over the top. No overly bright colours, no fancy gold or silver thread, no embellishments of any kind that would make them stand out...in other words clothing that didn't reek of money and therefore wouldn't make them a target or have people looking at them for quite obviously having money. A wealthy merchant? A noble? People would look at them and wonder in such clothing, particularly the pirates who would take one look at them and mark them as 'other', which is exactly what they didn't want. They didn't want to be looked at. They needed to be able to avoid people's notice, to blend in to the background as one of the many.

Wooyoung eagerly browsed through the options on offer while Yeosang got stuck in polite conversation with the shopkeeper. Wooyoung decided he would select what would be Hongjoong's things first, picking out a few things he thought the other man would like. They seemed to be to his taste, at least Wooyoung thought they were, and then he went about selecting things for himself. Cuts and styles that he'd always wanted to wear, always admired, but never been able to in colours he hadn't been able to wear in a while. He made sure to get a few of everything so they wouldn't be stuck wearing the same things over and over, so they would be able to have options and wouldn't have to worry about immediately doing laundry as soon as something got dirty. Or at least, those were the practical excuses Wooyoung came up with, really he just couldn't decide between this colour or that, and after being limited to the same thing to wear each and every day...maybe he went a little bit overboard. Somehow he didn't think Hongjoong would mind. Especially when he saw the jacket Wooyoung had selected for him.

"Have you found anything?" Yeosangs quiet voice came from beside his elbow, evidently finished making polite small talk with the shopkeeper. Wooyoung wordlessly held up what he'd found for he and Hongjoong. Yeosang eyed the items for a moment or two, taking them in to his hands and turning them this way and that, before a slow smile spread across his face.

"Perfect…Hongjoong will love it too, no doubt" Wooyoung had beamed at that. He liked to think that while he may not know much about fashion, he still had a good eye for clothing. Of course, he had noted what seemed to be fashionable among the young men walking around Kingstown but none of it seemed appropriate for a pirate ship...too many layers, and fiddly things and overly high collars. Except for the pretty man from last night...he was dressed quite well...Wooyoung shook the thought away, turning to help Yeosang make his own selections. Helping him pick colours, style of shirt and waistcoat, which pants would match his shirts best and so on, and then finally settling on a jacket. They even decided to buy new boots for each of them. Soft, well made, matte leather boots to replace their worn yet still obnoxiously shiny uniform boots...and considering it was a clothing item that would get a lot of wear and they weren't sure they'd be able to find something of such good quality in the future, who knows what the pirates have available, maybe they don't even have tailors and cobblers, maybe they just loot all their clothes from the people they've killed...which means we'd probably have to steal anything we needed, new boots, new jacket, new shirts...new anything from one of our victims. Someone we would have no doubt run through with a sword or exploded with a canon ball. The holes you could patch reasonably well, unless the person had been caught in the explosion of a canon ball in which case it would be a lost cause. But how would one get blood out of a shirt? Although I'm sure Hongjoong would know, they decided it would be best to get spare pairs of each, especially as they had the money to do so.

Yeosang eyed the pile of clothes in his arms doubtfully as they made their way to pay the ecstatic shopkeeper. "Woo are you sure-"

"Yes Yeosangie, you'll look good, I promise! Have I ever steered you wrong? Wait...don't answer that. Just trust me"

"….but why do I need to look good? For the fish? For the dolphins? You don't just come across people floating around in the sea, does it matter what I look like?"

"Can't you just look good for no reason? Because you can? We've worn the same clothes for years Sangie, years. Now we can wear whatever we want…so why not look our best?" Yeosang gave in with a sigh, depositing his new wardrobe on to the counter alongside Wooyoung's so that the shopkeeper could ring them up.

"Is there anywhere we can change?" he'd asked as Wooyoung handed over the money, and fifteen minutes later, they'd walked out of the shop wearing their new clothes and finally feeling free from the Fort and their lives there, now that they weren't wearing constant reminders. Now it truly felt like a fresh start, although for now they'd still have to keep using the swords they'd taken from their guards before they'd left.

"So…do you think Hongjoong will let us burn these?" Wooyoung held up the package containing their old clothes.

"We can't burn anything on the ship Woo, it's wood."

"Doesn't mean we can't have a bonfire on the beach…burn our old uniforms, have a beer and just-OOOH" Wooyoung abandoned Yeosang on the side of the pavement, pushing the packages he'd been holding in to the other boys arms after spotting a certain shop, in order to immediately rush inside. He quickly scanned the shelves of the shop, looking for what he needed before hastily grabbing several of said item and making his way to pay once he'd located it.

And now we have the finishing touch in our pirate transformation, with this we'll really look the part. He gleefully giggled to himself, making his way out of the shop minutes later, a slight skip in his step. Yeosang turned from where he'd been observing the comings and goings of the road to give him an unimpressed look at being so quickly abandoned on the side of the road with no explanation, no doubt.

"What was that about?"

"I found the last thing we needed!" Yeosang raised a questioning eyebrow at him. With a grin and a flourish Wooyoung pulled out one of the several of the item he'd just purchased, holding it aloft in front of him with a big grin. Waiting for Yeosang's gasp of joy, the excitement he'd no doubt feel as he too realised this was just what they needed to complete their look. It didn't come.

"Is that…..is that eyeliner?" Yeosang narrowed his eyes, puzzled.

"It's kohl!" Wooyoung proudly declared, waiting for the understanding to flood Yeosang's gaze and the excitement to overcome him. Yeosang merely blinked at him in confusion.

"Why….did you buy eyeliner? Is this a new flirting technique? Did you read about it somewhere?" Wooyoung pouted at his friend.

"No Sangie, I bought it for the three of us to use, look I got lots!" He held the package up, shaking it slightly so he could hear the unmistakeable rattle that meant he'd supplied them well for the foreseeable future. "This right here, is the final thing we need to complete our transformation in to roguish pirates. With this...we can be real pirates"

"I'm fairly sure we'll be real pirates when we attack and rob a ship…possibly killing a few people in the process. The death of the people you're robbing, or at least a handful of them, does seem to be a requirement from what I can tell. They usually kill someone, they actually seem to be incapable of not killing at least one person. Of course, we'll inevitably have to make someone walk the plank too...I think that about covers it. Although considering everything we've done so far, stealing some coin, blowing something up which most likely resulted in a few deaths, and then stealing a ship...I think we're more than welcome to call ourselves pirates. We'd probably be given bonus points for the mere fact our target was the Navy. So I don't think eyeliner suddenly qualifies us to be pirates, Woo"

"You do make some good points I'll give you that Sangie. But it's fashionable for pirates to wear eyeliner, they all wear it didn't you notice before?"

"Why would I be looking at their makeup choices when I'm trying to make sure they don't run me through with a sword?" Wooyoung let out a whine of frustration.

"Yeosang, I'm being serious" he resisted stamping his foot.

"You're serious? Eyeliner is really that vital to our status as pirates? Without it will we be ostracised from the other, nasty pirates?" Wooyoung ignored the note of amusement bordering on sarcasm in Yeosang's voice.

"Yes. Llike I said, they all wear it. If we want to fit in when we get to a pirate port…we should too! We'll immediately be welcomed as part of their ilk, there'll be no question about it" Yeosang still did not look convinced. "Besides, I really think I can pull it off…you and Hongjoong probably can too"

"Ah, there it is. The real reason you wanted it is because you think it'll make you even more good looking than you already are, you're just using the pirate thing as an excuse." he chuckled, shaking his head at him.

"You're wrong" Wooyoung was vehement. "I don't think it'll make me more good looking. I know it will make me more good looking, especially paired with my new clothing choices, and my new piercings. I'll be the most dashing, roguish pirate they've ever seen and Hongjoong did say we should aim to be the best. But more importantly, we'll look like real pirates, we'll look like we belong, so no-one will fuck with us"

"...no-one will fuck with us because we're wearing eyeliner? Right. Okay" Wooyoung ignored him, ploughing on.

"And even more importantly, according to the lady in the shop it'll help resist the sun's glare!" he finished, brightly.

"Sometimes Wooyoungie, I really do wonder about how your brain works...or doesn't"

"What? Why? Yeosaaaangie" Wooyoung whined, shaking his arm and completely oblivious to the fact that he was being watched from the other side of the busy road.


Never wanting to spend more time in the cold, echoey mansion that he called home than he had to, and with the day time being arguably safer than the night what with it being harder to kill someone, or cause an accident to befall someone, with so many witnesses strolling around, San had decided to go out for a walk. To take in some nice, fresh air instead of the stuffy air of his room, to feel the sunlight on his skin. To perhaps treat himself to something sweet as he hadn't treated himself to such things in a while. Maybe he'd really push the boat out and treat himself to something more extravagant, like a new jacket. If he happened to bump in to, accidentally of course, it's not like I'm looking for him...what a silly notion, a certain good looking man again, then that would be perfectly fine too. He could even thank him once again, it would be the polite thing to do after all, the man had saved his life.

Of course said man could have left by now, sailing to some new, exciting destination that San would never get to see, but he rather hoped not. San was curious about the man in the not-quite Navy uniform and he'd be lying horribly if he said that he hadn't replayed the moment the man had caught him in his arms over and over, long in to the night. It was after all, a bright spot in an otherwise shitty, well…years, actually. San didn't often get the opportunity to talk to anyone he deemed attractive, not that he had many choices in that regard anyway. Not when it was expected of him to marry some young woman he'd probably never met and would definitely have no interest in, in order to carry on the family line. He could find a man attractive, but there was just no point in becoming attached, not when he wouldn't be able to be with him the way he would want. But despite that San was finding it hard to ignore his initial attraction to the man with the pretty eyes, and he found himself quite wanting to see him again, however briefly. He knew nothing would be able to come of it, not with his station and the man no doubt leaving any day now, but that didn't stop him from hoping that he'd happen to catch a glimpse of the other man while he was out, as unrealistic as it may be.

Perhaps he'd even strike up a casual conversation with him once he'd thanked him, it would be bad manners not to, after all. It would be so lovely to have a proper conversation with the man, it had been such a long time since he had properly conversed with anyone. San had friends of course, but they were fellow nobles and while he'd been friends with the majority of them since childhood...he wouldn't exactly call them close. They were petty at best, constantly finding ways to cut each other down to size, to belittle each other and prove how much more superior each of them was to the others. Politely of course. That was how the nobility worked, backstabbing and being malicious covered by a veneer of polite, flowery words. No-one was honest, everyone wore a mask and San had become tired of it. Why can't people just say what they mean? They were all poised, ready to pounce on any who showed the slightest sign of weakness, ready to drag down any of them for the smallest of mistakes. San had to constantly be on his guard, constantly reading between the lines and seeing the truth behind the smiles and pretty words...it was exhausting. He could never make a mistake, could never show a flaw. He had to always be perfect, always look and be his best, constantly monitor what he said because one tiny, little mistake could ruin him...and ruin his familys' reputation at the same time.

San could talk to the man about all the interesting things he'd wondered. What the world out there is really like, what other places are like, talk about the things he'd seen that San would never have the opportunity to. Other food, other cultures, creatures of the sea that he'd only read about in books...anything other than the latest gossip, about who's reputation had been ruined and why. He was tired of the same conversation, the same idle gossiping about rumours and fortunes and the same dull, bleak future they all had. In fact, the man being rather good looking would be an added bonus to some real, normal conversation to sate his curiosity and give him something to live on for years to come. Information he could pull out and examine whenever he was bored. Maybe he could even buy him a drink to thank him for the previous night. Or is that a little too far? Too much? I just….I'd like to forget everything for a little while, and if we have a drink together, then he would have to talk to me for longer. It would be nice to have a good time with someone that I find attractive, that I...like, just once. So I have something to hold on to in the future. Of course taking him to a tavern is a little risky...but it would be worth it in the long run.

Considering how gossipy and vicious the nobility could be, San rarely, if ever, got the opportunity to talk to any man he found attractive. Doing so for too long, looking at a man in the wrong way would cause vicious rumours to spread and his reputation would be nothing. Aside from the fact there would be no point for him to risk it anyway. But this seemed like the perfect opportunity. He wasn't from the nobility, none of his peers would be in a tavern at this time of the day, and San would be able to speak freely...would be able to talk to him without being watched. Without having to worry about rumours spreading. It was the best and probably sole opportunity he would get for such a scenario. Yes, San would talk with him...maybe flirt a little with him if he could get up the courage, perhaps even k-k-ki-no. That would be too far and far too forward for a man he'd just met. That would be inviting misery in to what could be a memory good enough to give him solace in his lonely, cold future. After all the man would sail away, and San would go on with his duties as expected of him. If he lived that long, of course. It would just be nice if his first kiss could be with someone he actually deemed attractive, that he actually wanted to kiss, rather than with a lady he'd been forced to marry. Just one.

Unfortunately for San, when he'd casually strolled by the docks, shadow in tow if the sensation at the back of his neck was anything to go by, for no reason other than the fact he wanted to admire the sunlight playing on the water of course, he hand't seen any sign of the blonde man. There was a ship docked but no-one appeared to be onboard at the time, but then again other ships were present in the bay and there was no telling which ship was his, although considering how drunk his companion had been the previous night he assumed their ship was the one docked, because God help them trying to operate a tender and get back onboard one of the ships moored in the bay when one of them was that far out of his wits.

Oh well, it was too wishful of me to think I'd happen to bump in to him again anyway, I knew the chances were slim but I still hoped anyway. It's just…when I looked in to his eyes I felt…San wasn't actually sure what he'd felt, if he was honest. Initial attraction, yes, but something…more. Perhaps it's to do with the feeling from that night. Perhaps he's the someone that I had the feeling I was supposed to meet. He snorted at himself. Don't be ridiculous San. This is the real world not some story, and the real world is at least 95% shitty 80% of the time, give or take. Destiny? Fate? It's all a load of rubbish, and I'd be a fool to think otherwise. The feeling that I'm supposed to meet someone? No. That was the feeling of the lack of oxygen suffocating my brain, nothing more. Get a hold of yourself Choi San.

San had started to wander back, wander, definitely not trudge, when he'd spotted a brunette man who'd looked oddly familiar to him, he just couldn't quite place his finger on why. He didn't think that he actually knew the person, because despite seeming familiar to him, he couldn't place a name to the face, but he was sure that he'd seen him somewhere before. But where?

The man was wearing black leather pants tucked in to black boots. A loose, soft grey shirt, open at the neck, with a wide belt secured around his waist over the top of it, and a sword belt slung lower, but minus the sword. The man was facing the street, arms full of packages as he scanned the road. Taking in the activity, and he appeared to be waiting for someone given that he showed no signs of moving any time soon. Where have I seen you before? The question was starting to nag at him, his brain telling him that the man was important, but he couldn't figure out why for the life of him.

San was in the middle of wracking his brain for the answer when the man suddenly spun on his feel, turning to face the door of the shop just behind him. San followed what he assumed to be the mans line of sight, looking over to the door of the shop and-it's him. The man from the night before, his saviour, was standing just outside of the shop, evidently having just exited it, the bright sunlight gilding his blonde hair. San suddenly recalled where he'd seen the brunette man before...the previous night, standing not too far behind the blonde man and holding up their heavily intoxicated companion. As San recalled the memory, focusing less on the man he found so attractive, he recalled something else. The brunette man had called the pretty one something...what was it? Oo...Woo...ung...Woong? No, that's not right, but it was Woo something? Woo...Woo...young...ie? Wooyoungie? That was it, if I recall correctly!

San found himself staring at the blonde man without quite meaning to. He thought that the man was good looking the night before, at least from what he could see thanks to the moonlight illuminating him. But in the full light of day? With every feature and detail brilliantly light up for him to see? The man wasn't merely good looking, he was exceptionally good looking. Devastatingly so, or at least San thought so. To San he was the most beautiful man that he had had ever seen.

The man...Wooyoung? Had changed out of the grubby not-quite uniform of the night before and was instead wearing black leather pants that highlighted his thighs, tucked in to black leather boots. A loose black shirt that featured a small lace up section from the neck to near to the top of the chest, revealed a triangle of smooth, tan skin. It was casually tucked in to the top of his pants, and he had two, thick belts slung around his waist, slightly overlapping. One of which would no doubt be home to a sword.

His blonde hair was slightly messy, the tips of his bangs brushing his eyes and he appeared to...dear God. The man now had silver hoops dangling from his earlobes and a smaller piece of silver glittered further up his ear. If the clothing hadn't made him look roguish before...his clearly new, silver earpiercings did. He was also holding something in his hand, seemingly presenting it to his companion but San couldn't quite see what it was from where he was standing. San watched as he smiled at his friend, a big, radiant...beautiful smile, the sight of which had his heart perking up instantly. San didn't think he himself had smiled in...too long. He didn't really have all that much to smile about, in his defence. The only smile he'd managed to produce in recent times had been a faked, polite thing, exactly as etiquette required with not too many teeth showing, but enough to be deemed a 'sincere' smile. A genuine smile? He hadn't found occasion for one of those in a long while. However, as he watched the blonde man pout and whine at his friend, his face looking quite adorable as he did so, he felt the corners of his lips twitching.

Of course before a smile could even start to form, his brain decided to ruin the moment for him. Perhaps…that other man. Maybe he's not just his companion, his...friend. Maybe he's…maybe they….well…they do appear to be very close. Perhaps...

As the man applied whatever it was that he'd purchased, much to his other friends seeming disgust, although San would have said that he looked mostly indulgent rather than anything else, the disgust merely being a show, San debated approaching the pair. I should thank him again for last night, he saved my life and I was so focused on rushing home, of getting safe that I didn't thank him as well as I should have. Maybe…maybe we can talk and...a drink. San felt slightly nervous at the thought of asking the other man to go for a drink with him, in his head he imagined it to be an easy thing. A simple thing. But now that he was faced with the reality, he wasn't so sure he'd be able to do it. Of course, if his shadow was lurking around there was every possibility something unpleasant could make its way in to his cup, a thought that kept insistently nagging at him no matter how much he tried to ignore it. After all there was that incident before...but I so badly want to speak with him. Although...what if...what if his friend is…more than his friend? Not that it should matter to me of course, I just want to thank him and maybe ask him a question or two about life at sea. That's all. He resolutely stamped down on the slight stab of disappointment, the same way he'd stamp down on a cockroach.

He watched from his place across the road as the brunette man leaned in to help his friend with whatever it was that he was trying to do. The blonde had turned to the window in order to be able to better see his task, turning back to his friend having finally completed it but evidently the shop window hadn't made for a good enough mirror as his friend reached up his hand, brushing his thumb under one eye, then the other. He then held his friends face in between both hands, seemingly looking at his handiwork, but the brunette's head was blocking him from seeing whatever it was he'd done. San sighed.

I should still thank him either way, I owe him my life after all, and at least I'd get to speak to him briefly, which is better than nothing at all. A sudden thought occurred to San. What if he doesn't remember me? Meeting someone so attractive might be a rare occurrence for me, but to him...I...I'm just me. I suppose, I suppose I'm quite good looking but that's entirely in my own opinion. Maybe I'm not attractive to him? Perhaps I'm fixating on him, and worrying because I've never quite found myself so initially attracted to someone this way before...while he's already forgotten all about me because he didn't find me attractive at all. Or even if he did, I'm sure he meets good looking people all the time, this is probably nothing out of the ordinary for him...maybe he rescues people frequently too, he does seem the type. San shook himself. You're being ridiculous. It's just a thank you, what is there to worry about so much? Just go over there, and speak to him. Introduce yourself properly, for God's sake. It's not like I've never seen a pretty man before, it's just...there's something about him. Of course perhaps his friend over there is more than just his friend, but...I can still talk to him, have a nice, normal conversation with someone for once. There's nothing wrong with that. I've just never quite felt such a desire to talk to someone before, it's quite unusual...then again all of my acquaintances just want to talk about petty, frivolous things that I have no interest in..perhaps I'm just starved of decent conversation.

San was so busy with his internal debate turned fresh wave of panic that he didn't notice the malevolent presence coming up behind him. His shadow, never far behind him, always lurking around corners, and just out of his sight...but always there. Always watching, and always waiting for any opportunity. He should have been more alert, the daylight may be marginally safer than the night but his shadow was a constant presence no matter what time of day it was. He knew that. He knew better than to let his guard down and ordinarily he wouldn't have but the handsome man across the road was distracting him more than he'd been in such a long time...for such trivial and silly reasons. He never saw it coming.

One moment San was standing on the side of the road, gazing in the direction of the two men and trying to decide if he really should go and speak to them...speak to him, or if he should just hurry home and mope in his room, treating this as his last glimpse of the man, purely by chance as he'd hoped for. Did he really need more than that when the man clearly sent him in to some kind of mental panic? He wasn't sure, and he just couldn't quite make his mind up, and as he debated backwards and forwards with himself and internally panicked, he subconsciously had edged closer and closer to the where the smooth stone dropped down to rough cobbles.

The next moment, he felt a hand make contact with his back, giving him a hard shove forwards and as surprised as he was at the unexpected turn of events, which in all honesty he really should have expected if he hadn't been so focused on the man across the road whom his eyes remained fixed on...he went flying forward, right in to the road...and straight in to the path of an oncoming carriage.

Chapter Text

Wooyoung had been enjoying joking around with Yeosang, applying his new purchase in a bid to win Yeosang around to his way of thinking by showing him a demonstration of it in action and what it would look like on, perfect of course. But his friend had ended up having to help him, and tidy up the mess he'd initially made of it thanks to his lack of a mirror. Of course he'd attempted to use the shop window as a stand in for a proper mirror, unfortunately the shops windows...like all of the other shops in this port, bulged out from the window and curved. So his reflection had been..horrifyingly distorted. He'd managed to apply it to the correct area of his face, but it hadn't been the neatest and some of the product had fallen on to the skin below his eye. Yeosang had wiped it off for him, then grabbed his face, eyes darting from one of Wooyoung's own eyes to the other before declaring that they matched and it looked decent enough. Once Yeosang released him he spun back around to examine himself in the window again. He tucked away the pot of kohl and the brush used to apply it, then spun back to Yeosang with what he imagined to be a roguish smirk.

"I told you, now I look twice as dashing as I did before" Yeosang responded with a snort and an eye roll, not deigning to comment any further. Wooyoung had been about to offer his kohl applying services to Yeosang when a flash of red had caught his eye. He glanced up, spotting a familiar face across the road from them and looking in their direction although he seemed to be lost in thought. It's the pretty man from last night…Wooyoung realised, having an incredibly vivid flashback to the man blinking up at him as he rested in his arms. Perhaps he…recognised me and wants to come and speak with me? No don't be ridiculous Wooyoung, he's probably not even noticed you, just because he appears to be looking in this direction doesn't mean he actually is, there's a shop right behind you. Aside from the fact that he's a noble. I'm sure he's got better things to do than talk to the dregs of society. He's probably debating his next extravagant purchase...or maybe what outfit he should wear to the next ball, or...whatever it is nobles do for fun. Count their money probably, but I'm sure balls or banquets are up there in the list too.

Wooyoung felt a little bit mean making assumptions about the man when he didn't even know him, after all he hadn't given off 'pretentious asshole' vibes the previous night like most nobles did without even having to get up close to them. But then again...every other rich person he'd had the misfortune to meet had behaved the exact same way, arrogant, pompous, rude, clearly of the opinion that they're better than you and treating anyone below them in station like dirt. Look at Simmons, for example. Looks could be deceiving, and while the noble across the road from him had a beautiful face...that didn't mean that he didn't have a rotten heart like all the others.

Wooyoung had been about to turn away from the man, ignore his existence and get on with trying to force his kohl on Yeosang, although at this stage it would be more pestering him the entire way back to the ship until he finally relented in order to shut him up. By the time they made it to the gangplank...that should be around about when Yeosang lost his patience. Wooyoung would know, he had the art of pestering Yeosang down so well that he could calculate exactly how long it would take to wear him down or exhaust his patience, depending on his friends mood. Yeosang was in a good mood, so it wouldn't take as long as usual, he thought.

But as Wooyoung had been about to turn away, the noble had lurched forward and in to the road, seemingly having been jostled by the busy crowd of shoppers, or perhaps he'd tripped and lost his footing as he'd made his way to cross the road. Wooyoung wasn't quite sure and he hadn't been able to see clearly. What he could see with crystal clear clarity was the fact that the man was heading straight for an oncoming carriage with no way to pull himself back or avoid being hit by it. He would be trampled within minutes and who knew how much damage it would do...it could even kill him. People died more often than not when it came to carriage incidents. Wooyoung didn't think, he just moved. Shoving the packages in his hands at a baffled Yeosang who was startled by his sudden movements and shouted after him, but he didn't hear whatever his friend had to say. He's probably wondering what idiotic thing I'm throwing myself in to now...or cursing me. Or both. Wooyoung rushed towards the road, lunging forward and grabbing the falling noble by the arm. He yanked the noble towards him, and out of the way of the carriage by a hairs breadth, the carriage passing inches from his face. He'd used enough force to ensure that the man made it out of harms way that it sent both of them spinning and tumbling down to the cobbles below. Wooyoung landed on his back with a pained groan, said cobbles digging in to his spine uncomfortably, and the noble sprawled on top of him. At least something good came out of this situation. No. Bad Wooyoung. Now is certainly not the time, and this is certainly not a person I should be thinking of in such a way.

The nobles' face was pressed tightly in to his neck and he could feel the mans warm breath. Wooyoung would be lying if he said that he didn't enjoy the sensation, something about it sent a pleasant warmth all over his body. He might even be tempted to call it comforting...if the cobbles weren't making their presence known to him every time he even thought about breathing. One of the mans hands was gripping his shirt front tightly, and his body was a pleasantly warm and solid weight on top of him. Wooyoung had automatically wrapped an arm around the nobles waist as he'd pulled him out of the way, and he still had a hold of the nobles wrist in his other hand. Wooyoung glanced down at the top of the mans head, in no particular rush to change the predicament he'd found himself in, even if it was with a noble, and even if he should have immediately shoved the man away on that principle alone. I feel surprisingly comfortable right now…despite the cobbles currently rearranging my spine in to a new shape and I have no desire to move unless I have to...why not enjoy it for a moment or two while I let him get his bearings.

The noble groaned in to Wooyoung's neck, removing his previously vice-like hold on his shirt and tugging his wrist out of Wooyoung's grip in order to place both of his hands carefully down on to the ground, and to gingerly push himself up and raise himself off of Wooyoung ever so slightly. Enough to get a look at his rescuers face, anyway. As the noble raised himself up, eyes coming up to take in his face, Wooyoung simply tilted his head slightly, a lazy smile in place as he gazed back at him. The mans face was incredibly close, and Wooyoung found himself gazing in to sharp dark brown eyes that widened slightly as he evidently realised who it was that had saved him...again. You're welcome, not that you'll recall last night I'm sure. The noble made no attempt to move, merely staring at Wooyoung. Perhaps he really does recognise me from last night? Or maybe he's simply surprised to have been saved at all, his chances of avoiding a nasty run in with that carriage did seem quite slim for a moment there. He probably expected to be crushed between the horses hooves and it's wheels, not find himself on top of someone as attractive as me. Wooyoung let his lazy smile transform in to a smirk at the thought. Then again perhaps he's shocked to find himself in such close contact with what I'm assuming he thinks is just a common sailor. I don't really care, but either way...he really is quite beautiful. Wooyoung finished his lazy examination of the mans face, having managed to tear his gaze away from his eyes for long enough inspect the rest of it, and cleared his throat.

"Are you alright? Are you hurt?" he murmured to the noble.

"No…I'm-I'm fine. Thanks to you" the quiet voice replied. The nobles face was mostly filling Wooyoung's vision, the other man having not finished raising himself up from him, but Wooyoung attempted to glance at what he could make out of the rest of him, craning his neck slightly to either side in order to do so, in an attempt to check that he was telling the truth...that he really was in one piece. The man appeared to be a little bit shell shocked still, and perhaps wouldn't register any injuries at all like a broken bone, or a cut...or a limb hanging off.

"I seem to always be saying that to you" the man mumbled and Wooyoung wasn't sure if he was supposed to hear that, it seemed more like an aside to himself spoken out loud without having realised it.

"Ah so you do remember me? Of course you do, I'm impossible to forget. First last night…and now today, I must be your knight in shining armour" Wooyoung winked at him, watching in satisfaction as the nobles' face tinged pink. Oh yes, he didn't mean to say that aloud at all...or perhaps the wink was overkill.

"Ah, yes, of course, I-uh" the noble stuttered, trying to avoid Wooyoung's gaze. Wooyoung decided to plough on.

"I think this puts us on a first name basis, don't you? This is the second time in twenty-four hours that we've been pressed so closely together, I think it's only polite." Wooyoung raised an amused eyebrow as the nobles face continued to turn an interesting shade of pastel pink. "I'm Wooyoung"

"San" came the almost shy response and Wooyoung couldn't help the smile that it caused him.

"Well San, you must be quite accident prone" he chuckled slightly.

"You...could say that…" he trailed off avoiding Wooyoung's gaze once again. Wooyoung tried to catch his eye, unable to read his facial expression and he couldn't quite tell from the man's tone but he felt like...something wasn't quite right.

"What is it?"

"Nothing, it's just…accidents keep on happening around me lately. This is the third time this week" the noble cut himself of abruptly, the look on his face screaming 'I shouldn't have said that'. Wooyoung blinked at the admission. The third time this week...that he's fallen in front of a carriage? The noble started to babble in a somewhat nervous manner.

"Don't worry about it…it's just…how things are. I probably just have really bad luck, perhaps I should see someone about that...a fortune teller or-or something. Maybe they can give me a charm or-or-or an exorcism. No wait, that's ghosts. A..a...cleansing? I think? Or maybe I should have an exorcism as well, I don't think I'm possessed by anything but I suppose you can never know."

"I would think you'd know if something had possessed you and taken over your body." Wooyoung replied, dryly. How did I go from another heroic rescue worthy of one of Yeosang's romance novels...to lying on the ground talking about exorcisms? Are ghosts even real? I doubt it.

"I-I-I wouldn't know, I've never been possessed before, how do you even know what to look for? I-" San was cut off from his panicked babbling when one of his hands slid out from under him, sending him crashing down to Wooyoung's shoulder again. He distinctly heard the noble groan, most likely in humiliation. Wooyoung tilted his head towards San's, turning so he could whisper in to his ear.

"Are you sure you're not just clumsy, hmm?" Wooyoung teased, eliciting another embarrassed groan from the man. San made a move to finally get off of Wooyoung, pushing back from where he'd been hiding in his shoulder and perching briefly on his hips, allowing Wooyoung to sit up and finally release his back from the hell that were cobblestones.

Once San was on his feet, he offered his hand to Wooyoung who accepted the warm, soft grip and allowed the man to pull him to his feet. Wooyoung dusted himself off, buying himself some time to think as he did so. Something about the way he answered me...wasn't quite right. There's something going on here, but what is it? He clearly doesn't want to talk about it...or admit to it if the panicked babbling is anything to go by, I assume he said more than he meant to in the after shock of the near accident.

Wooyoung knew he shouldn't get involved with a noble, should stay far, far away. But this was the second time that he'd rescued the man from an accident, although the more recent one being the most severe of them. Last night he'd saved him from some scraped skin and some bruises, today he'd saved him from death himself. Wooyoung found it unsettling that the man could have been hurt so many times in twenty-four hours, it made him wonder how much he managed to get hurt on a weekly basis. He found San's response to the question of whether or not he was accident prone even more unsettling because he hadn't sounded entirely sure. He hadn't agreed, but he hadn't really disagreed either, implying instead that it was simply a convenient answer for him to give. Let alone the admission that accidents kept on happening around him. Something wasn't quite adding up and it was nagging at Wooyoung.

Perhaps it was simply because he found the man pretty, and he hated to see such distress marring his face. Perhaps it was the innocent look the man had about him, the blinking eyes, the embarrassed groaning as he hid his head from him...the avoidance of his gaze. Perhaps it was because he was merely feeling nosy...intrigued to see what kind of problem a noble could possibly have other than if his latest outfit was fashionable enough to be seen out in, or whether or not the girl he liked was rich enough to marry. Or perhaps it was because the noble hadn't immediately leapt off of Wooyoung as if he'd catch some sort of disease from being in close contact with someone lower in status than him...someone lesser. But either way, much to his surprise, Wooyoung found himself caring about the noble. There was something about him that made Wooyoung's protectiveness rear up, despite having known the man barely twenty-four hours and even then only in passing.

"So which is it? Accident prone or clumsy? Before your little slip just now I'd have said the former, but now I'm starting to suspect the latter" he made sure his tone was light with a hint of teasing about it. "Did you trip on a loose paving stone?"

San let out a small laugh at the question but it wasn't genuine, rather than conveying humour it was tinged with something bitter. Subtle but still detectable to Wooyoung, further piquing his growing suspicion that all was not well with the noble. He recalled how the noble had glanced around him the previous night, Wooyoung assuming rather waspishly that he was being chased by a girl...perhaps he wasn't so far off of the mark. Is someone trying to put an end to an arranged marriage perhaps? Warn him off?

"No, I'm neither actually." He answered decisively, pausing a moment. "Although...I suppose you could say that maybe...perhaps just slightly, I can...on the odd occasion...be a little bit clumsy. Occasionally." Wooyoung raised his brows at the comment, hiding a smile. "But that usually means incidents like you just saw...a slip here, a dropped teacup...occasionally falling flat on my face. I should really have been looking where I was going last night but I was too busy looking over my shoulder, it was entirely my fault for that reason alone, I wasn't being clumsy for once actually I'll have you know. I didn't trip over a loose stone either, I had been standing still you see debating if I-I-uh-well-" San swallowed, looking away from him.

"You were debating...what?" Coming over to talk to me perhaps? Did you really recognise me?

"Uh..oh nothing. Absolutely nothing" Wooyoung smirked, not for an instant believing him, not least because of the reappearance of his blush.

"So if there was no loose stone, what was it? Did someone jostle you? Make you lose your footing perhaps?" Wooyoung pressed.

"I...I suppose so, yes. That must have been it. These things will happen" the noble laughed, awkwardly, it was too high pitched and Wooyoung narrowed his eyes further. "Anyway, I really must be going, thank you for your help...again. You didn't have to take the risk at all. I actually, I wanted to thank you properly for the previous night you saved my-"

"I saved your...?"

"..my new coat. Terribly expensive, and it would have been hell to replace." San chuckled and Wooyoung didn't for a second believe his excuse. He suddenly grabbed Wooyoung's hand, staring directly in to his eyes. "Thank you for saving me Wooyoung...last night and just now. Thank you" Wooyoung swallowed slightly, not prepared for the sudden intensity from the other man.

"Y-You're welcome. I'd have done it for anyone" San smiled at him, eyes disappearing in to little crescents and...fuck. He has...he has dimples. Just when Wooyoung thought the man couldn't get any prettier. San squeezed his hand before letting go.

"I'll be going then, it was nice to see you again, even under such dire circumstances." San spun abruptly on his heel, making an attempt to brush past Wooyoung and vanish in to the crowd. Unfortunately for him, his speedy escape was thwarted by Wooyoung's arm whipping out. His hand catching San's bicep in a light yet firm grip, preventing him from running away from him. I don't think so.

"Not so fast…" Wooyoung turned to Yeosang who was standing exactly where he'd left him and had been silently watching the exchange with amusement from the side, arms full of packages. At least he kept quiet. Yeosang raised a brow at him.

"Ah, you finally remembered that I exist, did you?"

"How could I forget Yeosangie?" Yeosang snorted at him. "You go on ahead, I'll meet you back at the ship later." Yeosang's eyes darted from Wooyoung to San, before nodding his head at the younger boy, a smirk sliding in to place.

"I hope you have fun with your damsel in distress, I'm sure Hongjoong will love hearing all about it" Wooyoung groaned at the thought of the older man finding out about this...and teasing him mercilessly for it.

"Does he have to know?"

"Of course, I couldn't keep anything from our Captain and you know how...invested he is in...whatever this is, after last night" Yeosang widened his eyes innocently, before laughing at the look on Wooyoung's face. "Think of it as your punishment for making me haul all of this back to the ship by myself" he hefted the packages at him, before managing to wiggle an arm free just enough for a slight wave.

"We've not been in this port for five minutes and he's already found someone to flirt with, the idiot even threw himself in front of a carriage to do so. He's being more dramatic than usual" he heard Yeosang mumble as he melted in to the crowd and out of sight, in the general direction of the dock and their ship. Wooyoung steeled himself for a moment, willing the embarrassment to fade from his face before turning back to a face a very pink cheeked San.

"Now, where were we? Ah. I think you owe me a drink, don't you?"

"I-I really don't-" Wooyoung wasn't going to let him slip away, he couldn't. He was too curious for that...and a tiny, minuscule little part of him was...worried for the noble. Not that he'd admit it out loud because he barely knew the man for God's sake and he couldn't have his reputation being ruined if people found out he was fussing over some pretty noble in such a manner. Not that it would really matter as they didn't really have a port to call home anymore, and they wouldn't be back in Port Royal, well...ever, but it was the principle of the thing. Jung Wooyoung didn't worry about the people he flirted with, he didn't question them about their lives and situations...but for some reason he couldn't let San walk away from him. It's because he's so clumsy...I'd better keep an eye on him for a while longer to make sure he doesn't fall in front of anymore carriages and...if that means I end up being the ear he needs to unburden himself on then so be it. Consider it my final good deed before descending in to a life of piracy, I may as well go all out.

"San" Wooyoung allowed a whine to creep in to his voice and a slight pout to grace his lips. "I saved your life, snatching you away from the clutches of death himself, I think I've more than earned myself a drink don't you?" Wooyoung slid his hand from San's bicep, down to his hand. Gripping it tightly and starting to tug him in the direction of the nearest tavern, which just so happened to be the one they'd visited the night before. San didn't outwardly resist him, there was no shouting or wrenching to get away, he allowed himself to be towed in the direction of the tavern but Wooyoung noticed upon glancing back at him that he seemed...uncomfortable. He was constantly glancing around, jumping at any overly loud or sudden noise, and looking at the tavern as if he was potentially being dragged to his own execution. The nervous aura around him increasing the closer they drew to the side road that housed The Crown. Maybe he doesn't like crowds of people, or crowded places...or maybe it's that he doesn't like drinking. Perhaps he used to drink too much and now he's sworn off so entering a tavern is taking him in to a world of temptation...no, he doesn't look like a drinker. It can't be that. What is it? What about the tavern is putting him so on edge?

Wooyoung stopped abruptly, causing San to bump in to his back. Wooyoung turned to face him, steadying him as he did so because it was too soon to have another close encounter with the unforgiving stones that made up the road.

"What's wrong? You don't like the tavern...why? You look like you're old enough to drink so it isn't that...and you don't look like an ex-hardened alcoholic being led in to temptation...so what is it? Do you not like crowded places?" ordinarily if he put such a thought with a noble, he'd assume it's because they don't want to be in close quarters with those lesser than them, the Officers from wealthy families back at the Fort had taken great pains to avoid having to come in to close contact with the cadets. Treating them like vermin the majority of the time. But San just...didn't seem that way inclined. Nothing about the man made Wooyoung think he was like the others, he was too...innocent, seemingly, for that kind of behaviour.

"I-I-I just don't...I don't trust taverns" came the mumbled response. Wooyoung narrowed his eyes at him, his head tilting to the side as he tried to puzzle out the mystery that was San. He doesn't trust taverns? That's a strange thing to say. What's there not to trust? Is he afraid he'll get his purse snatched by a pick pocket? Ordinarily that would be a valid fear in the taverns Yeosang and I are used to frequenting, but here? Such a thing would never be able to happen. And unlike the establishments we used to frequent, there's no chance the alcohol has been mixed with anything...unsavoury in a less than above board scheme to stretch out the supply and make it last longer...and to turn a higher profit. Wooyoung mentally snorted to himself. Of course, perhaps they simply don't serve the calibre of alcohol he's used to. No doubt he drinks the most expensive, oldest vintage of wine rather than good old fashioned beer. Perhaps a tavern is too simple for him. But something about the statement just didn't fit with what Wooyoung had experienced of the man so far.

"Why? I was at this tavern just last night, it all seemed above board to me. There was nothing strange about the place" Wooyoung pressed.

"It's not..it's just...I...I..." Wooyoung noticed the noble glancing around, peering in to the shadows cast by the buildings. What is going on with him? He observed San as he glanced over his shoulder, his nervousness obvious for all to see. Wooyoung wasn't sure if he was shaken up from the accident or if there was more to it than that...he suspected the latter. His nervous, near paranoid state coupled with the statements he'd made earlier and never explained were making a suspicion start to form in Wooyoung's mind. Does he...does he think someone's following him? Is he worried that someone really did try to push him in front of that carriage? Wooyoung wasn't sure of exactly what was going on here, but he was sure that something was very, very wrong when it came to San.

"How about this, taverns are too noisy to talk in anyway so it's hard to have a conversation. So, instead of buying me a drink, I want you to accompany me on a walk" There's only one place around here where it will be impossible for anyone to follow us without me noticing. It should be safe to talk without being overheard.

"A walk? That's-that's it? You just want me to go on a walk with you?" Wooyoung thought he detected a hint of relief in the other mans voice but he couldn't be sure. He nodded in response to the question.

"But...you have to talk to me as well. None of that awkward walking in silence. I want a conversation."

"You want...a conversation? About...about what?"

"Oh..I don't know. Perhaps you'd like to tell me what's bothering you? Or finish whatever it was you were trying to tell me earlier?" Wooyoung threw out casually. He watched San's eyes go wide as he swallowed.

"Nothing's bothering me-"

"Something clearly is...and something isn't right. I can tell that much. We'll go to a place where we can talk freely...no-one will be able to follow us. If you want a willing ear to listen then...here I am"

"Really, there's nothing wrong at al-"

"Of course there isn't. Let's go" Wooyoung didn't give San time to argue, gripping the mans hand and pulling him briskly down the street. They passed the tavern, following the side road it perched at the top of all the way down, passing countless other little side streets, until finally taking a few right turns. Luckily for Wooyoung, his sense of direction and vague idea of the neat layout of Kingstown from what he'd seen so far meant it spit them out at the far end of the port town, exactly as planned. He pulled San towards the sea front, passing from the hard stone, to the soft sand of the beach.

Currently, it was deserted. The nobles had no use for such a place, it was far too messy and they were usually wearing far too many layers to want to slog through the sand. Aside from the fact it wasn't 'proper' to frolic at the beach as far as Wooyoung could make out. This close to the edge of the town, the sea front was empty too. This end of town was host to the warehouses storing supplies that came in on the merchant vessels, so they had a nice stretch of the beach all to themselves until they started to get further back towards the centre of the port and closer to the docks. If anyone was following them...Wooyoung would notice. They'd stand out traipsing after them over the sand, but more importantly...there was no-one around to eavesdrop on their conversation. Not like there would be in the tavern with so many people wedged in.

Wooyoung wouldn't force him to talk, he was a stranger after all so he couldn't expect him to open up to him. But the way San had slipped up earlier...it was clear he hadn't meant to say that much. The fact that he had slipped made Wooyoung suspect the noble wouldn't be opposed to opening up to someone...and while a stranger to him, at the same time...there was no-one better. Wooyoung didn't know whoever was involved in this situation, whatever it may be, aside from San, and couldn't gossip about it to anyone, spreading it about in society and risking San's reputation.

"See, there's no-one around, no-one to overhear and if anyone follows us...we'll see them for now. If you want to talk..now would be the time." San nibbled on his lip, refusing to look at him. "I think there's something going on with you...something's not right and despite my better judgement I find myself quite worried about what that is. You seem like a decent person...you're not like the other nobles, you seem innocent and kind-hearted. I'd hate to see that destroyed by the rest of those bastards, and I think you do want to talk to someone about it. After all...you did slip up earlier"

"That's because you're-" San cut himself off, biting his lip.

"I'm what?" Wooyoung watched out of the corner of his eye as San took a deep breath.

"Because you're so...so...good looking. And you'd just saved me and you were being kind and...I don't know. My mouth opened before my brain could stop it."

"Is that such a bad thing? If you need someone to talk to...there's no-one better than me. You'll never have to see me again after a day or two, I have no-one to tell either. Whatever it is, it's safe with me"

"I don't want to get you involved in...in things. It has nothing to do with you and you might end up being dragged in to it" Wooyoung just shrugged. "It's-it's dangerous" Wooyoung had to laugh.

"Oh believe me, I know danger and I'm sure I can handle whatever this is"

"You don't...you don't understand" San was clearly frustrated.

"No, you don't understand. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and you don't know the things I've done. I'm sure your problem pales in comparison."

"I doubt that very much" San mumbled before raising his voice. "Why do you care so much?" Wooyoung could practically hear the unspoken nobody else does.

"It hurts me deeply to see someone so pretty" Wooyoung touched San's cheek. "So mired in misery" he said, rather poetically if I do say so myself. Like I keep telling Yeosang, his romance books are the perfect guide if only he'd deign to use them. San went back to chewing on his lower lip, appearing to be mulling over Wooyoung's words.

"Look, I won't tell anyone, cross my heart" he mimed the gesture. "There's literally no-one for me to tell anyway. My crew mates won't ask, because they really don't want to know what I get up to and even if they do ask...like I said, they really don't want to know the details so all I'd have to do is toss out a few racy comments and they wouldn't question me further. It's not good to hold things inside, and you seem quite lonely, no offence, so I don't think you have anyone else to confide in. I'd like to help you, even if it's only to listen, I'm quite eager to get in one last good deed" he winked.

"This seems like more of a favour to me than me repaying you" San was skeptical, Wooyoung shrugged.

"First of all, I get to spend some time alone with a handsome man...I feel plenty repaid" Wooyoung enjoyed the blush that flared up along San's cheeks at his words accompanied by his smirk. "Secondly, you'd really be doing me a favour. Things are about to change for me...and for my crew mates. It would be nice to do one last nice thing before I start doing...not so nice things" Wooyoung figured that was vague enough that he wouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion he was a pirate. I could be an illegal drug runner to be for all he knows, or about to start a scheme to scam people out of their money, kidnapping people to sell in to brothels or slavery, siphoning off stock to make some money on the side...the list of shady things that merchants and the sailors that they employ get up to is endless.

They walked in silence for a few moments, with nothing but the sound of the waves brushing the shore, and the sand being squashed under their boots to accompany them. Wooyoung took in the view, the sea a sparkling blue, sunlight dancing off of it and birds calling as they swooped through the air above it all. San's voice was so quiet when he started speaking that he nearly missed what he was saying, but Wooyoung redirected his attention back towards the noble, listening quietly to whatever it was he needed to say. Whether he needed to rant at him about some slight, confide in him about some wrongdoing..whatever San needed to get off of his chest...Wooyoung would listen. Perhaps then he'd be able to do what he usually did with people he found pretty...shake off the feelings and go on his way with no further trouble. Nothing left to niggle at him.

"I'm the son of a Duke…and his first wife. My father is the Governor of Kingstown actually. Governor Choi. We moved here when I was younger, the sea air helped with my mother's health, and it gave my father the opportunity to keep an eye on some of his businesses. Goods trading, mostly. The King made him Governor not too long ago, because of his skills at running his business operations, I think. I'm not really sure, we don't...we don't really talk that much. He's...cold to me, you could say. He never used to be like that though, we used to be so close. So close. He'd spend all his spare time with me, playing with me, teaching me how to use a sword, reading with me, teaching me about the businesses that I'll run one day. Showing maps of the world, and reading to me about far off places. We used to laugh...he..he loved me then. But my mother...she'd always had poor health. The air here helped her, she could breathe easier here than in the city. But she-she got worse and then after she died, father grew distant. Now he barely speaks to me, he actually only does it if he has to and even then he uses as few words as possible. He won't look at me at all. I just...I don't really know why. Perhaps he blames me because I didn't take good enough care of her, because I always made her walk along the sand with me and it taxed her lungs...or perhaps without her he's just broken." A shitty father? Welcome to the club. Wooyoung thought, but he didn't say anything aloud. He kept silent, letting San speak at his own pace, and focusing on his steps in the sand.

"Father remarried my step-mother and she was nice enough. She'd always make an effort to talk to me, she tried to bring my father and I back together again. Outings at the weekend, just the three of us, trying to bring him in to conversations we'd be having, making us all eat dinner together...not that any of it worked but I appreciated the effort. You hear horror stories of step-mothers when it comes to the nobility. Of them being nasty, treating you terribly because you were a reminder that they weren't the first wife...weren't as special. But not my step-mother. She tried to do what father wouldn't anymore, read with me...but it was never the same. Our house used to be so full of warmth and love but now? It's quiet, and cold. No-one laughs anymore, there's no fun...it's just empty and echoey like a mausoleum."

Wooyoung glanced to the side to see San staring fixedly at the sand, he tentatively reached a hand out but stopped himself from actually touching the man. Why would he want comfort from me? What do I know about losing a parent that you love? Of having a loving, caring family and having it ripped away. My parents hated me, and they made it clear from the day I was born. Forcing me to steal and take part in their stupid schemes, and beating me when it went wrong...or just because they felt like it. Even with Yeosang's parents...it never felt real. They treated me like one of the family but I wasn't really. I wasn't related to them and it was a fact I couldn't forget. Sure I felt loved, and happy and warm with them, Yeosang is my brother, because of them I could smile and laugh but I never truly belonged did I? They weren't my parents, even if they tried to be. It was the closest thing to a real family I ever had but it still wasn't really...never really felt like mine and I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for it all to go to shit and then it did. It had taken Yeosang a good few years to finally convince Wooyoung that it wasn't his fault, that he wasn't some sort of bad luck charm that fucked up any family he came in to contact with, a thought that had plagued him after what had happened with Yeosang's father. San's family though? They were a real family and San had belonged, he'd been loved and cherished and had it all taken from him, San felt such pain yet Wooyoung had merely felt numb...like things had finally returned to how they should be for him.

"Earlier this year, she gave birth to her son, my little brother...my father's new son to replace the old one that he's evidently grown tired of." bitterness crept in to San's voice, and Wooyoung couldn't blame him for that. "Of course, as you can imagine, he loves him more than he loves me now. He'll actually look at him and spend time with him, whereas me? He avoids me as much as he can..acts like I'm invisible. A ghost. I don't think I've said more than a handful of words to him in months. Usually I hate spending time at home, enough to actually willingly spend time with my peers...or I suppose I should call them acquaintances. I have known them since I was a child after all. Home is filled with all of the memories of my mother, of the memories of when things were happiest for me but now it's the coldest, loneliest place I know. I hate that it's become like that, that it used to be so full of warmth and happiness and now it's barren of everything. Devoid of all joy that had been there before. I hate that I can see my mother in every room of that house, but it's like she's being erased. Room decor being changed bit by bit, her bookshelves rearranged." Wooyoung nodded along with his words, the situation with Yeosang's family having been similar so he could relate in that regard. It had once been warm and loving, even if Wooyoung had felt like he was living in a dream the whole time. But it had turned out to be too good to be true and everything warm about the place had fled in the wake of Yeosang's father and his new favourite habit, descending in to darkness.

"This must seem such a pathetic complaint to you...so trivial compared to all the other problems that exist in this world." Wooyoung shook his head.

"Yeosang and I..." he started. "We come from a similar situation. His family...they took me in off the streets. My parents, they weren't good people. They used me for their cons and scams, forced me to help them even when I didn't want to...when I realised it was wrong. They'd make sure the marks weren't in places people could see, and they never broke anything obvious...I was a beautiful child you see, as I'm sure you can tell" he gestured to his face with a wry smile. "That's why I was so useful to them. If I'd been an ugly child I'm sure they'd have thrown me in the river. They still hated me, despite the usefulness. They told me all the time with their eyes, the looks they'd give me...the offhand comments and words. I knew I was unwanted. An accident. But because of my face they let me stay. Beating me to keep me in line..to keep me pliable. Beating me when I fucked up, when I didn't do what they'd asked, or when someone who'd taken pity on me hadn't given me what they thought was enough money. Beating me because they were in a bad mood and needed someone to take it out on. But then I got older and I stopped being so useful. I stopped being cute and adorable. I was still beautiful, but I was too old for the kind of schemes they wanted to run, so they left me. Sent me out on some errand and when I came back...they'd gone. Taken everything with them too, not that I was sorry to see the back of them but they were still my parents. They were supposed to love me and take care of me...but it was all bullshit." Wooyoung could feel San's eyes on him, he didn't know why he was telling him all of this, he couldn't seem to stop. Maybe it wasn't San that needed to talk to someone...maybe it was him. He'd spoken to Yeosang about all of this before, he thought he was over it. That it couldn't bother him anymore, but maybe it had just been festering away, waiting for him to poke at it because San's story was striking a chord in him and bringing unpleasantly familiar feelings to the surface.

"Yeosang found me on the streets, I couldn't get rid of him. I tried to avoid him at first but he'd always ask around and keep searching. Always find me eventually. He'd give me food and clothes, and he started to sneak me in to his room at night to sleep. Eventually his parents just took me in. It was my first time experiencing a real home, to laugh and smile...I hadn't really known that I could. They taught me so much, cared for me as much as they could. They taught me what a family should be even if I didn't really belong. But then...it all changed. Yeosang's mother...she died, and his father? There became nothing that he loved more than rum, even his own son. It helped him to forget everything, forget his wife had died and he was all alone now, forget he had to take care of his son on his own, without her help. Forget the love he'd lost. He became a completely different man and everything good about the place was sucked out and replaced. It became a dark place...a menacing place. We'd constantly be on edge, never able to relax and always balancing on a knife edge waiting for him to snap. Yours only avoids your existence, you should count that as a blessing."

"He...did he..." San was looking at him with wide eyes, and Wooyoung didn't want to look too deep in to them in case he saw pity there. He couldn't stand being pitied. The world's a shitty place and life fucks you over whenever it gets the chance, there's no use crying about it.

"At least I was used to seeing the violent side of people, Yeosang wasn't. His parents had never raised a hand to him before, he'd never even been shouted at as far as I could tell. I didn't...I didn't want him to become like me. To feel like I felt...to hate his father like I hated my parents. My parents had always been like that but Yeosang? He loved his father and his father had loved him..still did deep down. I couldn't let it happen to him, couldn't let him experience being beaten black and blue by his own father for no other reason than he was hurting and wanted everyone else to as well. I protected him as best as I could, made sure that I was always a target for him...drawing his attention and anger. You could tell when he'd been drinking, when he was close to snapping. But I still feel guilty about the times I wasn't there, or wasn't fast enough to stop it. Still feel guilty that I couldn't protect Yeosang properly. It was nothing new to me...like falling in to an old routine, and honestly? I was starting to think I deserved it at that point. That it was my destiny or something equally as stupid" He laughed bitterly. "But Yeosang? His entire world had changed, everything he knew had come crashing down and his father who'd lovingly raised him. Bandaged his scraped up knees and taken care of him when he was sick...he was the one hurting him now. So no. I don't think it's a pathetic complaint..it's not trivial in the least. I'm not belittling how you feel either, but...at least your father is still there, somewhere. Still human." San laid a comforting hand on his arm, just like Wooyoung had been too afraid to do to him.

"You know you didn't deserve the cards life dealt you, don't you? You didn't deserve to be hurt by the people who should have loved you, abandoned by them when you stopped being useful. You're a person, you were a child...not a tool. And it's not your destiny or fate to be mistreated. Just because you've been abused like that before..it didn't mean you deserved for it to happen again. I understand wanting to protect your friend, but you didn't deserve it anymore than he did"

"Maybe. But Yeosang saved me, I owed it to him to try and save what pieces of his childhood, preserve what memories he had of his father and his family, that I could." Wooyoung shook off the gloom he found had started to shroud him. "So, shitty home life. Check. Do carry on"

"Carry on?"

"There's more isn't there? Don't think I've forgotten your cryptic comments from earlier, and then there's the constant nervous twitchiness about you. What is it? Did you flirt with the wrong Lady? Is your step-mother trying to marry you off to an ugly hag for an impressive dowry?" San laughed somewhat bitterly.

"I wish it was that simple. That's an easily rectified problem, mostly"

"So it's more complicated than an illicit love affair, I'm most intrigued" Wooyoung gestured for him to carry on.

"You have no idea how much I wish my problems were something as simple as an arranged marriage, or someone trying to ruin my reputation with gossip and rumours. You have no idea what the nobility is like-"

"That's where you're wrong, I know they're all a bunch of pompous bastards with sticks shoved so far up their arses that they can't even slouch" he topped the comment off with an angelic smile. "Imagine my surprise when it came to meeting you...see look! You're doing it!"

"Doing...what? What am I doing?!"

"...slouching" Wooyoung whispered in faux horror. "Where you indisposed the day everyone received the procedure?" San laughed, the sound like music to Wooyoung and he smiled at the sight. San's eyes had disappeared in to little crescents once again, and his dimples finally appeared from wherever they'd been hiding.

"You're right, they're all rigid, imperious, conceited pricks" he chuckled. Wooyoung let out a scandalised gasp. "What?"

"I didn't know you were capable of swearing, mild as it was. I'm sure that's not in the etiquette books" San mock glared at him, slapping him on the arm. Wooyoung held his hands up defensively. "You really don't seem the type, you look too...wholesome for that"

"Image and reputation are everything when you're from the nobility, I'm scared to even breathe wrong half of the time. I'm so used to watching my words...to making sure I don't accidentally say the wrong thing...but that doesn't mean I'm not capable of swearing like a sailor"

"If 'prick' is the harshest curse you have in your vocabulary, then I doubt that very much, but we can work on that" Wooyoung grinned at him. "So, you were saying..." he nudged the conversation back on track. San was silent for a few moments, seemingly trying to decide how much he was going to tell Wooyoung, if anything. They walked along the beach in companionable silence, while Wooyoung waited for San to speak, and San decided if he was going to at all. Wooyoung wouldn't force the man, there were other things that they could talk about and he found he liked talking to the noble. Laughing with him and teasing him...he's definitely not like the nobles I've encountered before. Nothing like Simmons's ilk and I can't believe I ever entertained that idea.

Wooyoung watched San once again, out of the corner of his eye. He couldn't quite fathom how he'd gotten himself in to this situation. Usually when he encountered a pretty man or woman, he did his usual routine. Strictly flirting, no conversation of any consequence, got what he wanted and went on his way. He should have been doing the same with San. Not taking a stroll along the beach with him while spilling his life story...and part of Yeosang's which wasn't technically his to tell, not that his friend would begrudge him no doubt. Wooyoung hadn't cared about anyone else, worried about anyone other than Yeosang in a long time...if ever. San was pretty, and Wooyoung had definitely taken a shine to him. The initial attraction he'd felt had been strong, but the night before hadn't really been an appropriate time to flirt. He'd wanted to make sure San was okay, and make sure he got home safely...a reaction he hadn't had before in similar situations, this wasn't usually how such things went for him...there were usually less clothes involved for one thing.

Back in Port Royal, a rather stunning young man had walked in to a tree simply because Wooyoung had winked at him. He'd picked the man up off the ground, dusted him off and proceeded to flirt his way in to the mans bed. But the previous night..he hadn't managed to even attempt it...he'd even felt...awkward? Shy? No. Impossible. How could I be shy? I'm the least shy person there is...unless I'm pretending. Wooyoung let out a mental snort. Imagine, me? Shy? Because of a pretty man? Unheard of. It was a strange day yesterday, and I was clearly out of sorts. But then the incident had happened and Wooyoung had wanted nothing more than to make sure San was okay, to talk to him and find out what was bothering him. To see if he could help him which was a very un-Wooyoung-like reaction. The most startling thing was the niggling urge to protect the man...he felt no such need to protect anyone other than Yeosang. It's strange...

It was more than the noble's pretty face, Wooyoung felt some sort of connection to the man before they'd even had a proper conversation as they were doing now. The seemingly shy, innocent noble had wiggled his way in to Wooyoung's thoughts and refused to leave, it was most annoying. I should be enjoying my time here, flirting with anyone I want to, having some fun...not playing agony aunt to a noble. But Wooyoung couldn't seem to help wanting to know what the man feared so much when someone of his status should fear no-one at all. Something wouldn't let him turn away from San, wouldn't let him pretend that he didn't notice anything at all strange about the man. Maybe Yeosangies right, not that I'll ever tell him that. Maybe I do have some sort of hero complex, having to rush in and save people in trouble. It's the only explanation really, why else would I want to help him to this extent? Of course Yeosang's response would be 'to be a decent human being Wooyoungie', but even so...I've never really cared that much before unless it's Yeosang. Not enough to listen to a noble list all of his woes. What is happening to me? What have I become? First that creature at the docks, and now this? Talking to a pretty man, lending him my ear to spill all of his deepest, darkest troubles when I should have flirted my way in to at least a kiss by now. Is this...some sort of stress induced personality change? Did...did becoming a pirate make me...make me...kind hearted?! I wasn't an asshole before, of course, but..this is out of character even for me. Fuck, if this is because of what we did at the Fort..if this is Simmons and Flint getting to have the last laugh I'll throw myself to the sharks the first chance I get. No actually, make that the sirens, at least I'll die happy. Wooyoung went cold with horror as he contemplated the difficulties he would now have to face in life if he really had lost his touch when it came to flirting, if instead of flirting with a pretty person he felt the need to befriend them instead...to bond with them. Oh no...oh no...sewing my own buttons on..having to pay the full price for everything because I can't flirt my way in to a discount...no free food...Wooyoung was pulled from his inner panic by San's quiet voice breaking the silence.

"I suppose there's no harm in telling you. As you said, there's no-one hear to overhear us so they couldn't possibly know that you know...which means you should be safe. You won't get hurt because of me, and...I need to know that I'm not being paranoid..not going crazy. That I'm right about all of this..." Wooyoung frowned at him.

"O...kay" he drew the word out in confusion.

"Recently, there have been a lot of...accidents around me. Or at least, they seem like accidents but I'm..I'm not so sure. Last week...I'd been out drinking with some acquaintances. Rather than going home I decided to go to the dock...I wanted to just sit and look at the stars and imagine all of the places I could go instead of back to that house. I finally gathered the will to go home, but when I went to stand up...the next thing I know I've hit my head and I'm in the water. I nearly drowned, and of course it's possible I slipped, unsteady because I'd had too much to drink, it's just..."

"It's just...what?" Wooyoung prompted, gaze fixed intently on the other man.

"When I turned to get up, I saw a shadowy figure behind me before it happened and I'm...I'm almost positive I was hit over the head rather than hitting my head on the dock. Before that...accidents kept happening around me. A shop sign that was practically brand new and had shown no signs of being loose or weak suddenly fell and nearly split my head open when I was attempting to enter the place. Something...or maybe someone spooked my horse and nearly threw me, although then again that may not have killed me. Maybe it genuinely was an accident" San mused, before Wooyoung cleared his throat to get him back on track. "A runaway horse nearly trampled me, a rabid dog chased me or perhaps was set loose on me, someone had switched our practice swords with blunted edges for sharpened swords so when I was sparring with my friend...I nearly got my neck cut open. The pistol I was supposed to use backfired on the person that I lent it to. I...I wanted to go for a drink with you, I really did" Wooyoung raised a brow at the sudden change in topic.

"But...I can't go to taverns. The last time I went to one...apparently the bag of rat poison was accidentally knocked, they think by the cat, and some was poured in to the stew for the evening. I'm lucky that I am clumsy, I tripped and dropped my plate, and the cat..well...it ate it. No-one else got hurt because they realised in time."

"Why the fuck were they keeping rat poison near to where they were cooking...and why was the cat climbing about there anyway?" Wooyoung shuddered.

"I don't know, but doesn't it all seem too convenient to you? Too coincidental? Someone happened to put it there momentarily, the cat happened to knock it over. I happened to be there when each of these incidences occurred. I was starting to think I was being paranoid but then last week...at the docks. It was a shadowy figure, I'm sure of it. Ever since I keep feeling like I'm being watched. I can feel eyes on me, it's an itchy sensation that makes me want to scratch my neck and turn and look...and I keep seeing a shadow out of the corner of my eye. Following me. Waiting for an opportunity no doubt. Although my shadow must be running out of ideas because this is the second...or, no, is this the third time? I think it's the third time actually, that I've fallen in front of an oncoming carriage. But I definitely felt a hand pushing me each time, not an accidental knock by someone rushing past...a hand firmly on my back. Today was entirely my fault though, I'm usually much more careful but I was distracted by..." San trailed off, gaze skittering to and then away from Wooyoung. Wooyoung pointed at himself with eyebrows raised, smirking as San's pretty pink blush made a reappearance. Wooyoung couldn't resist.

"Aw, San, do you like me? Was my appearance today just too dashing for you to focus?" He cooed, framing his face with his hands.

"I-I wasn't sure whether to cross over and speak to you..I wanted to-to thank you again" San sputtered out before hurrying on to change the subject back to their previous topic.

"I can't really blame him for repeating a tactic, I imagine there's only so many ways you can kill someone and make it look like an accident...the poison was rather a stretch." Wooyoung blinked at San, taking in all the information that had just been delivered in to his lap. I'd been expecting some sort of problem unique to the nobility. Arranged marriage he wanted to get out of...lack of access to a trust fund and not enough weekly allowance...perhaps leading to him attempting to kill his father and inherit his fortune, I could probably have helped with that. Or Hongjoong seeing as he's apparently such a master thief now. But this...this wasn't at all what I thought he would say.

San was looking at him expectantly, so he cleared his throat as he tried to organise his thoughts.

"Well...it-it certainly seems like someone's trying to kill you" Well deduced Wooyoung, tell him something he doesn't already know.

"Mm, I can't even go out at night. The shadows make it easier for my own personal shadow to hide from me. To follow me and...well. It wasn't until the incident at the docks that I realised I needed to be afraid of the dark, that I realised someone was actually trying to kill me and I hadn't just had a run of bad luck. I shouldn't have even been out last night, I'm usually very careful about making sure I'm safely at home before it even thinks about getting dark but last night I...I lost track of time. It was stupid. That's why I was running, I wanted to get home as fast as possible and I could feel him. My shadow. He was right there, following me, I thought I heard his footsteps and I looked behind me...but then I crashed in to you" Wooyoung stared.

"And yet you wouldn't let me walk you home? Are you insane?"

"I..." San's face went a fascinating shade of red. "I didn't want you to get hurt...because of me."

"Aw, you care about me" he teased.

"I-I thought he might...he might kill you because you were in his way. I hadn't been out at night since the docks, it was most likely the best opportunity he'd had in a while. I imagine he was going to make it look like I'd drowned or something similar. Actually...you've saved my life twice now."

"While I'm flattered at the concern San, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, now explain to me how I saved your life before? Because if I hadn't been there for you to crash in to...I think you'd have been just fine"

"Well..if you'd let me fall, if you'd walked away and left me lying there...I wouldn't have been able to recover from the shock in time to get up before he reached me. I was sure he was right behind me...did you...?"

"No, I didn't see anyone but then I wasn't exactly looking. Yeosang and Hongjoong didn't mention anyone either" San nodded.

"I thought as much. My shadow's very good at keeping himself hidden. He was quite sloppy last night, if I didn't know better I'd think he's getting desperate but I see no reason for him to need to suddenly rush the...the job"

"Do you know who's behind it? Do you have a list of suspects at least?"

"Of course I do, the culprit's obvious. No need for a list, it's my step-mother." San let out a bitter laugh. "Who else could it be? Who else would have the motivation?"

"Ah, this is much more the sort of thing I was expecting, familial murder" Wooyoung muttered.

"Pardon?"

"Nothing, do go on, I assume you have evidence?"

"She gave birth to a son earlier this year, that's all the evidence I need" Wooyoung blinked at him, San was looking at him expectantly, as if waiting for him to shout 'of course'. Wooyoung narrowed his eyes, trying to puzzle it out while San waited, clearly expecting him to understand exactly what he was talking about and exactly how it led to his stepmother being the obvious culprit behind everything. Wooyoung gave up after a moment or two.

"I'm sorry, I don't speak noble, you'll heave to elaborate."

"I'm the heir to my father's estate….the first in line to it because I am the first born son of his first wife. His only son until now. Up until my brother's birth she'd been perfectly nice, she seemed to genuinely care about me...genuinely want to be on good terms with me, to be a family. She was always kind to me, always taking care of me...I actually felt like she was often trying to make up for my father's behaviour. But ever since she had my brother...I didn't notice it at first. But she...changed. She's not as open as she once was with me, not as friendly. She looks at me like I'm not even human now. As long as I'm alive, her son won't inherit anything other than a sum of money no doubt. I'll inherit the title, the estate, the businesses and the position as Governor."

"Why doesn't she just...I don't know, chase you out? There are ways she could do it, she could make your life a living hell. Threaten you...was it really necessary to go straight to murder? Especially for someone seemingly so kind and loving?"

"She knows I won't leave. She knows I'd endure anything to stay in that house...I am already aren't I? It contains all of the memories of my mother, no matter how terrible living there is, no matter how much I hate it...how much it hurts, I wouldn't leave all that behind. Wouldn't leave my father behind...no matter how he treats me. He's still my father and he...he wasn't always like that...I still remember...I still hope that one day he'll go back to the father I loved so much before. I can't...I can't just leave him. Of course even if I did flee, the authorities would still be duty bound to track me down as the heir. What would stop me from coming back, kicking her out of the estate and leaving her with nothing once I inherited everything? I assume she decided the most efficient way to ensure her son will inherit everything whenever my father so happens to die, is to kill me and make her son the sole inheritor. It will increase her status as well, no doubt, to be the mother of my father's sole son and heir. She took quite well to the life of a noble, with the rules, the expectations...the money and material things it can give her. I didn't see it as a problem...until now. I don't think I'm even a person to her anymore, I'm just an object to be removed" Wooyoung wasn't quite sure what he could say to that. What does one say to make that better? 'It's okay, I think she still cares about you somewhere deep down inside, because she appears to be trying to make it a quick death...mostly" Or 'You're probably right but hey at least you know it's her, you can have the last laugh and write it down somewhere for the authorities to find so when she kills you she won't get away with it.' Or maybe, 'I'm sure she doesn't see you as an object, you're probably more of a thorn in her side than anything else' no, not that doesn't have quite the right tone to it either. If Yeosang were here he'd know exactly what to say.

"Right, so your stepmother's trying to kill you and you won't leave because of your father. So what exactly, is your plan here? Just carry on living in that house, pretending as if she isn't trying to have you brutally murdered while making it look like an accident so she can get away with it...forever? It doesn't seem like the best of plans to me." San tensed up.

"I-I told you, I can't just leave. There's too much tying me here, my father...I can't leave. I just can't. Maybe this week will be the week my father looks at me again. Maybe this will be the week that he finally says more than two words to me. That's all I think about, constantly, because there's every chance that maybe he will."

"And maybe this will be the week someone accidentally trips and plants a knife in your back" but San wasn't listening, he was shaking his head.

"Perhaps...perhaps eventually she'll grow tired of it. She...she wasn't like this before, really. She was so kind. Maybe she's just not herself, he's her first child and I'm sure she's just trying to protect him, to take care of him. It's not like he won't inherit anything...she'll realise that eventually. She'll stop" Wooyoung looked at him incredulously, unable to stop the sarcasm creeping in to his words.

"Oh yes, she'll definitely stop trying to kill you, especially if she knows that you know that she's trying to have you killed. She definitely won't try and kill you in your sleep, or who knows what, to keep your mouth shut and herself out of the cells, and she most certainly won't try and kill your father at some point. So there's nothing to worry about is there?"

"She won't try and kill my father, I'm sure about that at least. She does genuinely love him, I can see it when the two of them interact. She cares about him deeply and I don't think she has it in herself to do such a thing"

"That's what they all say" Wooyoung grumbled.

"She just...she wants them to be a family, a real family but I'm no longer family to her now that she has her own child...she doesn't need me. I'm just the extra. The one that reminds her that my father loved someone else before he loved her. Loved someone more than he loves her. I understand that must pain her, but-"

"But it's still not really a valid excuse for trying to kill you" Wooyoung finished.

"Well….no. Not really."

"Quite valiant of you to attempt to empathise with her, although I wouldn't bother as she clearly won't return the favour." Wooyoung glanced to the side at San. "Oh no…don't look at me like that"

"Like what?"

"That's the 'what else am I supposed to do Wooyoung' look, and I can tell you that you are supposed to pack your bags and run while you still have all your limbs attached and bodily functions in working order owing to the fact that you're still, you know…alive having avoided death so far. You are not supposed to hang around making an easy and oh so tempting target that she can't resist. If you leave, she might not chase after you, mostly because she won't be able to find you. Leaving is no doubt the last thing she expects you to do, and if you never come back...problem solved. But you don't want to hear that, and I know you don't." Wooyoung softened his voice. "Look, I understand you don't want to leave your father, but how long can you cling on to that hope? How many more days, or weeks?"

"You stayed…you stayed at your friends home despite what was happening, despite the way his father beat you...despite the fact he could have taken it too far one day and killed you, how is it any different?"

"It's different because we legally were too young to leave, we'd have been dragged straight back by the authorities once they caught us and figured out where we came from, or we'd have ended up in an even worse situation. We had no money, barely had any food, we couldn't provide for ourselves and you know what they say...it's better the devil you know. The day I turned eighteen, we left and we never looked back. You're...what? The same age as me? Which means you're legally an adult, and if you want to leave...nothing is stopping you"

"I can't" San's lower lip trembled, the two words coming out so pained...so utterly hopeless and Wooyoung was at a loss. He had no idea how he could convince San that it was in his best interest to leave. He clearly didn't care about the wealth or the power being a noble brought him, it wasn't that, that he was trying to hold on to. It was the hope his father would wake up one day and stop being such a bastard. Hope wasn't something Wooyoung was overly familiar with himself, he hadn't had much cause to feel it. It had been beaten out of him again and again and only recently had a resurgence. He'd also never had the bond with his own father...with Yeosang's father even, that San so clearly had with his. Made up of happy memories, love and care. Wooyoung's father had hated him with a passion, all he'd had for him where harsh words, kicks and slaps...and that was him being relatively kind. It was much worse if he was in a bad mood or if he'd decided that Wooyoung had done something wrong, whether he had or not. As for Yeosang's father? He'd been part of their family and perhaps if things hadn't gone so wrong he'd be able to understand San right now, he had been growing closer and closer with Yeosang's parents, starting to feel more at ease...starting to let his guard down and relax, finding it easier and easier to push away the near constant sense of foreboding he had whenever anything went well in his life when it had all changed.

He'd been unbothered about being abandoned by his parents, merely pleased the abuse and the pain had come to an end. Content to be alone without the constant threat of violence, and without being forced to trick people for a living. He'd left Yeosang's home and his father without a backward glance. He knew it had been hard for Yeosang, hard to leave the only home he'd ever known, leave the happy memories behind and leave the man he'd loved so much...who'd cherished him so much. But he also knew that Yeosang understood that his father wasn't the same man he was before. His father was a stranger and that house was no longer a home. Memories...they could be carried with you.

But San...he still hoped his father would magically return to the father he knew, and so he was determined to stay in the hell he'd been living in, no matter that he might end up dead because of it and Wooyoung just could not fathom why. Perhaps it was because he'd spent so long looking out for himself and Yeosang, that putting what was best for them, and ultimately himself, first became second nature. He didn't even have to think about it...to hesitate. Perhaps he was selfish in that regard and San was clearly not that. Wooyoung didn't want to ruin San's hope, didn't want to take away the last thing he had to keep himself going but he genuinely couldn't understand San's insistence on staying, putting his life in danger, because of a father who'd stopped giving a damn about him.

Maybe...maybe I find it easy to throw people away, except for Yeosang. Don't I do that all the time already? Getting what I want from people and then never looking back? That's me, isn't it? Maybe that's why I can't understand him. Or maybe I just don't understand families, why would I? I've never had one, not a real one. Yeosang's came close, but it wasn't enough. Anyone who's claimed to be family to me has fucked me over, and I've had no regrets about leaving them...all except Yeosang. Wooyoung wasn't one to pity himself, but he suddenly found his throat feeling rather tight and he had a strong desire to be with Yeosang. He wanted to be near to his best friend...his brother. Wanted to see his face so that he could feel at peace. So that Yeosang could get rid of this horrible feeling of self pity. Wooyoung had never thought he'd been missing out...not really. Not until now.

Chapter Text

They walked along the beach in a silence that was only broken by the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. San couldn't believe the turn his day had taken. It had started with him harmlessly agonising over whether or not to go and talk to the pretty man, assuming that he even recalled him from the previous night as it would have been awkward if he didn't, which was all in all such a mundane worry and situation to be in. But it had taken a turn for the less mundane when he'd nearly been killed, or at least slightly maimed by a carriage after being shoved in front of it by his reliable shadow. It was never too far from him, and always waiting for an opportunity, which San had so kindly provided earlier with his distraction over Wooyoung. But in another shock turn of events for San, he'd been saved once again by the beautiful man. Did I enter some sort of romance novel, and was not aware of it?

San had been shocked to find himself safely encased in the mans arms for the second time in twenty four hours. He should have been worrying about the compromising position it presented, with him splayed on top of the man whose strong arm was wrapped tightly around him, the other gripping his wrist. San's face buried in the other mans neck, breathing in his scent but he was in no particular rush to remove himself from the position. He found himself oddly at ease wrapped in Wooyoung's arms, breathing in the pleasant scent.

San couldn't seem to stop himself from mentally replaying the moment over and over again as they walked across the sand in silence. Something in his stomach tingling every time he pictured the concerned eyes, and the quiet, warm voice laced with concern asking softly 'Are you alright? Are you hurt?', the chest beneath him vibrating with the words. He'd even managed to learn the pretty mans name properly, at last...Wooyoung. Repeating the mans name to himself in his head as said man had...well...San was fairly sure he'd been flirting with him, but San himself had been in too much shock from the accident to really process what was happening, taking everything in through a slight daze.

There was something about Wooyoung that put him off balance, and he couldn't seem to act like a normal, functioning human being around him. Instead he became a blushing mess who couldn't quite seem to form a decent sentence...and developed a stutter. I have...never had this problem before. Usually it's the other way around, ladies do nothing but blush when I converse with them, even half heartedly, but then...Wooyoung is no lady. San wasn't sure what Wooyoung was other than ridiculously good looking, and somewhat of a flirt. Neither of which explained his current situation. San had noticed it the night before, the uniform...or what remained of one. It had been grubby but undeniably a standard issue Navy cadet uniform...being worn in a definitely not standard issue way.

He'd seen the uniform before, in passing, when Navy crews would occasionally come through Kingstown in order to reach the capital. Usually with a Captain of some sort of noble rank. Cadets, let alone Officers, were never to be seen without their jackets, it just wasn't proper, and uniforms were most certainly not supposed to be that shade of...of...dirty. The change of clothes Wooyoung had been sporting when he caught sight of him had thrown San, not least because it suited him so well and merely made the man look more dashing, but because a Navy cadet visiting the port would wear nothing but his uniform. In fact they were rarely seen in anything else, if ever. He shouldn't be allowed to wear civilian clothing and yet...here Wooyoung was in all his black, leather covered glory and oh Christ, he's...he's wearing eyeliner.

San had noticed that little fact when he'd finally deigned to push himself off of the other man, gaze catching Wooyoung's face and freezing San in place, far closer than he probably should have been but he found he hadn't been able to make himself move upon realising who his saviour was. His gaze caught by Wooyoung, and his eyes widening when he'd finally realised what the other was wearing, what the product was, no doubt, that he had been applying. Wooyoung had been good looking before, but with the addition of the dark product smudged around his eyes? Well. It's incredibly unfair for someone to be that good looking and just...strolling around the place like that. There should be limits.

Honestly, San blamed the eyeliner for his suddenly loose lips and his inability to keep quiet. Usually he wouldn't have said a word other than to assure that he was fine and then thank Wooyoung before making his escape, running away from the good looking man and then kicking himself later in his room for not asking the man to go for a drink with him. Not that San would have been able to eat or drink anything anyway, which would have been hard to explain. But for some inexplicable reason, the damn eyeliner, San had found himself alluding to things best kept to himself. He just hadn't been able to stop himself in time, gaze lost in Wooyoung's and brain most certainly not functioning after the discovery that yes, the man could look even more handsome than you would think would be possible.

Of course Wooyoung had caught on that something was...strange. How could he not when San had practically spelled it out for him by letting his mouth work without engaging his brain. He'd had no intention to say the words that he'd spilled, and had managed to cut himself off before he could make the situation any worse than it already was, but the conversation was a horrifying blur of embarrassment. Ghosts? Exorcisms? What the hell was I talking about? As if the situation wasn't bad enough already, I had to go and start blathering on about utter nonsense. I want to take a long walk off a very short pier. The next thing San knew, he was being dragged on a walk with the man after managing to get out of going to the tavern, unable to do anything else but tell a little shred of the truth. Other than that one moment, his brain had decided that it wasn't going to step in and put a stop to this situation at all, most likely having ceased to function when Wooyoung had started to seemingly flirt with him, let alone the discovery that the man had taken to now wearing eyeliner, to go with his all black ensemble.

His brain did nothing to stop him from speaking, telling Wooyoung everything. Things that he'd told no-one else, and would never tell anyone else because who would possibly believe him? Who could he tell, really? Perhaps it was that realisation, that this was his one chance to get everything off of his chest, to talk things through and receive confirmation that he was not, in fact, becoming a paranoid mess. Wooyoung had a kind heart, despite the flirty persona he would lapse in to, San could see it in the moments he let it drop for a brief moment or two, he cared. San hadn't had anyone care about he and his troubles in quite a while, and as had been pointed out...Wooyoung was a stranger, one who would be leaving, and one who wouldn't be able to tell anyone within San's Society circle what had been discussed between them. He was safe to talk to, safe to unburden himself on. Perhaps it was that, that finally made him open up and get everything off of his chest, or perhaps it was the strange sense that was drawing him to the other man. But San, who had never been so open with a person before, suspected otherwise. San suspected the eyeliner, it was the only rational explanation. He'd had a strong, initial attraction to the man before, but the eyeliner...had changed everything. There had been blushing, there had been incomplete sentences...and most importantly, ever since he'd laid eyes on Wooyoung's kohl smudged, dark brown eyes...his brain had departed to an unknown location and left him to fend for himself. Yes, that's it, it's definitely the eyeliner. There's no doubt about it, Satanic invention that it so clearly is.

What San hadn't been expecting was for the other man to open himself up to him right back, he didn't even think Wooyoung had been expecting it. Hearing his history, or at least a part of it, had pulled at San's heart. He'd wanted to comfort him, to touch him and hug him...to protect him. Assure him that nothing of the sort would ever happen again, that he wouldn't let such a thing happen to him again...but of course San wouldn't be able to make such promises...wouldn't be able to follow through on such statements. Because he would be staying on this island, in this little town that he's known for all of his life, while Wooyoung went...who knew where. The strength of the feeling, the urge that he'd to protect and shield Wooyoung from any further harm, to do for him what he had done for others and possibly what had never been done for him, had surprised San. But then, Wooyoung had been surprising him from their very first encounter.

They eventually reached the docks, the two masted ship moored there coming in to view the closer they got until San could make out two crew members on its deck. The ship had no name, or markers that he could discern, it could be a private vessel, or it could be a merchant vessel. But going on Wooyoung's apparent uniform the previous night...this should be a Navy ship, which made the lack of at least a flag, all the more strange. As they had gotten closer to the ship, San had started to wonder if that was even the ship that Wooyoung had sailed in on...but then there were no Navy ships anywhere in the bay at all.

San was spared any further wondering as at that point, Wooyoung raised his arm, pointing directly at the ship in question that was currently bobbing innocently on the waves right next to the dock. "That's The Aurora, it's my, well...our ship" Our? Of course...his drunk companion and friend who might be more than just his friend. San thought with a stab of disappointment, which he immediately stamped down upon because the man would be sailing out of his life at some point in the near future and there was no point becoming attached to him.

"We're a small crew, there's uh...actually only three of us" Wooyoung chuckled, somewhat awkwardly. "But we're a friendly bunch, we don't bite...unless you want me to" Wooyoung winked and San groaned.

"Really? That's one of the oldest lines in the book" Wooyoung grinned at him.

"Brightened the mood though, didn't it?" San couldn't exactly argue with him, the heaviness of the mood that previously engulfed them dissipating in the wake of Wooyoung's cliche flirting attempt. "Anyway, I assume that you're in no hurry to return home so...why don't you come and help us?"

"Help you? With what?" San may be good with a sword, but when it came to a ship...he had no idea how any of it worked. After all, he'd never left this island and so he hadn't any cause to be on or near a ship. He had no idea which was port and which was starboard, and while he'd heard a few phrases or terms from passing conversations, he had no idea what any of it meant. How does one haul a keel? He wondered.

"Nothing too complicated, don't worry, we're just going to paint her!" Wooyoung's face lit up in excitement, and San felt his lips tug up in to a small smile at the sight. "It looks kind of boring right now, but we're going to paint the paler sections of wood black to match the other parts! It was my idea, because it'll make it look even more pir-" he cut himself off abruptly, immediately sucking his bottom lip in to his mouth as his gaze looked anywhere but at San.

"More...what?"

"More, uh...picturesque...aesthetically pleasing...that kind of thing" San narrowed his eyes at him. He's definitely hiding something, not that I have a right to judge when it comes to that. But...I want to know what it is, I want to know him.

"Last night...your clothes...it looked like part of a Royal Navy uniform, are you a cadet?" he asked casually.

"NO!" Wooyoung blurted the answer louder than necessary and San winced at the volume. "Wh-why do you assume I'm a cadet...I could be a Captain!" Wooyoung's face morphed in to the most adorable pout San had ever seen, and he found himself quite entranced by it.

"I just assumed, because of your age, that you'd most likely be a cadet" the pout hadn't vanished yet, and San really wished it would because it was highly distracting and it made him want to kiss it away. Kiss it...away..no. Oh no. There will be no kissing. No imagined kissing. No fantasised kissing. None at all. He may or may not be involved with his...friend...companion...person, and he will be leaving, while I stay and marry some rich, no doubt spoiled, girl. San shook the urge away.

"I'm uh, not...exactly..." Wooyoung was rubbing the back of his neck, and refusing to make eye contact with him.

"So, what about the uniform then?" San was sure it was a Navy uniform, not least because of the sword he recalled seeing hanging from Wooyoung's belt which was clearly a Navy issue one.

"Wh-why are you so sure it was a Navy uniform, maybe I just like wearing all white" Wooyoung crossed his arms defensively.

"...and your friends do too?"

"Maybe we like to match...crew colours, or something" San held in a snort. Sure, grown men wearing matching clothes when they're not required to, that definitely doesn't sound at all strange.

"Who would wear all white on a ship, voluntarily?" Surely it's the worst colour to wear, it would become dirty too easily,

"You have a point...but white does reflect the sun" Wooyoung huffed, before sighing. "Alright, I'll tell you. I borrowed it...from a friend"

"Why on Earth would you do that?"

"Because I thought it would be fun to try it out, see what's so special about it all." he said, nonchalantly.

"So your friend is a Navy cadet?" San didn't for a second believe him and he'd clearly caught the other man unprepared, no excuse to hand to explain everything away.

"No, not that friend...uh, a different friend. I, um...oh look, there's Yeosangie!" Wooyoung waved manically in the direction of the ship and San turned to see said friend waving back at him. He was well aware that Wooyoung had not only avoided answering his questions properly, but that he seemed more than a little bit suspicious while doing so. Navy...ex-Navy perhaps? Or a deserter? I don't really care what he's hiding about his past, or what he did...I'd just like to know because I'd like to know him...really know him. What happened? How did he come to be in Kingstown? Whatever it is, it won't bother me. He's saved my life twice now, listened to me tell him things that no other person would believe...took everything that I said at face value and he's...kind. Adorable. Cute. He's like sunshine. Besides, I'm in no place to judge someone else for the secrets they keep...or the questionable decisions that they make.

San decided not to press the issue further, to let him have his secrets. He'd think no differently of the man who'd saved him and let him unburden himself. Who'd shown him so much care when he'd lacked that for far too long. From what he'd seen so far, Wooyoung wasn't a nasty or malicious person, he wasn't a bad person...so San wouldn't continue to pry. At least for now. Wooyoung was correct though, San had no desire to go home right now, no desire to sit alone in his room, locked up safely and stew in everything. He didn't want to leave Wooyoung's side just yet either, he wanted to stay with him a little bit longer...talk to him a little bit more. Peel back more layers than he'd already seen and see what other little tidbits he could unearth about the man and to be brutally honest...he wanted to gaze at his perfect features for a little while longer. Why not? I always do everything the right way...the proper way. I never step out of line, I never break the rules, I never do anything for myself. That's plain to see. So this one time, just this one time...I want to do something for myself. I want to do something that will make me happy, truly happy because God knows I haven't been in a while. If that means helping a good looking, possible criminal, paint a ship...then that's what I'll do. Besides, I feel I'm owed something good for all the times I've nearly died this week alone.

"I'll help" San said quietly.

"Hmmm?"

"I'll help...with the ship. I-I don't want to go home. Not yet." Damnit, would it kill me to speak without stuttering and stammering? I'm capable of it at any other time in my life. He's just a man...albeit a very good looking one and that damned eyeliner isn't helping things but...he's just a man. San internally groaned. Wooyoung made him...unsure. Made him nervous. But perhaps after spending an afternoon with him, he'd be able to get past all of that, become used to the presence of the other man, though he doubted he'd stop noticing the mans good looks. Of course that would be just in time for me to go back to the house, and probably never see him again. Just what am I doing? He's going to leave, and he probably has no interest in me because he's most likely involved with this Yeosangie person. He's protected him all of this time, they've known each other since they were children...it's the stuff of romance books but...who could it hurt? Other than me, but then there's nothing new there. I'll get over it in no time, no doubt. This is my chance to experience some happiness, at least for a little while...be selfish for once San...just do it. Stop worrying about the future for once in your life.

"Great!" Wooyoung beamed at him, his expression completely open, and San's breath was taken away by the sight. If he could stop doing that...that would be fantastic.

Wooyoung latched on to his hand, tugging him in an excited hurry towards the docks. Towing him along behind him as they crossed the same wooden planks San had drunkenly stumbled along a week ago, the night everything changed for him. Wooyoung didn't surrender his grip until they'd made it all the way up the gangplank and on to the ship. Wooyoung leaping lightly on to the deck of The Aurora.

"Wooyoung...no-one told me it was bring a damsel home day?" the one seemingly called 'Yeosangie' snarked.

"Yeosangiiiiieeeeeee" Wooyoung chided. "This is San!" he introduced.

"Hello..." San waved, no doubt awkwardly. He is...really, really beautiful. San couldn't help but notice, staring at the other mans face. No wonder he and Wooyoung...Wooyoung and he...of course they...San shook the thought away as the man nodded at him.

"Yeosang" he offered.

"Hongjooooooooooooong" Wooyoung bellowed at an impressive, wince inducing volume.

"Shit, you're loud" a voice complained, and San glanced around him until he spotted a head of strawberry blonde hair approaching from the direction of what he assumed to be the Captain's quarters. San vaguely remembered him from the previous night, he'd been the one Yeosang had been propping up but in the daylight and in a more sober state, San could pick out more details about the man. He was shorter than Wooyoung and Yeosang, as well as San himself, with delicate features. One might even say they were...pretty. Is no-one in this crew ugly? Or at least average when it comes to looks? Is being really, ridiculously good looking some sort of requirement to join? No wonder there's only three of them in that case.

The man was wearing black pants but unlike the other two they weren't leather, tucked in to black boots with a loose black shirt unbuttoned enough to reveal his collarbones and a black waistcoat revealing his lithe figure. "What the fuck have you got around your eyes?" the newcomer, Hongjoong, he called him, drawled as he eyed Wooyoung.

"It's kohl, I bought it to help us fit in and make us look more…" Wooyoung glanced at San before flicking his gaze back to Hongjoong, "appropriate. I thought Yeosang would have explained it to you"

"I didn't have a chance yet, I didn't get back that long ago and he insisted on telling me all about the materials he'd bought to make our flag. Apparently he'd had some sort of crisis over the correct shade of black"

"...there's only one shade of black"

"Apparently he could have got a more washed out, 'used' looking shade of black." Yeosang affected a stance similar to their Captain. "Yeosang, I just wasn't sure, did I want the flag to look new, and make it obvious that we're new to this whole thing or did I want to go for something more aged but then have us look pretentious when they realise that we've got no idea what we're doing" Yeosang imitated. "It was a real life or death decision apparently, who new there was some sort of etiquette when it came to flags. I had to shove him in to his quarters to get him to change clothes. Besides," Yeosang shot an amused look at Wooyoung. "It's far funnier if you explain it yourself" he giggled.

"You're not allowed any Yeosangie, you can stay looking just as you are. Plain and with nothing risqué about you" Wooyoung whined. "But you can have as much as you want Joongie" Wooyoung practically cooed at the man, who merely let out an eye roll in response.

"Maybe later-" Hongjoong was cut off when Wooyoung suddenly gasped, making San jump in the process and turn to him with wide eyes. Wooyoung's gaze was fixed on their Captain, or more specifically, his ears.

"What have you done to yourself?!" pointing towards the Captain's head.

"Huh?" Hongjoong looked momentarily confused, before realising what he was pointing at. "Oh. I couldn't decide which one to get so-"

"So you got the whole shop pierced in to your ears?!"

"What are you, my mother? You got some too" Hongjoong protested.

"I got four, Yeosang got three, not...how many is that?" Wooyoung started counting aloud.

"Yes, I noticed. I also noticed that you didn't ask me to be part of your couple piercings" San watched as their Captain actually pouted, crossing his arms as he did so.

"They're not couple piercings, they're friendship piercings" Wooyoung retorted. "Now I have to start again" he grumbled.

"You weren't with us, and I didn't think forcing pieces of metal through your flesh would be your sort of...thing, Captain" Yeosang murmured, emphasising the word.

"There's nothing more pi-" Hongjoong coughed before carrying on. "Nothing more rebellious than doing so, of course it's my kind of thing!"

"...noted."

"SEVEN" Wooyoung shrieked suddenly.

"Got there in the end, didn't you" Hongjoong grouched. San examined the mans ears. He had a hoop in each lobe, a second one above the first in his right and then a simple silver stud in the cartilage of that same ear. As for his left, another hoop perched in the outer cartilage, with two more studs right at the top of his ear. San shuddered at the thought of how much that must have hurt, Wooyoung pulling a face.

"Not all of us are babies" Hongjoong teased him, noting the reaction to the new adornments to his cartilage, in particular.

"You could have started with one or two...there's no reason why you couldn't get more later at one of the pi-uh ports we're visiting next"

"I imagine that they wouldn't be very sanitary, they don't strike me as the kind of places to follow correct procedure and I didn't fancy losing an ear. Who's your friend?" Hongjoong changed the subject abruptly, leaving San blinking in surprise.

"Oh, this is San! He's the man I caught last night, although I suppose you don't remember that" Wooyoung sniped.

"I remember perfectly fine, I'll have you know" the shorter man said somewhat primly. He turned to San, smiling. "I'm Hongjoong"

"He's the Captain, I'm the first mate" Wooyoung interjected helpfully. "Yeosang's whatever doesn't involve navigating because we'd rather not end up sailing in to the Bermuda Triangle and never emerging" Yeosang dug him in the ribs, Wooyoung let out a pointed 'ow' in response.

"It's nice to meet you...both of you"

"I heard Wooyoung helped you again?" Hongjoong inquired.

"Um, yes. I-I tripped and fell. In to the road"

"Never mind that, San's bored and doesn't really want to go home. There's not much to do there apparently." Wooyoung lied a lot more smoothly than San himself had managed to, and a lot better than he'd thought the other man was capable of after their previous talk not long ago. "So...we've got an extra pair of hands to help us paint the ship! No need to thank me"

"Don't worry, I wasn't going to" Hongjoong snarked back, before turning to San. "You're welcome to help us if you'd like San, but you don't have to, ignore whatever Wooyoung's said."

"HEY! I didn't tell him he had to. I asked him and he said he wanted to help" Wooyoung retorted indignantly. Hongjoong ignored him.

"You can spend some time with us if you don't want to return home, but you don't have to do more than keep us company while we work" San had the mildly uncomfortable feeling that the Captain had seen right through Wooyoung's lie, to the truth, if his serious tone and penetrating gaze was anything to go by. Or perhaps San was reading too much in to it. Either way, Hongjoong thankfully didn't probe any further.

"No, it's alright. I'd like to help actually" anything to take my mind off of...well, everything. Otherwise I'll stew in my own thoughts, constantly going over what happened today, what's been happening to me recently and that's a mood I'd like to avoid. Of course, I'm sure my brain will take some pity on me by replaying Wooyoung saving me earlier, Wooyoung...and I...with his arms...and...no. It's best if I don't dwell on my thoughts right now.

"In that case...how light are you?" for someone with such delicate features, Hongjoong had a terrifyingly diabolical smile.


San passed the rest of the afternoon assisting the small crew in painting the right, sea facing side of their ship, which he learned was the starboard side swiftly after learning that one didn't simply sail in to port and drop anchor, then float out backwards when you were ready to leave. Apparently you sailed in to the bay, then curved around to come alongside the dock, and thus end up with your, what did Wooyoung call the pointy nose part of the ship again? Prow? That was it! The prow, facing out towards open ocean. It had been an illuminating afternoon which he'd spent being dangled over the side of the ship, perched on a plank of wood that was attached to a rope being manned by Wooyoung, while Hongjoong did the same for Yeosang so that they could paint the lighter sections of wood on the hull. The hull, he'd learned, was the body of the ship, although there'd been a slight scene when he'd voiced the question he'd pondered earlier upon finding out what a keel actually was.

"If what we're painting is the hull...then what's a keel? I've heard the term before but...I'm not very experienced when it comes to ships" he'd said somewhat sheepishly.

"The keel's the underside of the ship" Wooyoung had answered him brightly and he'd frowned in confusion.

"Oh. I'd thought it was a mast, or a sail or something"

"What makes you think that?" Wooyoung looked at him curiously.

"I've heard sailors talking before, they mentioned 'keelhauling', so I assumed the keel was something that you had to haul upwards...if the keel is the underside of the ship...then how do you haul it?" Wooyoung stared at him.

"You're asking me what keelhauling is?" San nodded in confirmation. "I really think you don't want to know" he'd replied, San allowed himself a small smile.

"If I'm helping you, I'd like to learn as much as I can about ships, of course I want to know" Wooyoung had hesitated. "Please" San tried to make his expression as earnest as possible. Wooyoung had looked to the further end of the ship, seemingly seeking help from his Captain, but he was too far away to have heard the conversation. Wooyoung turned back to San.

"Uh...it's a punishment actually"

"Really? What kind?" San was intrigued to know what kind of punishment could be meted out aboard a ship.

"You know how the keel is in the water...it ends up covered in barnacles."

"What's a barnacle?"

"They attach themselves to the keels of ships, they're a fucking pain to get off too, and they're...sharp."

"Oh, is keelhauling hauling the barnacles off of the keel?" Wooyoung was giving him a look, the sort of look that screamed 'you innocent soul, you'.

"Not exactly. If you've done something to warrant it, they'll pass a rope under the ship from port to starboard...or stern to prow if you've monumentally fucked up. Then they'll tie you to the end of that rope and weight your feet before throwing you overboard. The crew then pull on the other end of the rope, dragging you under and along the keel of the ship...which is encrusted with barnacles. They practically blanket the thing. If they pull fast then your body will be torn to shreds by the the barnacles, but you might not die...although you'd probably wish you had. If they pull slowly, you might miss the barnacles but you'd probably drown...are you okay? You don't look so good"

Aside from that horrifying explanation, it had been a peaceful afternoon. Wooyoungs's chatter, punctuated with a snarky comment from Hongjoong or Yeosang when the two teams got closer to the middle of the ship and within hearing distance of each other without bellowing, being all the entertainment he needed and they managed to get the job done in a matter of hours. They layered on enough coats that it soon matched the sections of the hull that had originally been painted black. Once they'd finished their task for the day, he and Yeosang had been hauled back up to the main deck.

While Wooyoung repeated the process with Yeosang, although this time at the stern of the ship, something about having to re-paint the name of the ship as they'd accidentally covered it earlier on when giving it the same treatment as the hull, Hongjoong had set off to get dinner for everyone from a nearby restaurant. So San had leant against the handrail next to Wooyoung, listening as he and Yeosang bantered back and forth.

Yeosang was quieter than Wooyoung, and when he did speak he was quite soft spoken, although he could be prone to bouts of snarkiness just like the other two crew members when he wanted to be. Wooyoung had even referred to him as "savage" at one point during the afternoon, as in, 'Yeosang looks sweet, and innocent but don't let him fool you. He can be vicious...no not vicious, savage'. San had already known of course, from his conversation with Wooyoung that the two had known each other a long time and shared a bond, but it was hard to ignore seeing them interact. It was just so obvious that they were incredibly close.

San just hadn't quite figured out if they were merely friends or…more. Wooyoung had clung all over Yeosang when he'd been hauled up upon completing their job, making a show of fussing over him for 'surviving' the experience, but then…he'd been clingy with his Captain as well, although less so than Yeosang from what San could tell. Not that it really mattered in the long run, they would stay one more day, it had turned out. Long enough to finish painting their ship, and then the following day, early in the morning, they would leave for a new destination and San had found his heart sinking at the thought of not seeing Wooyoung again, or hearing his dolphin laugh. Quite ridiculous of me really, when I've known him barely a day. What is wrong with me? But he found it harder and harder to deny that he was drawn to Wooyoung in some way. It's that cursed eyeliner.

San found himself enjoying his time aboard the ship, its oddly comforting creaking, the sea breeze ruffling his hair, the gentle rocking as the waves hit the hull, and the sense of endless possibilities if only he dared to reach out and take the chance. And of course, Wooyoung. Over the course of the afternoon he'd seen that bright, beaming smile more than once, and gotten to hear his boisterous laugh…as well as the cute whine that accompanied the previously mentioned adorable pout he'd enjoyed seeing so much. San could feel himself getting attached despite his best efforts not to. He enjoyed spending time with Wooyoung, talking to him, or listening to him talk to others...just being near him which was not at all a realisation to celebrate when the man was due to sail away and leave San in Kingstown. It wasn't like he could just...go with them. He had responsibilities, duties...and he had no desire to leave his father. He couldn't just abandon him, no matter how badly he was treated by him. If he left with The Aurora's crew he knew he'd be plagued by 'what if's'. What if his father had been about to reconnect with him? What if his father was building up to talking to him again...to finally talking through their issues. It would haunt him, and he'd regret leaving. Maybe even come to resent the others for making him want to leave...resent Wooyoung and he didn't want that to happen.

San happily ate dinner with the three crew mates on the deck of their ship, ecstatic to not be eating alone for once and listening quietly while Hongjoong had animatedly explained his ideas for their new flag to his unimpressed and unenthusiastic audience.

"….it's just a flag, it doesn't have to be elaborate"

"No-one spends this much time plotting out a piece of material, it's not normal"

"You two have no imagination" Hongjoong sniffed.

"Can't we just take a piece of material, paint the thing on it and be done with it?"

"Everyone will have a flag like that Wooyoung, we want to stand out….we didn't come this far just to fall in line with everyone else again did we?"

Wooyoung reluctantly agreed, and Hongjoong went back to listing all of his ideas before it was ultimately decided that the flag and everything related to its creation would be left in his obviously loving care. Slowly the late afternoon sunlight had faded to twilight as San soaked in the atmosphere of a lively dinner for the first time in he didn't know how long, darkness starting to descend upon the scene. San didn't want the afternoon to come to an end, didn't want to bring his shadow in to such a happy place, letting it intrude on the first happy memory he'd had in a while. But he couldn't stop himself from subtly glancing about as the shadows grew and lengthened. Trying to stare in to their depths to see if he could spot the person who'd been responsible for his 'accidents' waiting for him, but he couldn't see a thing. Ordinarily that would most likely make a person feel better, if you couldn't see anything then there was nothing to see after all but in San's case it just put him more on edge. San's mind had warped what he assumed was a man, making him in to a shadowy figured that blended in with the darkness, so even though San couldn't see whether he was hiding in this shadow or that shadow...he assumed he was there anyway. Lurking in darkness that could cover a depth of things.

Without quite realising it, as the light had started to fade, San had edged closer and closer to Wooyoung who was sat next to him...and who had obviously noticed San's growing unease as the darkness crept in, people crewing the ships out in the bay probably saw me jump at the ships creak, because he felt a gentle touch on his arm before a voice whispered in his ear.

"Do you want to go home?" San nodded slightly.

"It's…it's getting dark so I think it would be best if I left now" although he was reluctant to do so. Reluctant for his time with Wooyoung and the rest of the crew to come to an end because..he forgot. His brain had been distracted enough by the job he'd been tasked with doing, by talking to Wooyoung, listening to the crews chatter...that he'd forgotten that someone was trying to kill him on his stepmothers orders and that they'd nearly succeeded yet again just earlier that day. Or at least he had until the darkness had started to make its presence known, and after spending an afternoon smiling for the first time in forever, and laughing, and enjoying himself…the prospect of going back to the cold and quiet of his home to spend the rest of the evening alone, was even grimmer a prospect than usual. But as it was, he'd be racing the shadows to make it home before full night fell, hurrying through the gloom which wasn't much better than the darkness itself. I allowed myself to stay later than I should have, like a fool.

"Come on then, I'll walk you!" Wooyoung leapt to his feet, holding his hand out to him as he addressed the others. "I'm going to take San home, I'll be back in a bit"

"Take your coat, it's colder at night" Hongjoong nagged.

"Yes mother"

"Shit I really did say that didn't I? Fuck me, I need a drink"

"You love us really, Joongie" Wooyoung teased the shorter man who just waved him off with a grimace that was entirely too exaggerated to be real. He cares about them…but he's not comfortable showing it too much just yet, or maybe just not used to showing how much he cares about others so openly.

"I can go by myself Wooyoung, you don't have to" San murmured to him.

"I told you, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself" he replied, "Look" Wooyoung pulled him in to the room next to the one Hongjoong had emerged from earlier, presumably Wooyoung's quarters.

San looked around him, taking in as much as he could of the place that belonged solely to Wooyoung, that was his private space to relax in, trying to glean any information about the man from it. But it was sparsely furnished, a double bed pushed back against the windows that offered a view out of the stern of the ship, a bench seat running alongside the windows to the right of the room as he entered it. There was a desk over to the left, with a map pinned to the wall above it and a table with two chairs in the centre of the room. He noticed a scent bottle and a mirror on the desk though, along with what appeared to be more than a years supply of kohl complete with brush to apply it, rather than any nautical charts, or anything else a first mate might have in the way of paperwork. A dagger was resting on that same desk, and a sword was thrown carelessly on his bed but there wasn't much else.

"Where did he put them..." Wooyoung mumbled making a beeline for the two chests against the same wall as the desk, but just past it. San watched as he opened one, that proved to be empty by the look of things, and he moved on to the chest immediately next to it. This time opening it to reveal a pile of neatly folded clothes and letting out a quiet 'aha'. While Wooyoung rooted through, San let his gaze drift over the room again, his eye catching something draped over the back of a chair.

"Um, Wooyoung? Is that what you're looking for?" Wooyoung spun around to look at him, then followed the direction he was pointing, eyes lighting up as he spotted his coat. He let the lid of the chest fall closed, and rushed over to it. It was long, falling to his ankles, and made out of black leather by the look of it, with fancy silver buttons as the only adornment to it. After shrugging it on, Wooyoung snatched his sword up from the bed, holding it up for San to see.

"See...I have this, and I know how to use it. I'll be fine and no offence, but I'm sure the guy isn't being paid enough to take care of me as well as you...you're his target. I don't think he'll make a move while I'm there, so you should be safe with me." San wasn't at all comforted by the words and it must have shown on his face. "Killing you won't look like an accident if the person you were seen accompanying is found dead as well, that screams 'he was murdered for the family fortune' more than anything else. It's hard to fake an accident that could befall us on the way back to your house that's believable for two people to have been victim to, and it will make people question it." San had to concede the point, albeit reluctantly, he was still worried for Wooyoung and his safety. His shadow hadn't been able to make an attempt while he was on the ship, it was unfamiliar to him and there were three other people nearby...but with just Wooyoung, it wouldn't be hard to get him out of the way. Suspicious to everyone else maybe, but still an easy thing to do.

San trailed Wooyoung out of the room as he sheathed his sword in its seemingly brand new belt.

"Uh-uh not so fast" Hongjoong's arm shot out, making Wooyoung recoil in front of him. "I don't know why you feel the need to go out armed-"

"It's dark, there could be ruffians" Wooyoung immediately shot back.

"Ruffians...in perfect town...right." Hongjoong stared at him. "Whatever you say"

"Did you need something?"

"Yes, give me the sword"

"What? Why?"

"Because Wooyoungie, why carry around that piece of trash when you can have this instead?" Hongjoong produced a sword sheathed in black leather from behind his back, a cutlass if San was correct, with a dark silver blade. The grip was made of a lighter, dull silver, with a spiral of brighter silver curling around it and separated from the blade by a hilt of the same dark silver as the blade, shaped similar to a thin leaf. With a thin piece of silver spiralling up from it to meet the pommel at the top of the grip, which resembled a ball with a pointed top. Wooyoung stared at it.

"What-you-"

"I didn't think any of us particularly wanted to carry around anything from them, and considering your experiences with the things I thought using it might bother you...remind you of what happened. So I got us new ones. Yours and Yeosang's match, I thought you'd like that." Wooyoung carefully took the blade, examining it. It really was beautiful swordsmanship. "Mine's a similar style, but I've got a fancier, gold hilt and pommel because I'm the Captain" Hongjoong wiggled his eyebrows.

"Thank you Hongjoong" Wooyoung's words were quiet, and he looked up at the man to give him a solemn look. Hongjoong smiled at him, gesturing for the old sword.

"Give me that, I'll put it with Yeosang and I's down in the weapons store. I picked up a few other things as well that we might need...some daggers, a few pistols...that kind of thing. The only thing we're not short on are those damn things" he gestured to the sword Wooyoung had just removed from his sword belt, sheath and all. San watched as Wooyoung attached his new sword and sheath to his sword belt, Hongjoong nodding in satisfaction.

"See you later" Wooyoung mumbled, and San wondered if he was feeling awkward after having some kind of...moment with Hongjoong. He wasn't sure what kind of moment it was, but it was definitely a moment.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do" Hongjoong smirked at Wooyoung, somewhat ruining whatever moment they'd just had, and Wooyoung smirked right back.

"That kohl really suits you Hongjoong, maybe now you'll be able to find someone to snuggle with that actually wants to be there, rather than your two, innocent, junior crew mates."

"Innocent you most certainly are not, and I'll have you know that I'm an excellent snuggler. It was a privilege that you clearly didn't appreciate." Hongjoong sniffed, before turning to where Yeosang was observing everything to the side, leaning against a mast. "Yeosang, wasn't I a good snuggler? Tell him!" the Captain actually whined.

"Yes Hongjoong, you have superior snuggling skills, absolutely second to none" Yeosang rolled his eyes and Hongjoong pouted at him.

"You don't need to sound so sarcastic" he grumbled. Wooyoung laughed, shaking his head slightly, and pulling on San's hand, tugging him towards the gangplank. San said a quick goodbye to the other two men as he was pulled along, receiving a quick nod from Yeosang and a cheery wave from Hongjoong before Wooyoung dragged him down the gangplank to the dock.

"They're ridiculous" Wooyoung murmured to himself.

"You all seem so close..you must have known each other a while" he commented.

"Not really…I've known Yeosang the longest, since we were kids as I'm sure you could tell from our conversation earlier, but Hongjoong? We've only known him for a week actually. We didn't really have a choice but to work with him and we bonded with him a lot easier than I'd thought we would. He's...he's just one of us." Wooyoung shrugged.

"One of you?"

"One of the abandoned and broken." San felt a stab to the heart at the way Wooyoung said it so seemingly casually, but with a hint of bitterness if you were paying attention. "He said he felt a connection to us or something….and I can't say it wasn't mutual. Even so, I still can't quite believe how easily he's slotted in to our lives, it's like he's always been there. He's...like an older brother, or a parent I guess." Wooyoung smiled slightly. "I didn't actually know he had it in him to nag until tonight, he didn't seem the type"

"He cares about the two of you, that's obvious"

"Yeah he does…he's our family now and we're all each other has left" Wooyoung said, simply, yet with an air of finality to it and San knew he wouldn't be getting anything else out of him. Whatever the situation was, whatever had led to them working together, Wooyoung wasn't going to tell him, that was clear, although San had a hint of things.

They walked in companionable silence through the darkening streets, San breaking the quiet to murmur a direction to him here and there. He felt safe with Wooyoung, and the itchy feeling of eyes watching him from the shadows wasn't present either, so he assumed his shadow was nowhere in sight. Strange, perhaps he got bored watching the ship...if he was even there. I don't recall the feeling of being watched on there either although I was distracted. Or perhaps he simply has the rest of the day off. Even hired killers need a break, I suppose, especially when they keep failing to do their job. Maybe he's coming up with something new so we can be done with this carriage nonsense, I'd like to avoid another run in with the cobbles.

Faster than he would have liked they turned on to the winding path leading up to the slight hill that his home perched on top of. Wooyoung walked him all the way to the gates before coming to a stop outside of them.

"See, we made it one piece. What did I tell you?" Wooyoung nudged his shoulder and San could feel the corners of his mouth tilting up in response. Wooyoung pouted at him. "Is that all I get? That little thing? I was hoping for another showing of those dimples, this could be my last chance" Sans' smile broadened at the whining tone in the other mans voice. He didn't know how Wooyoungs' crew mates felt about it, but San? That whine weakened him no matter what, he'd discovered. Wooyoung cheered when he spotted Sans dimples making an appearance, which only served to make San himself smile even more. He's so...childish sometimes, it's cute.

"Thank you..for everything" Sans voice was quiet, the words blurted out without really thinking about them.

"You're welcome. Sometimes you just need to talk to a handsome stranger and spend the day doing free manual labour" Wooyoung winked.

"I did have fun, honestly. I forgot about…everything, at least for a little while it was...nice."

"Well….you're welcome to back tomorrow, we've got the other half of the ship to paint after all. We'll be leaving after that though" Sans heart deflated at the thought but he forced a smile.

"Maybe?" San offered but he wasn't so sure about his answer. He wanted to spend as much time with the crew as he could, wanted to spend another day thinking about nothing but Wooyoung and the task at hand, laughing at the crew members antics and chatting away with them more than anything. But he also wasn't so sure that it was a good idea. He'd only known Wooyoung for a small amount of time, barely a day, and he'd already become far more attached to him than was wise in this situation.

The initial attraction that he'd felt for the man had only intensified when he'd been rescued by him earlier that day, once again finding himself in close quarters with him. Spending time with him, seeing a glimpse of the different layers that made up Wooyoung...it had only made it worse and San couldn't forget the fact that he would have to marry someone of his families choosing, he would have no say in the matter. It was his duty to keep up the family line, and the families reputation. There was no future for he and Wooyoung. This would only end with San sad and alone once again, so was indulging himself for a second day really worth it? Really worth the additional pain, the additional memories to cling on to? He hadn't yet decided.

"Well, you know where to find us if you'd like to" Wooyoung smiled at him softly, giving him a little wave before turning and vanishing in to the darkness.

San carefully opened the gate, and trudged inside. Closing it behind him, he made his way to the house looming over him, creeping inside as silently as possible so as not to attract any attention. He could hear voices in the dining room and assumed his father and stepmother were still eating, and he had no desire to be forced to join them. 

San quickly tiptoed up the stairs and slipped in to his room. With a sigh, he threw himself down on to his bed, shutting his eyes to mull over his options. What could be the harm in spending one more, final day with the crew of The Aurora? He thought to himself. Oh, I don't know San. Maybe the fact that you so clearly have taken a liking to Wooyoung, but you can't act on it...you can't have him and that fact will drive you to despair faster the more time you spend mooning over him, talking to him and staring creepily at him for long periods of time.

San rolled over and groaned in to his pillows. It's been barely a day and I have a crush on a possible criminal of the piratical persuasion, I'm sure, nothing screams pirate more than a damn cutlass let alone the cut off, strange conversations they were having. But...in my defence, pirates aren't supposed to be that pretty. They aren't supposed to laugh and giggle like that, or pout and whine adorably and they aren't supposed to be that kind...that caring to someone they've barely met….not that anyone I know personally has any of those qualities either, at least not anymore in some cases. He's not the only good looking, kind hearted person out there San, there are others...you'll just have to look for them. Get a hold of yourself before you do something rash and stupid.

San rolled over once more with a sigh, shutting his eyes and attempting to drift off to sleep so that he could momentarily forget about his problematic, in more than one way, new crush. But despite how hard he tried, he couldn't shake off the memory of that night in the water a week ago. Of the feeling that if he just gave up in that moment and let the inky water take him...he'd be missing something or perhaps more accurately someone important, presumably to he himself. And he couldn't shake the thought circling his head that that someone was Wooyoung.

Chapter Text

San spent the night internally debating both the pros and cons of spending another, final day with the crew of The Aurora, before ultimately deciding that it would be for the best if he simply...stayed at home. If he didn't go and indulge in his silly little crush for a little while longer as it would inevitably end in him finding more reasons to increase his initial attraction to Wooyoung, making it all the harder on him when he would have to watch him sail away while San himself stayed on this island, as always, bound by duty and a creeping sense of misery. At least for now the misery would be manageable...for the most part, but if he spent more time with Wooyoung, got to know him even that little bit more? It would become worse. Not least because being with the crew of The Aurora also allowed him to experience the feel of a family...something he hadn't felt in too long.

A time or two during the night San had actually imagined leaving everything behind and going on a journey to far off places with Wooyoung, Yeosang and Hongjoong...but then reality had come crashing in to ruin it, as it always did. This was the role he had been born in to, the first son of a noble family, destined to take over the role of Governor of Kingstown, destined to take over the family business...this is what he'd been raised to do for his entire life, it was all he knew how to do. Yes he'd been trained in swordplay but he'd never actually had to put it to use. He'd never ventured further than the City, let alone left the island. His father had lost so much already, Lord knew what he'd become if he lost his first born son and heir as well, perhaps that would be what pushed him over the edge at last. San couldn't do it, and as much as he scolded himself for such useless, wishful thinking...he didn't want to lose the chance that his father would eventually find it in himself to try to repair things with him. He'd never forgive himself if he missed such a chance just to go adventuring...with a boy. His father had spent years teaching him everything he'd need to know, grooming him to take his place, he couldn't let it all go to waste. It was the one thing left that he could do for his father, besides he was sure his father had some sort of arrangement in place for his marriage already, despite the fact hid father had yet to broach the subject with San himself, and if San ran away it would hurt his fathers reputation even further. The point being that he had duties and responsibilities that he couldn't ignore, no matter how much he wanted to see more of the world, to explore the places he'd read about and heard sailors talking about, no matter how much he wanted to be a part of The Aurora's crew...their family. No matter how pretty he thought Wooyoung was.

So San had decided he'd save himself some unnecessary pain and make a clean break, thus he would hide in his room until The Aurora had left the bay, and that would be that. San sighed to himself. Yet, inexplicably...here I am.

He gazed up at the ship from his place on the dock, adjusting the burden in his arms as he did so. He still wasn't entirely sure what had happened, one moment he'd been wallowing in self pity in his room. Determined in his resolve but thinking about the simple, pure joy he'd experienced with the Crew by merely eating a meal with them and talking, not doing anything particularly special with them but still having a good time. Feeling happy, an emotion that had become somewhat foreign to him in recent times. And of course, thoughts of Wooyoung had crept in too, how could they not? His deep, dark eyes. His perfectly white, straight teeth...his beautiful smile and his strong arms and how they felt around him. His kindness, his loud laugh..the eyeliner...and the next thing San knew he was fully dressed and walking out of the tavern with lunch for four people clutched in his arms. This must be some kind of witchcraft, I don't even remember getting dressed let alone leaving the house...damn that eyeliner.

San grumbled to himself, although he couldn't find it in himself to be too angry at the situation, despite the pain it would no doubt cause him later when he was once again left alone and miserable to fend for himself in the pit of vipers that was Society. Fortunately, he was about to spend his afternoon forgetting all about that fact, along with the rest of his troubles including the situation that awaited him at home...he supposed he may as well take advantage of the distraction while he could. Although if it was really a distraction that he wanted...perhaps he should find the guts to actually kiss Wooyoung, just once. Just to see what it was like to kiss someone he was genuinely attracted to...that he liked. Someone that he'd chosen, but San doubted he'd be quite that courageous seeing as any composure he had went scurrying away whenever Wooyoung so much as breathed near him. Which is something that I really do need to work on, although I suppose I won't have the time so it doesn't really matter all that much.

San was shaken from his thoughts by a loud, cheery and very familiar voice.

"SAN!" Wooyoung yelled, waving his hand frantically from the side of the ship just in case San should happen to miss the one person in the near vicinity that would possibly be calling to him. San hesitantly waved back at him, trying not to drop his cargo.

"I, um, I brought lunch" he gestured to what he held.

"Well why are you still standing there then? Hurry up!" came the shouted reply and San felt his feet move of their own accord, his brain having no say in the matter, as they carried him towards the gangplank, up it, and all the way on to the now familiar deck of the ship.

"I thought you would have already started painting by now" he commented, noting the fact that the remaining side of the ship that he'd been facing when he'd been standing on the dock...was still its original colour.

"Well, we weren't sure if you were coming or not and we didn't want to start without you...so we thought we'd wait a little while just in case! Besides Hongjoong decided he had to go and get something else for his flag and apparently it couldn't wait, he's taking the whole thing far too seriously if you ask me. Yeosang and I just let him get on with it, we're taking advantage of being able to sleep as much as we want until we leave tomorrow" Wooyoung seemed oddly sheepish as he spoke.

"Oh, you didn't have to wait for me. I wasn't going to come" the blunt words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. What, exactly, did you go and say that for?! San mentally groaned.

"And yet...here you are" Wooyoung smirked at him. "Be honest with me..." he framed his face with his hands before continuing, "You couldn't resist my handsome face right? It's the eyeliner isn't it? I knew it would make me irresistible...well, more so than usual" Wooyoung let out his obnoxiously loud laugh.

"It does indeed make you irresistible Wooyoungie" Yeosang appeared beside them, sticking close to Wooyoung's side. "...irresistibly annoying" he poked the younger mans cheek.

"Yeosangie" Wooyoung pouted, "We've talked about this, you can't be mean to me just because you feel left out. I did offer it to you, but you cruelly spurned me"

"Don't be so dramatic Woo" Yeosang rolled his eyes. "Anyway, I'm perfectly fine without it"

"Sure you are Yeosangie" Wooyoung patted him on the shoulder. "But there will come a day when you're begging me for it, mark my words"

"Why the hell are you propositioning Yeosang right out here, right in the middle of my deck?" Hongjoong's voice piped up. Wooyoung rolled his eyes heavenward as their Captain joined them.

"I wasn't propositioning him Hongjoong, I was talking about the kohl and his refusal to use it"

"Oh, you really should give it a chance Yeosang, it'll make you look less…."

"Soft" Wooyoung supplied. "Right now you don't look all that terrifying, you look more like you'll glare someone to death or maybe just look at them in mild disappointment until they break down crying and vow to change their ways, than anything else. It'd give you an edge"

"I can be scary when I want to be" Wooyoung and Hongjoong looked at each other before turning back to the other man.

"Of course you can" they chorused. San coughed to get their attention, before they devolved in to a squabble in front of him, and three pairs of eyes turned to look at him.

"Um…I brought lunch for everyone" the eyes that had focused on him, simultaneously lit up at the mention of food, and hands immediately grabbed the offering from his hands. The food he'd brought was swiftly laid out on the forecastle deck, and in no time at all San was being tugged down to sit between Wooyoung and Hongjoong, with Yeosang opposite him. San picked at his food, content to spend another companionable meal time with them, talking, laughing and occasionally joining in but also trying to imprint everything about the moment in to his memory at the same time so that in a few days...weeks...months, he'd be able to pull it out and remember what it was like to eat with other people, to converse over food instead of sitting holed up in his room eating alone, or in awkward silence at the dinner table. So he could remember what it was like to feel this...light, this free.

They were finished with lunch far too soon for San's liking, but he made sure to hide his disappointment from the others, instead helping Hongjoong to tidy everything away while Wooyoung, for some reason, stood as close to Yeosang as he could get without actually touching him. He was murmuring to the other man, San couldn't hear what, but the other didn't seem to be responding to him. San's view was obscured by Wooyoung, and he tried to focus on helping Hongjoong but he couldn't seem to stop his gaze from sliding over to the pair. The fourth time he found his gaze on them, Wooyoung was hugging Yeosang tightly to him, the latter's face buried in the formers neck while he stroked his hair. San tore his gaze away from them, feeling like he was intruding although on what he had no idea, but he felt a stab of sadness all the same. There is something going on with them...isn't there? They're more than just friends, they have to be. It's just as well I won't be going with them, I'd stand no chance against Yeosang...not that I...not that I want a chance it's just a crush. Just a silly, little crush.

But San caught Hongjoong glancing at the two briefly, a sad look in his eyes, and he couldn't help but think there was more going on here. Of course, he wasn't one of the crew, so he had no right to ask, but it didn't alleviate his confusion at the exact relationship between Wooyoung and his friend. Every time he felt he was justified in assuming they were together...something else would happen and he wouldn't be quite so sure. If they are together, why is Wooyoung flirting with me? Doesn't it bother Yeosang?

San didn't have long to ruminate on the situation, as there was still the small matter of painting the other side of the ship to attend to. San was once again paired up with Wooyoung, not that he had any complaints about that, and once again both teams started from opposite ends of the ship, working towards the middle. San wanted to savour the time spent talking to Wooyoung, being near to him and enjoying the feeling of the breeze ruffling his hair while the salty tang of the sea scented the moment, but time passed too quickly for his liking and the task was achieved in seemingly record time and a few hours later, the four of them stood on the dock admiring their handiwork. The Aurora was now painted entirely black, giving it a somewhat lethal, deadly air.

"Now there's just one thing missing" Hongjoong declared before leading them all back aboard and ushering them to the stern of their ship. Specifically to the spot behind the helm where the barren flagpole stood sentry. "I finished it just in time this morning...a drum roll if you please" he directed with an imperious wave of his arm. Wooyoung and Yeosang rolled their eyes but obliged him by slapping their hands against the flat wood of the ships handrail. Hongjoong cleared his throat dramatically.

"I present to you, my fellow crew mates…our flag. The flag that will strike fear in to the hearts of our enemies as soon as they're misfortunate enough to lay eyes on it" Pirates...they're most definitely pirates, although clearly they must be new to the whole...pirate thing. "This is the flag that will warn everyone who values their lives to stay out of our damn way, this is the flag that will represent who we are" Hongjoong attached a puddle of black material he produced from who knew where on his person to the flag pole before starting to run it up, up, up...until the flag was no longer dangling limply but fluttering proudly in the breeze, from it's rightful place. It was black, the letters 'ATEEZ' spelled out in white across the very centre of the flag, a white cutlass emblazoned above it while below it a leering skull perched atop two crossed bones. A jolly roger.

"Excellent work, even if I do say so myself" Hongjoong nodded, proudly as he grinned up at his creation.

"Don't most flags usually have, well...one or the other?" Wooyoung looked questioningly at Yeosang.

"I don't know why you think I'm the authority on this-"

"Because you have a better memory than me so go on...say but..."

"But...they do seem to usually have just the skull, or maybe the skull with the crossed bones...or a cutlass. Some even have the whole skeleton, they probably think that makes them seem more intimidating"

"None of them have any letters either from what I can recall, there's nothing scary about letters after all. The skulls, the bones...the general aesthetic of death kind of speaks for itself"

"What is your point, Wooyoung? And can you reach it sometime soon?" Hongjoong's eye twitched.

"It's just, not that we don't appreciate your hard work Hongjoong...that stitching? Beautiful. But...don't you think it's a bit too much?"

"To-too much?" Hongjoong gasped, appearing to have lost his inability to speak somewhat, and the three of them collectively appearing to have forgotten that San was still there. Of course, he had no desire to remind them of his presence and so he tried to make himself as unobtrusive as possible as Hongjoong finally regained the ability to form a sentence.

"I'll have you know I slaved away over this damn flag so that we can stand out...so that we can be unique. We don't want to be the same or similar to all of the others out there, we don't want to be uniform in any way. We've been there, we've done that and we've got the emotional scars to prove it. This? This is going to be our marker, our calling card. People will see this and know who we are instantly-"

"Well of course they will Hongjoong, you wrote it right there, how could they miss it?"

"That is not the point Wooyoung. This flag...this represents our new beginning. Free from rules, free from uniformity, free from the entire shit show that was that goddamn fort and free to do what we want. So if I want to put some damn letters on the flag, then I'll put some damn letters on the flag" Hongjoong growled.

"It's just a piece of mat-" Wooyoung was cut off by Yeosang's elbow connecting with his ribcage. San watched as Wooyoung turned to the other man, clearly mouthing the word 'ow', Yeosang merely pulling a face back at him and jerking his head in Hongjoong's direction while silent words passed between the two of them. Wooyoung collected himself, letting out a little cough.

"I mean...and what a pretty flag it is" he tried to placate.

"Terrifying Woo...you mean what a terrifying flag it is. It practically sends a shiver up your spine, don't you think?"

"Uh, yeah…definitely. Completely terrifying, in fact it um, it's just creepy to look at in general" there was a moment of silence as Hongjoong stared at the two.

"I hate you both, I should have left you to rot in that cell, or marooned you on whichever little island I came across first. 'Too much' how could-"

"Now that was simply uncalled for, it's just a flag!" Wooyoungs outraged bellow echoed off of the waves.

"Just a...just a flag? You-"

"Um, sorry to interrupt but….what, exactly, is ATEEZ?" San butted in before Hongjoong could throttle Wooyoung, which seemed more and more like a distinct possibility by the second. The Captain threw his hands up in exasperation.

"I give up with you people" despite clearly having irritated the man further, San felt his heart lift at being included in the collective 'you'….of belonging, even if only for a moment.

"We don't actually know what it means ourselves, Hongjoong just gave that name when the dock master asked for the name of the crew and we haven't really questioned it" Yeosang whispered to him.

"Hongjoong's done so much for us...why not let him call us ATEEZ if that's what he wants? It doesn't bother us" Wooyoung shrugged, before glancing at the sky. "It's getting darker San, I should probably escort you home" Yeosang whistled at the younger mans words.

"Escort him home? So gentlemanly of you Woo" he cooed, pinching his cheek until Wooyoung slapped his hand away.

"I suppose, this is goodbye then" San addressed Yeosang and Hongjoong, the latter seemingly still sulking about the less than enthusiastic reception his flag had received. "Thank you for letting me hide on your ship, you gave me a place to go other than just hiding in my room...and you gave me someone to talk to other than myself" he chuckled awkwardly, he was well aware the two men had cottoned on to the fact that he'd rather be anywhere but his own home, however they hadn't once pressed him for his own circumstances. "I really have enjoyed getting to know you both"

"Anytime" Hongjoong drawled with a lazy salute.

"Thanks for helping us, it would have taken twice as long if I'd had to paint the whole ship by myself" Yeosang sent him a small, somewhat hesitant smile. The other boy had seemed skittish of San initially, making sure Wooyoung was with them at all times if not Hongjoong. San was never left alone with him, never too close to him unless Yeosang moved himself closer and he only seemed to do so when one of the others was present, although he mostly stuck close to Wooyoung or Hongjoong. San had wondered if he was shy, after all he was quite quiet, but he wasn't so sure that was the reason behind the strange behaviour. Besides, as they'd dangled precariously above the ocean, Yeosang had spoken to him quite amicably, enquiring about his age, what it was like to live in Kingstown, what the city was like and so on. As he'd spent the afternoon painting he'd wondered if it was connected to the strange scene he'd witnessed between Yeosang and Wooyoung earlier, before reminding himself that it was none of his business. They hadn't pried in to his personal problems, so why should he do so to them? It's quite terrible of me to wonder such a thing, just to explain away Wooyoung's closeness to him...to give it a meaning other than that they're together, I can't even have him anyway.

San nodded in acknowledgement at Yeosang, struggling to find the words that he wanted to say, now that the time had come to actually leave them...knowing that he wouldn't be seeing any of them again. He'd toyed with the idea of coming to see them off in the morning, saying one last, final goodbye but eventually decided against it and he knew that was one decision he'd stick to. It was far easier to get the goodbyes out of the way now, and go back to his regular every day life from tomorrow morning onwards with no overlap. He'd already indulged himself quite enough after swearing up and down that he'd do no such thing, at some point he had to take control of the situation...take control of himself. San summoned a small smile from somewhere.

"Goodbye" he said softly, unable to make the word come out any louder. Yeosang repeated the word back to him with another small smile. Hongjoong on the other hand, eyed him for a moment or two causing San to fidget under the disconcerting gaze. It felt like the older man was taking his measure, he'd caught the other man observing him a time or two during his time with them, but it felt like this time...he was really looking at him. Weighing him up against who knew what.

"Draw his portrait Joongie, it'll last longer" Wooyoung sniped and the moment passed. Hongjoong gave him a casual, two finger wave.

Wooyoung slung his arm through San's and started tugging him away, muttering about Hongjoong being 'weird' and 'creepy' and to pay no attention to it. San nodded absentmindedly, lost in his own thoughts because the hardest goodbye of all was yet to come. The goodbye he'd have to give to the man that had saved his life not once, but twice, and had slowly started to worm his way in to San's everyday thoughts.


Wooyoung walked side by side with San, glancing at the other from out of the corner of his eye every so often. He'd been surprised yet delighted when the other man had appeared at lunch and not just because he'd come bearing food, but because Wooyoung hadn't been so very sure that San wouldn't come. He'd seen the indecision in the other mans eyes, and while Wooyoung would have liked to spend more time with him...he knew it was probably for the best that he didn't. After all, San was a noble and Wooyoung was, well...an abandoned child who'd been abused for most of his life, broken beyond repair and was now currently a Navy deserter turned pirate. Their worlds were so far apart, sure San had his own brand of brokenness to deal with, but it wasn't anywhere near to the same as Wooyoung's, San could still be fixed he suspected, and while that connection between them was there...Wooyoung wouldn't dare to bridge the gap between them.

He'd toyed with the idea, of having some fun with the man before they left because why not? He was pretty, Wooyoung liked the look of him and he thought he'd caught a flash of interest in the other mans gaze as well..the initial attraction was there ready to be acted upon. But Wooyoung found that he couldn't quite make himself do it. He couldn't seem to bring himself to don his usual flirty facade in front of San, and get him in to his bed. He'd thrown out the odd flirty comment, but he hadn't been able to truly take on his other persona when it came to him. Instead he'd enjoyed getting to admire the mans face and the adorable dimples that popped out whenever he managed to make the noble genuinely smile, and he'd opted to be friendly with a hint of flirtiness when he simply couldn't help himself because sometimes he just liked to see the man blush.

Of course he'd been worried about Yeosang's reaction to San when he'd brought him to their ship, and at first he'd been wary of an unknown male being close to him. Despite how non-threatening San appeared, with his open, innocent face and cute smile...and the fact that Yeosang had seen him falling in to Wooyoung's arms twice now, he'd still found it hard to relax around him. Just because San looked harmless, didn't mean he was, despite Wooyoung's good feeling about him. He didn't seem like a bad person, but this wasn't about Wooyoung's personal opinion on San, it was about Yeosang's comfort and peace of mind. Yeosang had made sure to stick close to he or Hongjoong, and they'd made sure that he wasn't left alone with San. But Yeosang had managed to engage San in conversation as they'd worked, perhaps feeling safe despite his precarious position as after all...if San wanted to try and get to Yeosang, he'd fall to the waves before he could do anything.

While still not entirely comfortable around San, he'd started to relax minutely, edging a little closer so that he was within arms reach in order to talk or whisper to him but only while he or Hongjoong were present, conversation flowing more freely with him as the hours passed. It was promising, but Wooyoung had to remind himself that there was no way San would leave and come with them, despite how much Wooyoung wished he would if only for him to be happy, to remove the look of misery permanently in his eyes whenever he talked of or thought about anything to do with his family, his home...Kingstown in general. I just hate to see someone with such a cheerful face, look so damn miserable all the time. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less. If he joined the crew there could be nothing between us anyway, there'd be no sense in pursuing this connection, or whatever it is, because that would be asking for trouble. I'm well aware of how it would end...badly. And then I'd have to throw myself from the Crow's Nest to avoid how horrendously awkward it would be, which nearly happened on one of our first assignments and is in fact, why you have that rule Wooyoung, if you'll remember, because you're too pretty and too young to die in such a tragic way.

Of course, San had done nothing but endear himself to Wooyoung more, the more they'd spent time together. He found it easy to talk to him, and anytime they lapsed in to silence it was always comfortable, rather than awkward. But more importantly, San had never said a word about Yeosang's behaviour around him, and he knew the other man had noticed. Yeosang had even had one of his episodes earlier that day, Wooyoung had done his best to shield Yeosang from San's sight but the noble wouldn't have been able to miss the fact that something wasn't right. Yet he'd never questioned them, never pried, and it was something that made Wooyoung like the man all the more, despite his better judgement. Because he's a noble, for God's sake Wooyoung, and you are nothing and eventually he would leave like they all do. Then again...what's the harm in looking while I can? I can look, and enjoy with nothing more to it than that. There's nothing wrong with that approach...and once we leave I'll wipe him from my memory. I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities coming my way, perhaps a good looking fellow pirate? Now that could be interesting. Wooyoung had mused, ignoring the small part of his brain that had scoffed at the blatant lie because San had managed to work his way under Wooyoung's skin, like no other person had managed to do before.

Wooyoung shook off his swirling thoughts, he needed to remain focused to make sure he got San home in one piece as promised...and he needed to address what the noble had been privy to on their ship prior to his leaving just now, because there was no way he'd miraculously gone momentarily deaf while they'd argued, and while they hadn't called the flag what it was...it was still going to be hard to explain away.

"So…." Wooyoung started, unsure how to broach the subject, before deciding to just jump straight in "About what you heard on the ship..."

"You're pirates" came the blunt reply. "I know"

"There's a perfectly reasonable explana-what? You know?" Wooyoung could feel his eyes shoot wide at the nobles words.

"Yes, of course. Although I wasn't sure what you were at first. You were wearing part of what I knew to be a Navy cadet uniform despite the lack of a jacket...it was all that white, but you were wearing it against regulations and it was clearly not in the best condition. Then there was the standard Navy issue sword you had with you the first night we met, it all but confirmed that you were with the Navy, or at least that you used to be. I started to wonder or rather, assume, that you were deserters. How else would you be able to wander a port wearing your uniform in such a way? Then of course you changed in to different clothing, something you'd never be allowed to do if you were really with the Navy. So I assumed you'd deserted and were on the run from your superiors, and you wouldn't be the first deserters to turn pirates because there's not a lot else you can do when you desert, of course you could be mercenaries for hire now but the more I listened to you all speak and speak about 'them' the more I felt I was correct in my pirate assumption. Of course there's also the ship, which I assume is stolen hence why you needed to paint it. Which merchant did you take it from by the way?"

"Uh, The Aurora is stolen but she was never a merchant vessel. She's the, um...The Victory" Wooyoung decided that he may as well go all in, San had spent so much time with them, been so honest with him in particular, that it seemed unfair to keep hiding his true identity from him. The noble had figured most of it out anyway, they hadn't been the most careful with the thinly veiled references in their conversations...but Wooyoung didn't think San was the type to turn them in. And even if he was they'd be long gone by the time he did.

"The Vict…." San trailed off, eyes wide. "The pride of the royal navy? The fastest ship in the fleet, that Victory?! The three of you deserted and stole the pride of the Royal Navy?! I had assumed you'd stolen a merchant ship not a…" San made a choking noise.

"We also, sort of, kind of...maybe blew up Fort Charles a little bit" may as well get that little fact out of the way as well.

"You did what?!" San shrieked, making him wince.

"Listen, like I was saying, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation behind all of this" San made a 'go on' gesture, clearly not believing such a thing existed. Wooyoung sighed, running a hand through his hair. It's not my place to tell Yeosang's story...but I can tell him the bare bones of it without betraying his confidence.

"Yeosang and I, we were cadets at Fort Charles. It's not entirely my story to tell, it's Yeosang's more than anyones, but what I can tell you is that...there was a Lieutenant that wouldn't take no for an answer, and protecting Yeosang is what I always have done and always will do. I warned that Lieutenant to stay away, over and over, but he wouldn't listen because his family were rich and could make any problem go away for him, he thought he could do what he wanted. I caught him with Yeosang and he was...I snapped. But all I did was punch him a few times, yeah I threatened him to stay away from Yeosang, and I might have done so using a sword, but it's nothing like what people are saying...what they accused us of. One of our Captain's came in at the worst possible moment, and I was arrested. They keep saying even now we were trying to kill him but we just wanted him to go away. To leave us alone. Yeosang, the idiot, admitted to threatening him too and we both got dragged to the cells. Not one person would listen to us, and the Lieutenant had already gotten to the Commodore. Spun his side of things with a heaping pile of his families gold and no-one cared about our side of the story, no-one cared about what we had to say. If Hongjoong hadn't gotten us out we'd be dead by now courtesy of a firing squad at dawn. No trial, no nothing. They saw what they wanted to see, what they needed to see because he's from a rich family and we'd caused a problem. Threatened his precious reputation. You don't understand what it's really like in that place San, all that talk of honour and courage...of integrity, it's all bullshit."

"How did you end up with Hongjoong?" San said quietly.

"He was supposed to be our Captain when we sailed out on assignment the next day. Apparently he heard us when we went to the Commodore for help after that Lieutenant tried something with Yeosang. But money spoke to him more than anything else and he wasn't interested in what we had to say. Hongjoong was though, he was very interested. Even threatened the bastard to stay away but...it didn't exactly work. Hongjoong heard what happened and he was sick of the place too, sick of the corruption and the shit that festers in the Fort so he broke us out. We stole money from the treasury, just what we needed though. Then we blew the whole thing up, the treasury, the Commodore's Office and everything in between. The last we saw the fort was missing a wall and in danger of losing another, everything was burning and things were still exploding. It's not our fault they never bothered to store the gunpowder properly." he grumbled. "The Victory just happened to be the ship Hongjoong usually captains, and the one we were supposed to sail out on. It was already stocked, and we could get to it and get it moving quickly, and now here we are" Wooyoung spread his arms. He'd tried not to sound bitter as he spoke about the not so distant past, tried to sound as matter of fact as he could so he wouldn't get angry, but it was still hard to talk about.

"I'm sorry, whatever happened with that Lieutenant...Yeosang didn't deserve it. None of you deserved to be treated like you didn't matter, like you were inferior just because you don't come from money" San said quietly. "I heard rumours of Fort Charles at the tavern that night, everyone's been talking about it" Wooyoung tensed up, wondering if San's opinion of him would have changed, if he'd think the same as everyone else. If he'd be scared of him because of those shitty rumours. "But I know that you wouldn't have hurt someone unless they truly deserved it and I don't believe you would have killed him like the rumours say" Wooyoung blinked in surprise, caught off guard by the response.

"I'm pleased you have so much faith in me San, but I'm not so sure anymore. There was a moment in that room when I really think I would have killed him…and I wouldn't have regretted it either" Wooyoung needed to change the subject and get rid of this dour mood before he confessed anymore of his deepest, darkest thoughts to the man. "Anyway, we decided the easiest thing to do, the logical thing to do...was to become pirates, and form our own crew" he injected some cheer in to his voice towards the end.

"Being a pirate is the easiest option?"

"Well yeah, our options were literally stay and let them kill us, or desert and become fugitives, but where else could we go? We could never just sail to a random port and live there because eventually wanted posters would start to circulate, we'd have to constantly keep moving...so why not turn pirate, make the ship our home and cause the Navy as much trouble as we can? Besides, the pirate ports are the only ones we can go to anyway, no-one there is going to care if there's a price on our head or not because there's a price on everyone's head pretty much, so...pirates it is"

"Right...I see, and why not just join a crew? Surely it's easier?" Wooyoung shook his head before San had even finished speaking.

"Any pirate crew we try to join would find out that we're ex-Navy and either kill us and throw us to the sharks...or at least I hope that they'd kill us first" Wooyoung shuddered. "Or they'd assume that we're spies for the Navy and we'd be treated worse than a sewer rat, never to be trusted and always to be blamed if anything went wrong...so we make our own crew. We forge our own name and reputation so that no-one will cross us and we can finally be safe, happy and free"

"I really do hate to poke holes in what seems to be a solid enough plan, but…there's only three of you?" San pointed out.

"Why do you think Yeosang and I were taking advantage of some extra sleep time?" he chuckled, "Until we get some more crew, we're going to be run pretty ragged crewing her by ourselves, but we've managed it so far." Wooyoung leaned in towards San. "Know anyone who'd like to join the crew of the broken and the abandoned?" he winked, but San wouldn't meet his eyes.

"I can't leave-"

"I know San, I know. I didn't mean you, I was just joking. I might not fully understand it, perhaps there's something wrong with me that I find it so easy to break ties with people as if they're nothing, perhaps that's one of the ways I'm broken the most, but I know why you won't leave. You can't let go of that little bit of hope you've been clinging to for months...years. I can't fault you for that, at least you can still hope for the best in people. Just remember this...if you change your mind, if you decide that you do want to leave, if you need somewhere to run to...there's a place for you with us. With our crew. Just come and find me at the docks okay? We won't be leaving until 9am." Wooyoung took San by the shoulders, turning the other man to face him. Forcing the noble to look him in the eye. "Promise you'll find me if you change your mind, if something happens?" San swallowed, eyes darting around Wooyoung's face before slowly nodding.

"I promise" he said quietly. "But I really think it'll be okay, you know? Yesterday, and now today, I haven't seen my shadow or caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye. I haven't felt like there are eyes on me, or like I'm being followed, the itchy, paranoid feeling is gone. I think...I think she's given up Wooyoung. I think she's accepted me, accepted that we're a family, all of us together, that I'm not going anywhere. So...don't worry about me, I'll be fine." San smiled at him, but Wooyoung could see it was shaky at best. "Maybe you can...you can come back and visit one day?" the nobles voice was hesitant, a slight flush started to dust his cheeks and Wooyoung couldn't resist. He leaned in close to San, closer even than he had before in order to murmur to him.

"I find that I can't seem to stop worrying about you, but I'll try...and I'll be seeing you again, one day" San's eyes were fixed on his.

"Promise?" he whispered.

"Promise. Goodbye San" Wooyoung pressed his lips softly to the mans cheek before pulling away and watching as Sans hands came up to touch said cheek, to touch the skin that Wooyoung had kissed, eyes slightly widened with shock and blinking rapidly. Wooyoung smiled at the sight, unable to repress it, and gave him a small wave before turning away from the scene and vanishing in to the darkness as he headed back towards the ship...and away from San.

This is for the best, as much as I worry for him and what could happen to him, who wouldn't? It's better for him to stay here, for us to leave things as is. For only knowing him such a short period of time, I've already become too attached and that...scares me. I don't do that. I don't become this attached to people this rapidly, Yeosang is different. Hongjoong...he's different too. But San? San's a noble, and we belong to very different worlds. I'm not...I'm not good enough for someone like him, he deserves someone better and maybe he'll find them, maybe he won't but we could never be more than friends aboard the ship anyway. I can't trust people, I'm not like San, I can't hope for the best in them when I'm always expecting the worst. Something would go wrong, it always does when I'm involved and then we'd be stuck and unable to avoid each other, unless one of us couldn't take it anymore and decides they'd rather be eaten by sharks. Which in this case, may be preferable, at least for me. Besides, he's never left home before, he'd probably treat the whole thing like a little holiday away from regular life but when he realises what life is really like on a ship? When he realises the reality of what we're doing? He'd probably leave and return home, or leave to start over in some other town. Either way, the ones you care about always leave you. Abandon you. Throw you away like you're nothing.

Yeosang had always been the one exception to the rule that everyone else persisted in proving to him, hammering the point home over and over until it was ingrained in his psyche. The ones you love, the ones who say they love you..claim to love you and care about you...they're the ones that leave you without a second thought. Without looking back, always.

As for Hongjoong, Wooyoung wasn't sure what it was about the man. Perhaps it was the fierce protectiveness he sometimes saw in the mans eyes, perhaps it was the fact he'd had any number of opportunities to screw them over and leave them...but he hadn't. Maybe it was that he was the only person in that fort who'd seemed to genuinely give a damn about them when he hadn't even known them that well. Or more likely it was because he was like them. He was abandoned, he was broken, and he knew what it was like to be left behind. To be thrown away. Regardless, Wooyoung found himself trusting the older man against all odds, believing him when he said that they were family now, that the ship was their home and that they were stuck with him now. He's like a tick, and now he's latched on to us we'll never be able to shake him free or pry him loose. He thought, fondly.

Hongjoong understood them, understood the way that they thought and felt because he'd been abandoned too. He'd been broken too, in his own way, and their solidarity, their understanding of each other, bonded them tighter than anything else. But San? San had no idea what it was like to truly be abandoned, to really be broken, not to the extent that they did. His father may have stopped communicating and interacting with him...but he was still there. San's life may be shitty but it didn't quite compare to theirs, so how could he understand Wooyoung? How could Wooyoung put his trust in him? He was sure that if anything happened between them it wouldn't end well, that it would end with him being broken and abandoned yet again. Discarded like a broken toy.

I whine to Yeosang about finding my soulmate, just like in his stupid books….but I never really will, will I? As much as I hope and dream that such a person exists…they're just stories. A fantasy. There's no such thing, and even if there was…what have I ever done to deserve one? Why would I be lucky enough to find mine? Of course I wouldn't. It's all a hopeless dream to cling to, to help me get through the days but it's not reality. Soulmates are fiction, they're not real and San is certainly not mine.

Chapter Text

San had known something was off with Wooyoung and his crew mates, there were clues in their clothing, their circumstances…the fact the three of them had such a ship to themselves, and in the conversations that would cut off when they remembered he was there. He'd had his suspicions on who they were and where they'd come from and he'd often ruminate on the puzzle that was their identity, moving the puzzle pieces he had around and seeing what picture formed. So he couldn't say that he minded the revelation, if he was honest, and he wasn't all that surprised, despite what he'd heard about pirates.

They were supposed to be bloodthirsty and savage, killing innocent people and doing all kinds of heinous deeds. But Wooyoung, Yeosang and Hongjoong…they didn't fit that description. To him they'd seemed like perfectly decent people, a fact he'd become more convinced of after hearing Wooyoung's story. His heart had broken for them all and he'd wanted to reach out and pull Wooyoung in to a hug, he just hadn't been able to make himself move. Hadn't been sure if the other man would welcome the touch from a near stranger, despite all they'd shared about themselves. San wasn't quite sure what to make of the Navy, he'd heard of all their glorious deeds, all the good they'd done and the code they'd adhered to...but despite having only just met the man San knew that Wooyoung wouldn't lie to him. He had no reason to, and San couldn't blame the trio for leaving, and for causing as much damage as they could while they did so. It was nothing compared to the damage that had been done to them. He almost felt he had no right to complain about his own circumstances after hearing theirs...terrible childhoods sprinkled with the odd happy memory here and there, the joy of being free from such terrible pasts, of things looking up yet being destroyed by a harsh reality. At least they'd found their own kind of family amongst each other.

Did he care that they were pirates? No, not particularly. They'd never been anything but kind to him, even if he had only known them for a couple of days. Perhaps people were wrong about pirates, perhaps not all pirates were as bad as the stories made them out to be. After all, the only stories of pirates and their deeds that were willingly spread about with a sense of macabre joy, were the ones designed to strike fear in to the people hearing about them. No-one wanted to hear about the nice pirates that invited you for a picnic on their ship and didn't brutally murder you, after all.

San closed his front door behind him, leaning against it and touching his hand to his cheek for the umpteenth time in the past few minutes. He really kissed me. It was only on the cheek but still…it had happened. After Wooyoung had vanished in to the darkness San had even pinched himself to make sure it was all real. He hadn't been bold enough to try and kiss the other man himself but Wooyoung…he closed his eyes, remembering the feel of the mans soft lips on his cheek. He could feel his face flush at the minutes old memory, his heart fluttering. Get a hold of yourself Choi San. That was…it was a goodbye kiss, nothing more. A quick peck among friends. But still, it was his first kiss of any kind...and he'd never imagined it would be with such a person.

While they'd talked about seeing each other again…Wooyoung had even promised, they both knew that in reality the chances of that were slim. It would be hard for a pirate to dock in a port such as this, especially if everything went to plan for them and their reputation became known, San wouldn't see Wooyoung again and the thought needled at him. Deflating the elation he'd felt at the small kiss, a memory that he would be able to cling to in the future. The only consolation to him at the moment was that he'd meant it when he said he thought his stepmother had called off his shadow. He hadn't felt the itchy feeling of eyes on him, the tickling at the nape of his neck urging him that someone was watching, to turn and check for himself…all of the feelings he'd become accustomed to and associated with his shadow had vanished after the carriage incident and simply never returned. Even without Wooyoung, when he'd been by himself as he made his way around town and to their ship...he'd still felt strangely alone. She's finally giving up, finally realised that I'm here to stay...so life should become a little more bearable. I'll make more of an effort with father…I shouldn't just keep blindly hoping he'll come around. I should make more of an effort in that direction myself.

San trudged up the steps to his room, trying not to dwell on Wooyoung's imminent departure, and sternly reminding himself that it was best not to go to the docks in the morning to wave them off. To let goodbye be goodbye. He pushed open the door to his room, closing it softly behind him, and then made his way to his bed, tugging off his boots before swinging his legs up so he was lying comfortably. I can indulge myself for a moment or two…and then that's it. Back to the reality of my life, and this memory stays locked away until I need it the most. He thought resolutely before shutting his eyes and resuming replaying his moment with Wooyoung less than half an hour before. Although he must have been more tired than he had first realised, as he was soon lulled in to an early sleep, the last thing he remembered clearly before sleep took him being Wooyoung's soft smile.


San awoke with a start, unsure of what exactly had disturbed him, to find his room encased in gloom and the moon shining brightly. It must be gone midnight by now. He thought groggily, trying to locate the pocket watch he usually kept in his jacket but struggling to recall which exact pocket he'd last deposited it in, before his sleep fuzzy brain remembered that he wouldn't be able to read it anyway because he hadn't thought to light a lamp before he went to sleep and it was dark. San groaned at the thought of having to get up but mentally prepared himself to do so when he abruptly stilled as a sudden sensation came crawling in to his awareness. There was a sense of...wrongness. But he couldn't put his finger on what it was, his room, or rather the atmosphere in it, just...didn't feel right. It felt...disturbed, almost as if someone had been in there. I didn't think to check everything was as it should be when I came in...that nothing was missing or tampered with, but then again why would I? This is the one place I've always been safe.

While his eyes had started to adjust to the gloom now that he was awake, it was still relatively dark in the room save for a square of moonlight illuminating a section of his floor thanks to the fact he hadn't shut his curtains. He could see nothing, or at least nothing glaringly out of place, but there was something in the air, something tugging at his instincts. As he strained his eyes to peer in to the gloom, he focused on that something, trying to put his finger on what it was that he was feeling. The hairs on the back of his neck starting to rise when he realised exactly what that feeling was. You are not alone in here San. Moments later, his brain barely having finished the thought, the silver of moonlight filtering through the window reflected off of something shiny as the darkness shifted. San instinctively rolled to the side as a dagger was brought down directly where his head had just been. It would have no doubt pierced straight through his left eye if he hadn't moved, but instead it had harmlessly skewered his pillow, sending up a cloud of feathers as it was ripped back out. San rolled off of his bed, landing on the floor in a light crouch.

"Who are you?" he demanded, edging towards his desk. A disused sounding chuckle echoed out of the darkness in answer.

"Your shadow, you know that." he did, but he wanted a name, an identity behind the shadow who'd stalked his every move. "We've spent quite a lot of time together these past weeks…unfortunately it has to come to an end now."

"Who sent you?"

"You know that as well, don't you? It's your lovely stepmother of course" I knew it…I know I did…but hearing him say it….San swallowed, the inescapable reality hitting him and becoming real in a way it hadn't been before, freezing him in place.

"Why…I thought-I thought she'd finally given up…" that eerie chuckle rang out again, and San's eyes darted around trying to locate the source of the noise.

"She wanted it to look like an accident, there'd be less questions that way...less suspicion because of course she'd be the first one fingers pointed to if it went any other way. But you just refuse to die, don't you? No matter what I did, up you'd pop up like an annoyingly cheerful sunflower, completely unharmed and just go on your merry way. She was getting impatient. Wants her brat to be the sole heir and wants you out of the way and there's only so many ways to stage an accident...so here we are. But look, I let you have some peace before the end. After all, there was no point following you around like a dog when I'd be killing you in the one place you thought was safe, with no margin for error this time. You shouldn't have tested her patience. You should have died quietly in the water, it would have been kinder than this mess"

"Why-why is she doing this now, before…she-"

"That's the thing about money, and power. Once you get a taste of it…you want more…and more…no matter who or what gets in your way, no matter how good your intentions were and when the key to unlocking more wealth, more power suddenly springs in to being..it's hard to refuse temptation. And sadly for you…you got in my sisters way"

"Your…your sister?"

"Well..half. I'm the bastard you see. She's barely acknowledged me all her life but suddenly I became quite useful. I'd have told her to shove it, I swear I would have, I do have some dignity after all...but she just offered me so much money and a front row seat to her downfall. How could I say no?" he chuckled. "She liked to play at being such a good, kind, pure person, as if butter wouldn't melt. But I always knew there was something rotten in her, waiting to come to fruition. Turns out all it took to find it was a little bit of luxury, and a few bootlickers. Way I see it, she's got plenty right now, all she needs and more...but according to her it's just not enough. According to her, she needs the status and power that comes with being the mother of the heir to the estate...and being in charge of her whelps gold until he's of age. Poor brat's gonna have nothing left when he gets his hands on it, but that's not my problem. Keeps mentioning something about some silly women muttering behind handkerchiefs, can't say I care really, mostly I just tune her out. She does tend to go on about things, I'm sure you'll agree" it must run in the family.

San was reeling from the discovery his stepmother had a sibling, he'd truly had no idea. She'd never mentioned it. But then her father had clearly made the decision not to acknowledge the bastard who'd no doubt been turfed out of his home and in to an orphanage if not kept as a family servant. One child had been raised in a caring, loving home, the other kicked out or left of his own accord to carve a living however he could on the streets. San couldn't quite blame him for what he'd become, but his stepmother? She had been raised in a relatively well off household, had wanted for nothing her entire life, yet it still wasn't enough for her? She was doing this because of greed, because having a taste of an extravagant life, of endless amounts of money, had warped her and made her crave more? Because some society matrons were talking about her behind her back? Because they hadn't accepted her? He had to die some old women would stop sending her dirty looks? It was almost enough to make San laugh.

"You don't…have to do this, I can pay you…I can…."

"Sorry, I don't think your allowance will cover it, and I'd like my gold now, rather than whenever you come in to your inheritance." with no warning a dark shape lunged at him out of the darkness. San brought his arms up just in time, managing to latch on to the assassin's forearm, keeping the dagger from piercing his throat. The man pressed his weight down, inching the dagger closer and closer to San's throat, as San strained under the weight of it all. What would Wooyoung do? Probably pout…from what I've seen of him so far, or whine, maybe throw out a flirty line and a wink, none of which is remotely helpful in this situation. Okay…think….Hongjoong! What would Hongjoong do? he thought for a moment, an idea starting to form as much as the polite part of him railed against him.

San had been raised to follow the strict rules and expectations of society in all things, even when being taught how to use a sword. That had come with its own set of rules for engagement in a fair fight, rules that had been hammered in to him as much as technique and form. It was most definitely frowned upon, considered to be 'unjust' in fact, to bring your knee up sharply in to your opponent's groin, like San did next. This is about my life...when the alternative is dying, who cares about the rules? Who cares about fighting dirty? I refuse to die for such a petty reason.

San shoved the man back and away from him as he gasped in pain, momentarily indisposed, darting to the right and snatching up his sword from where it was lying on his desk. He ripped it out of its sheath, whirling around and pointing it in the general direction of the hunched over shadowy figure. I don't have time to waste lighting the lamps, at least my eyes are adjusting to the gloom. That combined with the moonlight will just have to do.

"Now that's not fighting fair….I thought you nobles had etiquette for combat eh?"

"Fuck them, when have the rules ever gotten me anywhere? This is about preserving my life, defending myself not just sparring for the fun of it"

"Oooh little rich boy knows how to curse, how scandalous...and it seems I've made you snap too" he could hear the smirk in the mans voice as clearly as he could hear the man take a step. He spotted the toe of a scuffed boot edge in to his field of vision, illuminated dully by the moonlight creeping in through the window. A body encased head to toe in well worn, black clothing appeared next, the dagger gleaming in the mans outstretched hand as he approached and then San finally got to see what his shadow looked like. Finally got to see the mans face. He must have been in his late thirties, his hair was dark but streaked with silver, and he had a nasty scar running down through his eyebrow, pausing at his eye, and continuing underneath. The man kept coming, closer and closer. San adjusted his grip on his sword, steeling himself because while he might know how to use a sword, he'd never used it for more than sparring or the odd competition. There was never any real danger involved, not like now.

"Stay there. Don't come any closer or I'll…I'll…" that rusty chuckle seeped out of the man again, setting San's teeth on edge. It was also accompanied by a vicious smile.

"You'll what? You won't do a thing son. You've been raised too soft. You've never had to kill before….never felt a mans life leave his body because of your own hand. Never felt flesh part, and blood flow as you cut him open. So why don't you put it down and I'll make it quick" San shook his head carefully, eyes never leaving the man.

"I will…I swear I will" San wanted to live. He might have become quite blasé about the fact someone was actively trying to kill him as it became a routine occurrence, but he didn't actually want to die. Especially not for such a pathetic reason, killed so his brother can inherit the estate. Killed so his stepmother could satisfy her greed, so she could get her hands on every last penny they owned even though she already had more than anyone would ever need, just to buy her pretty dresses, and expensive jewellery. To give her a higher status so others would stop looking down on her. Why did he have to pay with his life to make her selfish wishes come true? No, he wanted to live, to see more of the world, to experience everything he had yet to...and to love. He wouldn't die here, he refused.

"You won't…you and I both know it" the man shot forward, dagger aimed straight for San's heart, hoping to catch him off guard and end this game of cat and mouse here. Now. Once and for all. San moved without thinking, bringing his left arm up to block the mans downward swing, and using his right he brought his sword up and sent it stabbing in to the mans soft flesh. The mans momentum carried him forward until he was impaled to the hilt. The dagger fell from his hands, hitting the floor with a dull clatter. He stared at San, surprise creeping in to his eyes. "Huh" he breathed before the life faded from his eyes, body slumping forwards making San stagger.

San blinked, not fully comprehending what had just happened. I killed someone. I killed someone. It was self defence…he would have killed me if I hadn't but….I actually….I-I'll be locked up for this. No, they'll hang me for this. Fathers reputation will be ruined, I-I can't believe I did that I-I just wanted-I just wanted to live. Is that so wrong? He was trying to kill me, he's been trying to kill me for weeks…surely they-surely they'd realise that. They...there's evidence they...Except there wasn't any evidence, because San had never told anyone. Never told anyone but Wooyoung and all anyone else would see is a run of bad luck. Hell his stepmother could and most likely would twist this around to look like murder and his father...he didn't know what his father would do. Move. Move San. Stop standing there like an idiot, you need to move. He looked down at his hand, clutching the hilt of his sword and covered in sticky, red blood. Blood that was swiftly cooling as the air hit it. He tugged, trying to pull his sword free from the mans chest, but it didn't want to move. San brought his foot up, placing it on the mans torso and pushing it while pulling on the sword at the same time. It finally slid free with an unpleasantly wet sound, the body falling to the floor with a thump. Someone...will have heard that.

San hesitated for a moment, unsure of how to proceed from here, he couldn't think straight, blinded by panic. What exactly did one do after killing someone who'd just been trying to kill them? Wooyoung…get to Wooyoung. He'll-he'll know what to do, he or Hongjoong, one of them will tell me what to do. He quickly wiped his sword clean on the mans clothes before sheathing it, and wrapped his sword belt securely around his waist. He'd fallen asleep fully clothed, even wearing his coat so all that was left to do was quickly tug on his boots. Task complete, San paused before leaving the room. Am I…..am I leaving for good or….am I coming back? I don't….I don't know….

He was saved from making a decision by the click of his bedroom door opening. San went cold all over, slowly turning towards the sound.

"San are you…are you alright?" His fathers awkward voice rang out in the deathly silence of the room. "It's just, I thought I heard a thump and I was….I was worried…." true to form his father couldn't quite meet his eyes, so of course the first thing his darting gaze landed on was the man lying on his floor in a pool of blood, the moonlight illuminating it for all to see and showing quite clearly that the man was no longer with the world. Then, for the first time since his mother had died, his father's eyes shot to his.

"Father I-I didn't mean to. He-he was trying to kill me…he's been trying to kill me for weeks, I know you won't believe me but…he really was…he had a dagger. Look it's there, it's right there…I had to….I had to, I didn't even...I just held the sword out to keep him away but he ran and..." his father took in the scene, eyes moving from the man, to the dagger lying nearby, to the spreading pool of blood, then back to San. "Father I-I don't know what to do" San felt tears in his eyes, not least because this was the first time his father had met his eyes in he didn't know how long, the first time his father had said more than two words to him...the first time his father had shown he cared, that he was worried about him and all his hoping and dreaming had finally paid off, finally came in to being at the worst possible time. His father seemed to gather himself.

"You have two options. We can cover this up, dispose of the body and pretend it never happened. Never mention it again." San nodded, no doubt some of their wealth would be used to help with the cover up, I suppose the other option is facing the consequences of this and being dragged to the magistrate. "Or, we leave everything as is and you..you can go. Tonight, right now. Leave this house, leave this town and go and live a happier life than you could here" Sans eyes shot to his fathers in surprise.

"W-w-what?" he hadn't expected such a response. Covering the whole thing up to protect San and their reputation? As to be expected. Going to the magistrate, confessing all and getting the whole thing straightened out? Of course, even if it would still look highly suspicious. But being told to go? "Do you really hate me that much father?" the mental thought slipped out before he could stop it.

"I-I don't hate you San, I could never hate you, you're my son. I'm sorry….I'm so sorry..you just look so much like your mother. When you smile, when you laugh, when you….when you speak...I know it's not right, it's not fair, but it's painful to look at you. You are a constant reminder of what I've lost, and every time I see you...that pain comes back. It's not your fault, you remind me of her so much and I-I miss her. I miss her more than anything. She was the person I loved most in this world aside from you. I tried...I've been trying to be better, but I've been unfair to you San. I know you've not been happy, you hide in your room all the time, you won't take your meals with us unless forced...I can see how burdened you are, how melancholy...and I know I'm the reason for it, that this life is the reason for it."

"Father…." San wasn't sure what to say to that or how to react.

"If you want my advice, if you'd take it one last time…I'd leave. If you stay, this life will suffocate you more than it already is. The burden of reputation and honour…it will become too much to bear. You'll be too afraid to step a foot wrong and you won't really be living. With your mother…it wasn't a bad life and we chose each other, we were happy. But there's no place in our Society for people like you, if you stay you will never be happy. You'll have to hide who you are, marry someone you've no desire to and I don't wish this on you. I want you to be happy, I want you to always be smiling, to see what the world has to offer, and to love who you want to love. Perhaps...this incident is a blessing. This town is not the right place for you San, I fear that in a year...maybe two, the life of a noble, the expectations and life in this judgemental town will have completely erased the happy boy you were..erased what makes you, you. It's already started after all, hasn't it?" San swallowed, knowing it was a true fact, even before his stepmother had started her little campaign against him he'd felt...trapped in this life. But it was all he'd ever known, he'd prepared for this life, accepted it.

"But...surely there's a way around it. I can-"

"You are the heir San. Peoples eyes are always on you, they'll notice any little slip up, anything out of the ordinary. You have no desire to marry a woman, but arranged marriages are the way of our Society. I was lucky with your mother, we developed an affection that blossomed in to love. But I won't be able to prevent you from marrying, not when the family line needs to be maintained. You would never be able to marry the person that you love, and if you think you could entertain some relationship on the side, think again. Someone will find out, there are eyes everywhere and mouths that never stay closed. You'd be shunned or worse if the truth came out. That is the life that waits for you here. I selfishly wanted to hold on to you...to keep you with me even though I've treated you in such an awful manner but...you'd be trapped her. Stifled. Forced in to a mould that you don't fit, and confined by what others have decided is the right way to do things, the right way to behave. I think...it would break you, and that would be infinitely harder to watch, than watching you leave."

"But….but I don't want to leave you, father" San could feel tears in his eyes. His father had never stopped caring about him, he hadn't known how to interact with the child that reminded him so much of his lost love, he'd wanted to shield himself from yet more pain even if San had to suffer because of it. While it hurt, San supposed he understood it...understood him. Perhaps if this hadn't happened, they would have slowly been able to build a relationship back up, piece by piece. A realisation that hit San hard, but not any harder than the realisation that his father still cared. That he wanted what was best for him...for him to be happy. Even if he had to let him go.

"But to my shame, I have already left you San. I left you alone and suffering, with no-one to turn to…I didn't even know someone had been…been…."

"Not just someone, I know who it was father. It was her, it was-" his father held a hand up.

"You don't need to say her name, I can guess as much. Someone tried to kill you in the dead of night, and has been attempting it for much longer? There's only one person who would benefit from such a thing, after all...it's hard to hate my precious boy. You've never had an enemy before in your life" and San knew his father wouldn't do a thing about it..about her. He'd carry on with his life with her, pretending he had no knowledge of the matter whether San stayed or whether he left because the scandal it would generate...his new wife being arrested for the attempted murder of his heir, would utterly ruin their reputation, and in this society...reputation was everything. His father would no doubt even lose the position of Governor of Kingstown to such a scandal, and there would be whispers. Whispers of how he'd alienated his son since the death of his first wife, whispers of how he surely must know what his wife got up to, how he must have known what she was scheming...whispers of the death of Sans mother even. It would be too much to bear, his position would be lost, his businesses would start to fail because it was reputation that kept them thriving. Reputation kept San and his family in this big, elegant house...kept them on top of everyone else and there would be people just waiting to snatch them down and take it for themselves. Ready to plant a knife in their backs.

San could see his life playing out if he decided to stay. Stiff posture drilled in to him, the endless balls, parties and so on that he would have to attend. Smiling politely throughout even though he felt like screaming on the inside. The faceless, nameless woman he'd be forced to marry as he was essentially auctioned off to the highest bidder. Constantly looking over his shoulder as those who coveted what he had, wished it for themselves, waited for the slightest sign of weakness, waited for the slightest slip up to drag him down and take everything from him. Stiff, formal family dinners with little chatter, a house not unlike this one. Cold, empty, heartless. He'd never have a moments peace, never be able to relax, and he'd never be able to be comforted by someone he loved with his entire heart. Why? Why would I do that to myself? San found he couldn't answer that question anymore.

San looked at his fathers face. His father who up until now hadn't even been able to look at him, and while San now knew why...it still hurt. It hurt to hear the words from his father's own lips. It hurt to know he knew who was behind this murder attempt, who was behind his waking nightmare of a life recently and that he would just sweep it under the rug. Because that's what you did when you were a noble, because that's how their world worked. But what hurt him the most was to know that despite that, despite everything...his father still cared about him enough that he wanted more for him than the life he'd be subjected to, a life of cold unhappiness, one that he now found himself in.

San's father had loved his mother, he truly had it was plain for all to see. But he'd had no choice but to remarry, he was still a perfectly healthy man and it was unseemly for him to raise a son alone. There was no reason why he shouldn't marry again, why he shouldn't have more children, and the fathers of eligible women had been beating down their door before his mother had even been laid to rest. Refuse and it would have been the talk of the town, opening San and his family up to all kinds of gossip and rumour that couldn't be afforded, so his father had remarried and he'd done it strategically this time. He may care for his new wife, but he didn't love her and a small part of San realised sadly that she must know that. That was no doubt one of the reasons she was so insecure in her position, one of the reasons she felt that she needed to get rid of him.

San would end up just like his father. Drinking in the evenings until he staggered up to bed. Trudging through the day with an emotionless face, not feeling a thing. His smile would eventually die, his facial muscles not recalling how to do such a thing...although hadn't it already? At least until Wooyoung. Wooyoung. I could...I could really go and join their crew if they'd have me. If I was brave enough to..to leave everything behind. I could see the places I've dreamed about, heard about, I could feel like I...like I belong. I could have a family once again, I could have happiness and laughter and light. If I could only find the courage to leave behind everything I've ever known, everything I've prepared for.

San allowed himself to really, truly think about the possibility for a moment, something he hadn't allowed himself to do before. Because thinking about it, imagining it were pointless endeavours that would only hurt him in the long run, so he'd shut down the thought of such a thing before it went too far, shrugging it off. But now...now. San thought about what his life could be like, if only he dared to leave. Endless days at sea on the ship, no rules. No expectations. No etiquette to follow. Nothing but the warmth of the sun and the cool spray of the sea, exploring new places, seeing new things. Being surrounded by people he genuinely liked, people that spoke plainly and weren't smiling to his face while waiting to drag him down behind his back. Now that he actually allowed himself to think about such things, the contrast between the two situations stark, he was hit with a strong feeling of want. The force of which took him by surprise, but then when had he ever allowed himself to truly want anything before? He'd always been thinking about what was best for the family and for his father. What his father would want him to do, and be. What was best for the business and their reputation and what would preserve his fathers title of Governor, a title San would inherit one day in the future that came with an entirely different set of responsibilities and scrutiny. San had never, once in his life, thought about what was best for he himself before, and now he had an image in his head that wouldn't go away. An image of him standing on the deck of The Aurora, the waves sparkling with the sunlight, Hongjoong at the helm, Yeosang lounging on the steps and Wooyoung standing beside him. San wanted it, he wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything. Now that the option was truly there, truly a choice that he could reach out and take...he wanted it. He didn't want to be stuck in this place, shrivelled and miserable and a shadow of himself, trudging through life until he finally died. He wanted to live.

"Go, San….please. It's okay. This life, it wasn't meant for you and there is more for you out there, than there is here." his father's voice was quiet. And you won't be able to stop her from trying to kill me again, will you father? You won't throw her out of this house or reprimand her for what she's done, you won't see her punished because against everything else...I am not enough for you. San nodded his head slowly, then before he could think about it too much he threw himself at his father, catching him off guard as he caught him in a quick embrace, the kind they hadn't shared since he was younger.

"Father...thank you and...goodbye" his father was stiff in his arms, but San felt him take a shuddering breath before briefly, woodenly embracing him back. Then with a brief, sad smile, his father was out the door and San knew he would never see him again. San pulled himself together, rushing around his room as he threw things in to a pack. Carefully avoiding the dead man on the floor and the pool of blood. Some photos of his mother, photos of them as a family before everything had been so broken and ruined. The plush doll he'd had since he was a baby, that he'd lovingly named Shiber. Some extra clothes and...that was all he needed really. He was surprised to see how little it was that he truly required, that he truly needed in a house and a room that was filled with things. San snatched up what money he had lying about, just in case because even if he couldn't join The Aurora's crew...he was still going to leave. He'd have to, unless he wanted to be murdered in his bed, or perhaps poisoned over dinner. Or hanging from a gallows.

With his things collected, San quickly and quietly slipped out of his bedroom, softly shutting the door behind him for the final time. Creeping down the stairs, he paused to check for any signs of life in the house...but it was silent. He assumed his father had been up late drinking brandy in the library as was his routine, and had presumably been coming up to bed when he'd heard the noise from San's room. Of course rather than ignore it and go on his way, his father had chosen this night, of all nights, to check on him. To attempt to reach out and connect with him again. Shaking off the thought, San rushed the rest of the way down the stairs as carefully as he could, shot across the entry hall and wrenched open the heavy front door. Stepping outside he breathed in the cool, fresh night air.

I'm...free. Once I step outside of this door there's no going back. I can walk away from this house, walk away from everything...from having to marry someone I don't care for. From having to eat dinner alone in my room, or in stilted silence with company...and with an unholy amount of knives and forks. There will be no having to stand on ceremony at home and at other society functions, I can even slouch if I want to. I can wear just a shirt, if I want to. No-one will care if I don't adhere to the latest fashions, no-one will care if I don't bow at exactly the right degree. I can go where I want, wear what I want, eat what I want and how I want...because no-one will care who I am, no-one will know. I can...I can love whoever I want to love.

San smiled, a big, genuine smile as a weight lifted from his shoulders, a weight that had been crushing him from the moment he knew what was to be expected of him at the age of eleven, but that's presence wasn't realised until it was gone. San inhaled another lungful of fresh air, blinking away the tears of happiness that had leaked out. He glanced up at the dark house, noting that it seemed colder than usual to him. It had become more and more like a prison to him since his mother had died, trapping him in just as much as the standards of society but now...he was free from it all. He never had to come back here. Goodbye...mother.

He had the most important memories deep in his heart. He didn't need to be sitting in the library to picture her curled up by the fire with a book, patting the space next to her and indicating him to come and curl up next to her while she read. He knew that, had perhaps known it all along and he had to wonder what had really been keeping him here, mired in misery. Perhaps he was scared of change, scared of leaving the little bubble of the familiar and the known that he'd lived in his entire life, until now he'd never truly faced any real danger. There had been nothing alarming, or life threatening in his everyday life, so despite how miserable he was...why would he want to leave? Why would he want to leave the sheltered protection of it all? Either way San couldn't quite believe he had really been about to let go of the opportunity to get away from this place and the misery that clung to it, with the people he had felt an almost instant connection with. The people he felt he truly belonged with. What was I thinking? But he hadn't been thinking, not really. He'd been hiding, protecting himself from the scary unknown. San took one more deep breath of air.

I need to find Wooyoung. He said to find him at the docks, but I assume he meant tomorrow morning. They'll be asleep right now, won't they? Meaning the gangplank will have been removed for the night and I have no way aboard. Wooyoung won't be waiting for me, not now. I was so vehement that I wouldn't be leaving, that I'd be staying here...why would he be keeping a look out for me? Should I...should I perhaps stay at an inn for the night and then go to the docks in the morning? How late is it anyway? Surely they'd all be closed...I suppose I'll have to sit on the docks all night.

San strolled through the darkened streets, for once not having to look over his shoulder, not having to race blindly through the town in a paranoid panic. San took in the town for the last time, the perfectly neat, straight roads, with the perfectly maintained shops. Nothing out of place, nothing unsightly to look at. Nothing with any character to it. San said a quiet goodbye to the taverns he'd visited to chase away his melancholy, the cafe that made the delicious little chocolates he and his mother would treat themselves to after a bad day, until eventually he could see the sea sparkling in the moonlight and a lone ship moored at the dock, seemingly waiting for him. It was encased in shadows, but as San walked closer to the sea front he could pick out more and more detail on the ship. Including a figure sitting on the side of it. Whoever it was, was sitting along the somewhat wide, flat piece of wood that made for the ships handrail. Their upper body leaning against the slightly higher section of the ship's side that curved up alongside the stairs to reach the helm. One leg was stretched out, the other bent at the knee with an arm resting on it. The persons head was tilted up, looking at the sky and the stars peppering it, but San couldn't quite make out the mans identity. He stumbled forward another few steps, squinting as he tried to make out which of the crew it was, a cloud shifting to illuminate the ship some more and...blonde hair. There's only one member of the crew with blonde hair, Wooyoung!

"WOOYOUNG" San yelled, not caring that it was unseemly to raise his voice, let alone at this time of night. He'd been quiet and well behaved his entire life and it felt good to let go of it all, to announce his presence to the silent streets. San started to run towards the dock, shouting Wooyoung's name over and over as he did so. As he neared the dock, his shouts must have reached the other man because a blonde head snapped in his direction, eyes widening slightly when he spotted San rushing towards him. He disappeared from the side of the ship, reappearing moments later as he hurried down the still in place gangplank. "Wooyoung" San panted.

"San?! What's wrong, did something happen?"

"Oh, nothing much. Just you know...someone trying to murder me in my bed. Nothing too dire" San tried to joke, but Wooyoung just stared at him.

"What happened to 'oh don't worry about me Wooyoung, I'll be fine. I'm sure she's given up'" he said with a raised brow and San couldn't help but smile at him. Wooyoung narrowed his eyes. "Why are you smiling? Someone tried to kill you...again, although more directly than usual and you're...smiling. Not quite the reaction I would expect"

"It really is okay Wooyoung, I'm okay, I woke up just in time and I...I killed him. I didn't mean to, but...I didn't want to die. I had to protect myself and it just...happened." San's smile had faded out as he'd recalled the life fading from the mans eyes as he'd died at San's own hand.

"Ah...do you need help getting rid of the body? Let me go and wake Yeosang, apparently he has all kinds of nefarious knowledge for disposing of corpses" Wooyoung turned towards the gangplank but San grabbed his arm.

"I'm leaving. I can't stay here...I don't want to stay here. I want...to be happy. I don't want to stay trapped in this town becoming someone I'm not...living but not really being alive. I want to live in every sense of the word, I want to go on adventures, and explore new places. When I nearly drowned that night, I had the strangest feeling that I'd be missing something important, someone important if I just gave up and I think it was this ship, this crew...you. I've realised I don't belong here, that here I'm someone I'm not. I want to be who I really am, without fear and now I can leave, I can go without any regrets. I'm ready...and there's nothing holding me back, nothing keeping me here." San hadn't realised he'd started to cry until Wooyoung reached out a tentative hand to gently wipe away the wetness on his cheeks.

"I'm sorry San, I'm sorry things had to be like this for you-"

"No, don't be sorry. There's nothing to be sorry for. Everything's okay now. I think...this was supposed to happen, I think I was supposed to meet you and Yeosang and Hongjoong. I think this is the place I'm really supposed to be...the place that I belong. I was just..waiting for you to come for me. Maybe I should be more upset about the way things have gone...but right now I'm so...so happy. Is that wrong? I just killed a man and left behind the only family I have in the world but...I'm happy." San let out a quiet laugh. "I'm finally thinking of myself, and my own happiness and what I want. And I want to leave...with you. If the offer still stands" San felt suddenly nervous, standing on the dock, Wooyoung gazing at him with an unreadable expression. What if he changed his mind? What if he doesn't want me to join them? What if there's no place for me and he was just being kind because he knew I wouldn't really leave. What if he was just...just saying it-

"You want to come with us? To join our crew? You do know what that means, don't you? We're on our way to becoming true pirates San. Once we leave this port, that's where we're going."

"I know-"

"Do you? You're a noble, San. You've been in this town your whole life, you know nothing about sailing a ship, nothing of how a ship works. You've had people to do everything for you, to take care of you. If you come with us, all that will change. You'll have to do things for yourself, learn an entirely new set of skills to proper table etiquette and calligraphy. You'll have to work, and it will be hard and exhausting. You'll be part of a pirate crew running from the Navy, we might be ahead of them, we might be untouchable in pirate territory but that doesn't mean we don't have a target on our backs. And of course you do know what it means to be a pirate, don't you? Stealing, robbing shops, killing people...right now you have money and a secure future, a home even if it is a shitty one. Even if your father's a bit of a bastard, but he can make this little problem of yours go away. I know he can because that's how it is for you nobles"

"Why...why are you being like this?"

"Because he's making sure that you understand what it is you're signing up for. That this is what you really want." a voice floated out of the darkness as a man stepped out of the shadow of the ship. "Being a pirate is worse than being a criminal. We'll be wanted, with a price on our heads and if we're caught...we'll hang. It won't be all sunshine, and lazy days talking about everything and nothing, not like it's been the last few days with us. There will be blood, and canon fire, danger and death." Hongjoong's face was sombre. Wooyoung turned from him to look San in the eye.

"Is that really the life you want?"

"Yes. Yes it is. I want a life where I can be happy, where I can be who I want to be...and that's a life with all of you" San answered quietly. "Besides, I'm a murderer now so I think I'm more qualified to be a pirate than the three of you put together"

"We've killed people" Hongjoong was indignant. "Not on purpose of course, more casualties of war if you will, but we've still killed people. I was listening you know-"

"Why are you even out here?" Wooyoung cut in.

"He was screaming your name at full volume, was I supposed to ignore it?"

"Aw, were you worried about me Joongie? Did you come running to my rescue?" Wooyoung cooed at the man.

"Shut up-"

"That's a yes" Wooyoung crowed, triumphantly but Hongjoong ignored him.

"As I was saying, I was listening. You killed him in self defence, it's not quite the same as cold blooded murder, but I suppose it's still a tick on the list of pirate qualifications, however I think you'll find we still have far more experience than you do"

"We've been pirates for a week Hongjoong, we only just got a flag and we've not done anything piratey yet so I'm not sure it counts. We're more...thieves and arsonists right now...pirates to be, you could say"

"Yes, well, we're getting there Wooyoung. Stealing both of the monetary and the ship variety...check. Being a giant pain in the ass of the Navy? Check. Killing-"

"Inadvertently"

"-a handful if not more of arguably innocent Navy guards? Check. Firing shots upon a Navy vessel? Check"

"Are you really having a debate over who's more qualified to be a pirate, and since when do you have a checklist?" Yeosang's voice joined them, the man himself appearing moments later.

"Where have you been? Even Hongjoong got here before you, I could have been dead by now. I thought you were my friend" Wooyoung sniffed.

"Unlike Hongjoong, I didn't need to run out in a worried panic to save you because I knew you were fine. I've been awake the whole time, I was waiting for you to come to bed" Yeosang replied, eyeing Wooyoung. "You said you couldn't sleep..." his eyes flicked to San. "Were you waiting for him?" he teased.

"No, I told you, I couldn't sleep and it's stuffy in the cabin." was the indignant response.

"And?" Yeosang arched a brow.

"And...if we raised the gangplank...he'd have had nowhere to go..." Wooyoung descended in to a mumble.

"Aw, so thoughtful Wooyoungie" Hongjoong pinched his cheek, earning himself a vicious swat from the younger. "Anyway, if we can focus back on the point of this conversation. We're all qualified in different ways, we've all done things that have landed us on this ship with nowhere else to go. You can wield a sword and you've killed a man...but you have no sailing experience and you've never left this town. From here we'll be heading to violent, dangerous places, and we'll have to do things we've never done before. Things we never thought we'd have to do, to survive. I want to keep my crew safe, in order to do that, in order to protect them...we need to be at the top of the pirate food chain and it's going to be a bloody path there. Are you really okay with that?" San looked Hongjoong in the eye.

"Yes. I've never wanted anything before...but I want this. I want a place to belong and I want a family. I might not have suffered the same as you have, but I've still suffered. I've still been abandoned, even if it's taken me until now to realise it. I have no family, my father...no matter what he says, no matter how I hoped he abandoned me the day my mother died. He would have overlooked his new wife trying to kill me, pretended she wasn't still trying to if I stayed here. I might be his son..he might still care about me...but it's not enough compared to his reputation and his position as Governor. Not enough for him to protect me. I'm more than ready to join your crew...and everything that entails" Hongjoong eyed him for a moment or two, face stoic as he weighed him up. San hadn't thought what he'd do if they said no, if they turned him away and left him to fend for himself. There's no way he'd make it on to a merchant ship and away from this place before the body was 'discovered' in the morning, he'd be dragged in front of the magistrate and the fact he'd tried to run would render his side of the story unbelievable. Unless he went back to that house, back to his father. He loved his father, but he couldn't ignore the revelations of the night. As happy as he was at the realisation his father still cared...it also came with the expected realisation that his father didn't care enough to keep him safe. To provide San's happiness himself.

"Hongjoong" Wooyoung whined, breaking the tense silence. "Stop toying with him, you're not remotely intimidating."

"No-not intimidating?! We both know that's a lie, I think I've already proven that I'm plenty intimidating" Hongjoong drew himself up.

"...We all saw you shrieking about that bug yesterday, Hongjoong." Yeosang pointed out.

"I wasn't scared of the bug I was just…startled. It surprised me"

"And it's forever ruined the image of an intimidating, fearsome pirate captain that you're aiming for. At least for us"

"It had too many legs, what does it need that many for anyway? And it flew at my face, what was I supposed to do? Not react at all? Of course I may have...yelled-"

"Screamed"

"Yelled. Shouted, even. Like I said...it took me by surprise"

"Sure Hongjoong, just put him out of his misery" Wooyoung waved him off.

"You've ruined the moment now" Hongjoong sulked. Yeosang turned to San, amusement dancing in his eyes.

"Are you sure you want to put up with this?" he asked him faux-seriously.

"HEY" Wooyoung and Hongjoong yelled in unison, Yeosang's mouth tilting up at the corners.

"I would love to" San hoped the honesty was clear in his voice…in his expression. I want to be a part of this…the family I've been missing, the love and affection...the care they have for each other. I want it too. Please.

Hongjoong looked at him, a slow smile spreading across his delicate features as he spread his arms wide.

"Welcome to the crew"


The hour was dangerously late, the city streets quiet. You could even call them calm without the hustle and bustle of the people and the carriages that were present during the daylight hours. A young man, a scholar actually, hurried along the pavement, books clutched tightly in his arms. He'd stayed too late at the library yet again and now he was dangerously close to curfew. If he didn't make it back to his lodgings within the next fifteen minutes or so, his landlady would have no qualms about locking him out for the night. It wouldn't be too bad he supposed, except for the fact he wouldn't be able to read his precious books when the lamps were doused for the night.

Sadly, this wasn't an unfamiliar situation to him, the mad dash to make it home upon realising time had gotten away from him as usual. It was a hazard of the job for any scholar, not least for one well known for being utterly brilliant. A young, genius prodigy, one of the very best despite his young age. Well, young as compared to the older and, in some cases, rather crusty men that usually occupied the title of scholar. But he'd worked hard to earn his place, every penny he got had been spent on books, and learning materials. He'd been a scholarship student, plucked from obscurity for his already sharp mind and taken in by the best of the best schools to be honed in to the brilliant mind that he was today. Hours spent reading and listening to lectures, pages and pages of notes written until his fingers cramped and nights lost to studying rather than sleep. But it had all been worth it in the end.

The scholar was so set on returning to his lodgings in time, tracing the familiar rushed path that he always took that he didn't notice the imminent danger presented to him in three somewhat loutish looking individuals. He'd come to a skidding stop in front of the large main road, wide enough for two carriages to pass each other by and during the day a steady stream of them paraded up and down. So it was instinct to stop at the road, habit to look up and down it in both directions before attempting to cross it. While it was deserted at this time of night, he could hear the steady sound of hoofs hitting cobbles in the distance, and there was no telling when one could appear out of nowhere, taking advantage of the deserted roads to go that little bit faster in order to get their customers home that little bit sooner...and hopefully get a bigger tip. Better to be safe, than sorry, his mother had always said, ingraining it in to him. She'd been his only parent, and he'd been her only child. She'd been so proud of him, so proud of his achievements but all the knowledge he'd consumed couldn't help him cure her...save her, and she'd left him all alone with nothing but his books for company.

He shook off the suddenly melancholy thought, moving to cross the road, his lodgings within sight and soon he'd be safely ensconced in his favourite chair, a lamp burning beside him as he read late in to the night as was his usual habit. Suddenly a rough, hot hand clamped itself over his mouth, jerking him backwards somewhat awkwardly against a body just a little bit shorter than he was.

A low voice growled directly in to his ear. "If you struggle, I'll gut you like a fish, understand?" he nodded frantically, as best as he could against the grip.

"You know we can't kill him Hyunjin" another low voice crawled out of the dark.

"Well he didn't know that until you opened your fucking mouth" he growled back. "But you're going to behave anyway, aren't you?" The scholar nodded again, trying his best not to panic. "Good. Now, we hear you're supposed to be intelligent...we've got something that we need your help with. Nothing too tricky, not for someone like you anyway. Just a small bit of translating...perhaps some decoding, doesn't that sound fun? It's all for a good cause, I can promise you that-"

"It's not-"

"Shut. Up. Felix. We agreed that I would do all the talking, you did it last time." The scholar tried to catch a glimpse of his captor out of the corner of his eye, but they kept behind him, cloaked in the shadows. However, there was one thing that he could tell from their attire and the sword hilts glinting at their waists...they were pirates. But why were they so far inland? Why had they left the safety of the sea to come for him? "You're going to come with us, nice and quiet, and we'll take a lovely little trip to Tortuga" the scholar's eyes widened.

"Where no-one will care if you scre-" a pained grunt rang out, it sounded like the second voice, the one seemingly called Felix.

"Where we can politely ask your assistance and cooperation in peace and quiet without the authorities sniffing around and sticking their noses in. The rats are too scared to come near the place, let alone anyone who might feel like being heroic" the pirate holding him, Hyunjin, continued. "Here's the deal, we'll tell you what we need your help with, give you all the details, you'll help us with no trouble and when we're finished you can go on your merry way...sound good?" the scholar swallowed, debating his options. He knew he wouldn't be able to get away from them, he probably wouldn't make it across the road even if he did manage to make it out of the pirates grip. He'd spent his entire life with his nose in a book, and he had no weapon with him. He wouldn't be able to lie about his identity, as they'd clearly been watching him and had no doubt seen him come out of the library...a library that only allowed access to scholars. They had targeted him specifically and despite his fear...he was curious to know why. Curious as to what pirates could possibly need his help with. They didn't wait for him to answer.

"Of course it doesn't matter, you don't really have much choice but apparently it's polite to ask these things and seeing as we're amongst polite society right now we thought we'd make an effort to fit in" the scholar very much wanted to tell them that they were doing a terrible job of it, but the hand remained firmly over his mouth and the next thing he felt was a sharp pain at the back of his head, before he found himself drifting in to unconsciousness.


The young blacksmith had finally finished his preparations, making sure that everything was in order...that he was prepared for what he was about to do. An eye for an eye may make the whole world blind, but he didn't much care anymore. He couldn't allow that man to continue walking around un-punished and carefree after what he did. He'd waited oh so patiently, biding his time once he'd finally gathered the shattered pieces of himself together, making sure he was ready for what was no doubt going to be a suicide mission. He knew there was little chance he'd make it back from what he planned to do, but as long as he took that bastard with him he couldn't find it in himself to care. There was no other option for him, there was no turning back from the course he'd set himself upon, he knew the time had come the moment he saw the ship docked in the bay, the moment he'd seen them sauntering down the dock. His fists clenched until his knuckles turned white as he re-lived the scene from that fateful night once again.

Re-lived ambling through the softly lit streets as if he had all the time in the world...

He'd been on his way to hunt down his best friend, well...his only friend. Although that wasn't entirely accurate either, if he was being honest he was more a brother, than anything else. The closest thing to family he had left since his mother had finally abandoned him with a poorly disguised sigh of relief. He supposed she'd at least had the decency to wait until he could fend for himself. That was more than he could say for the other prostitutes of the town, who usually abandoned their offspring the moment they'd taken their first breath. Handing them off to be raised by the brothel madams to be dealt with, if they were unfortunate enough to be born a girl they'd stay in the brothel...if they were a boy they'd be handed off to be cabin boys, errand boys...at least if they were ugly. The good looking ones found themselves in the same situation as the girls. He'd been somewhat lucky, you could say, his mother having raised him as best as she could be bothered to, then walking away and never looking back. He'd managed to find an apprenticeship and he'd been at the blacksmith's ever since. His friend, his brother, was the only person beside the old blacksmith who gave a damn about him.

Once he found his friend, he assumed they'd go to a tavern for a round or two, maybe punch out their frustrations in the inevitable brawl that would ensue seemingly like clockwork every damn night, no matter which tavern it was. Or maybe they'd just wander the streets, swigging from a bottle of rum as they took in all of the sights a den of inequity such as Tortuga had to offer...as if they hadn't spent their whole lives surrounded by it. It always fascinated him that just when you think people couldn't stoop any lower...they always did. Morals went out of the window as soon as you set foot in this place and there was always something to gawp at. Music floating out of open tavern windows, or floating out of the squares they'd set up in to take advantage of the balmy night air, providing the soundtrack to the brawls, duels, attempted murders...if not outright cold blooded murders, taking place on the streets for all to see. There was truly no shortage of horrifying entertainment.

Who knows what they would have done, where the night would have taken them, because unfortunately he hadn't made it to his friend in time and he'd been haunted by the 'ifs' ever since. If only he'd left the shop earlier, if only he hadn't decided to finish that one, last project that could have kept until the next day, if only he'd hurried through the streets rather than taking a more leisurely pace, if only he hadn't stopped to pet that mangy cat that had only hissed at him anyway...if only he hadn't been late.

The scene was vividly imprinted in his memory, and no doubt would be for the rest of his life. No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried to forget it...he saw it in picture perfect clarity every single time.

Coming out of a side road on to one of the larger roads to see people pointing and whispering as they all stared in one direction and he'd followed their gazes to see what was so riveting. He'd had an idea before he'd laid eyes on the scene, after all there was only one crew that commanded this type of atmosphere. Confrontations of any description garnered shouts, jeers and a crowd of people no matter the context, no matter if someone ended up dead. The people of Tortuga treated it like free entertainment. But there was an eery silence compared to the usual atmosphere. The blacksmith's gaze found a group of men in the middle of the road, surrounding a figure that he couldn't quite make out. This wasn't an unusual sight, a group of pirates no doubt bored, no doubt slightly intoxicated or just high on the 'anything goes' atmosphere of Tortuga, deciding to play with some unfortunate soul. The poor person had most likely done nothing wrong at all, but the pirates had no doubt perceived some imagined offence. An allegedly wrong look could be enough to trigger some of them, of course blacksmiths were the only people the pirates didn't dare to fuck with. Who else would mend their swords? Sharpen them when they became dull? Make them new ones far more grander and personal than anything they could steal...swords were important to pirates. Each one a calling card in its own right, the swords of the more well known pirates just as famous as their owners.

The pirates were pushing the person back and forth in their circle, the same kind of petty behaviour usually exhibited in this situation. Refusing to allow the person to escape no matter how hard they tried, no matter how much they pleaded. Normally it might even be slightly amusing depending on how much you disliked the person picked as the victim, but this was no ordinary pirate crew, hence the terrible, terrible atmosphere.

"Please, I'm sorry...I didn't mean to, I'm sorry"

"You're sorry are you? Well you should have thought of that before, shouldn't you?" the man seemingly in charge, the Captain, had crowed to the delighted audience of his crew. Their victim was nearing tears, desperate to get away, no doubt knowing how much more dangerous this situation was than usual.

"I-I-I don't even know what I did...please..."

"Ah, you don't know? Would you like me to tell you what you did?" the Captain leaned in close to the cowering man. "Nothing. You did absolutely nothing at all. I'm just in the mood for some fun you see, and you just happened to be there. Hurrying past with your head down like a frightened little mouse instead of hiding away like anyone with a sense of self preservation" the Captain burst in to raucous laughter, echoed swiftly by his crew.

"I-I'm...meeting a friend , my friend is waiting for me-" the blacksmith felt a prickle of unease. It couldn't be, surely? He couldn't be the only person due to meet a friend that night. This couldn't possibly be his friend. His brother.

"Aw, is that so? Well I think you're going to be a little late" the blacksmith crept closer to the scene in order to better make out the voice. A voice that became horrifyingly familiar when he wasn't straining to hear it over the crowds whispers. A litany of denial started up in his head as he started to rush forward, unsure of what exactly he was going to do as his friend, finally unable to hold it in, sobs in terror.

"Please...please...he's waiting for me...please..." he pleaded.

"Please, please" the Captain mocked before sighing in disappointment. "You're no fun, I thought you would be but all you do is blubber and whine. I've had enough of you" he held his hand out to the side, and the blacksmiths eyes widened as he froze in terrified horror as a pistol was pulled from the Captain's belt and in one smooth move was aimed straight at his friends forehead, with no hesitation whatsoever. The Captain pulled the hammer back on the weapon, before smiling viciously.

"Let's play a game, tails...you can walk away. Heads...well" the Captain looked meaningfully at the gun and where it was aimed, before producing a coin from his pocket with a flourish. He flipped it up in to the air, the blacksmiths eyes following it, his heart in his throat as his brain screamed at him to move, to do something...but what? The coin flipped over and over, up, up up, slowed minutely and then proceeded to fall back down. The Captain caught it in his cupped hand. "I hope you're feeling lucky today" he said, before slapping the hand containing the coin over the back of the hand holding his pistol. There was a pause, before the hand was slowly removed to reveal the result. The blacksmith looked at the Captain's face and he knew. He forced his feet to start moving forward, he had to do something, anything.

"Oh dear, would you look at that?" the Captain's voice was filled with faux-sincerity. It happened before the blacksmith could even blink. A loud bang ringing out through the air as the Captain shot his best friend, the closest thing he'd ever known to a brother, straight between the eyes, stopping him in his tracks. A shout tore out of the blacksmiths throat, a shout of denial, of horror...of sorrow. The pirates laughed, the Captain casually handing his weapon, smoke curling from it, off to one of his men to handle before turning his back on the scene and strolling away. Not once did he look back, none of them did, crowding after their Captain and clearly in high spirits. Laughing...cheering...it echoed in his ears as his vision tunnelled.

The blacksmith finished rushing towards his friend, finally reaching him and falling down hard to his knees in the steadily growing pool of warm blood. The other mans eyes stared sightlessly at the night sky, and the blacksmith felt something within him break at the sight. At the realisation that he was gone...he wouldn't be coming back...that now he was all alone and that this was his fault. His friend had been rushing to see him...thinking that the blacksmith would be waiting for him so instead of hiding like he should have, he'd taken his chances slipping past them. He knew better. He shouldn't have done it...but he had. For him. While he'd taken his time, strolling along without a care. Unable to hold in what he was feeling, the blacksmith let out a wail, one that tore at his throat and seemed never ending.

One that had echoed in his memory as he'd stared at the pirates rowdily making their way up the dock, towards the town. He'd spent a month wallowing in his grief, drinking to try and remove the scene from his mind as it replayed over and over, but it didn't work. Nothing did. Even sleep eluded him in favour of the horrifying scene. Something had hardened in him after that, he no longer cared for what was right or wrong. He no longer cared about himself. All he cared about was getting revenge on the man who'd so heartlessly taken his friend from him...so casually ended him as if he was putting down a dog. For entertainment...because he was bored...because he just felt like it.

He'd decided that there was only one way to bring an end to his torment, and now after all that waiting the time was finally here...he would kill that pirate Captain or he would die trying.