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bones in the ocean

Chapter Text

There’s a prisoner in the brig of Captain Blade’s ship.

This is not an unusual occurrence by any means, but the nature of the manner in which he’s found himself responsible for said prisoner is. After all, it’s not every day that you find a renowned pirate captain shackled to the wall in the port you’re meant to be replenishing supplies in, but he won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Even if said horse bites. Hard.

Technoblade’s hand still aches from getting a little too close during the arrest.

Now, thanks to the acquisition of said prisoner, he’s been forced to reroute. The Navy has a price on the head of every pirate who sails these waters, and the man currently glaring daggers at him is no exception. A dozen Navy ships have sunk to his name, and many more men, countless riches plundered from passing traders and merchants who happened to fall in his path. Pirate Captain Philza, the Angel of Death, has made himself into a living legend—or rather, a curse.

He’s long overdue back in the mainland for his hanging.

Technoblade takes no pride in escorting men to their deaths. There is no glory in trampling upon someone who’s already been defeated, but he is well aware of the devastation that’s been wrought in the name of piracy. If the rumors he’d caught as a child from the passing merchants at the docks weren’t enough to instill a fear of the skull and crossbones, then his time in the Navy certainly was. He’s seen more men fall to the likes of piracy than any other danger out on these waters, and he’s certainly not about to feel pity for one of the most formidable pirate captains on the seas.

No matter how hard it is to reconcile the Angel of Death with the man he sees before him.

The man in his cell is small and skinny and not at all what Technoblade had pictured. His skin is mottled with bruises from his struggle against the crew of the Anemoi, his hair wild and tangled. He looks more animal than man, and sounds the part, too, having hissed and howled insults as he was dragged through the town’s square and to the docks. It’s almost sad, in a way, to see a man reduced to such a state. He’d expected the man to match the legend—though perhaps in hindsight, that isn’t quite fair of him. Still, for a man with such a foreboding reputation, he can’t help but be a little disappointed by how easily Philza surrendered—though his predicament hadn’t exactly made it easy for him.

“Marooned, huh?”

“Fuck off.” His prisoner’s voice is sharp. Scathing. He’s purposely avoiding the naval captain’s gaze, looking almost bored of his confines despite his company standing outside the cell. It’s enough of a show of disrespect to spark fury in Technoblade’s gut, but what else could he expect from a pirate?  

“What’d you manage to do to piss of yer’ crew that much?”

Philza grins, all sharp teeth and glaring daggers.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

And Technoblade laughs

It’s been a while since he’s met anyone brave enough to speak up to him like this. He shouldn’t have expected anything less from a silver-tongued pirate.

“Keep your secrets, then,” he says, with a wave of his hand. “You'll have plenty of time to think about it down here. ‘Fraid you’re on your own, though. This isn’t actually a prison vessel—just the one cell.”

“Aww, mate, you’re not gonna pay me a visit?” There’s a smirk on Philza’s lips, eerily predatory and yet the sparkle in his eyes is something inquisitive, and he can see the way his gaze seems to linger hopefully. Solitude is bad for any man, even a pirate. And the cabin boy shouldn’t have to be subject to the pirate’s taunts any longer than he must. And Technoblade is curious about the man, no matter how hard he tries to hide it. And so he takes a deep breath and sighs and watches Philza’s grin widen with delight.

“You do care!” he says teasingly, with a little clap of his hands. Technoblade merely raises one eyebrow.

“I’ll visit you, if— ” he fixes the man with a long look, and Philza holds up his hands placatingly, “—and only if you’re on your best behavior.”

Philza laughs, and crosses his heart with a little faux salute for good measure.

“You have my word.”

The word of a pirate, of course, means nothing.

“Meals will be once a day, in the evening. Misbehavior will result in the absence of those meals. We only have to keep you alive long enough to reach shore, so I wouldn’t try anythin’ funny. Understood?”

“Crystal clear, mate.”

“Good.”

“…”

“…”

“So… are we done here? Can I get back to my nap, or are you just gonna stare at me all day?” 

Technoblade huffs.

“Yeah, I’ll leave you to it,” he deadpans. “Got any questions before I go?”

There’s a soft inhale, so faint he barely catches it. He catches a fist clenching at the prisoner’s waist, a straightening of his back as his gaze flits briefly away from Technoblade and toward the stairs that lead to the deck. Philza hums quietly and taps his fingers, pondering the question for far longer than necessary before he finally speaks again.

“...Did you manage to catch any of the others?” The man’s tone is light, but Technoblade is no fool. He catches the gleam in those sharp blue eyes—sees the slightest tilt of the head like a cat ready to pounce. And oh, isn’t that a pleasant surprise. It seems he has some sort of leverage to work with after all. Maybe it’ll keep that tongue of his in check a while longer, for the sake of Technoblade’s sanity for the next few weeks. 

And so he stays silent, and watches as the pirate’s face crumples ever-so-slightly in response. Nothing much—a slight twitch of the brow, a downturn of his lips—but a reaction, nevertheless; a show of expression other than the smug arrogance he’d been radiating ever since his capture. 

Interesting. There will be time to unpack that later, but for now…

“It’s a two-week journey if the winds favor us. Try anythin’ funny, and we’ll be movin’ your grave to the bottom of the sea instead of the gallows.” He stays just long enough to see the man’s lip curl and a particular finger raise in his general direction before he sweeps up the stairs, leaving the pirate to wallow alone in the brig with only his thoughts and the dim light of a candle to keep him company.

 


 

The days pass by slowly. 

Captain Blade spends his time loitering about the deck, muttering soft instructions to his crew, and secluding himself away in his quarters. He pores over maps and charts their course again and again, and yet there’s nothing that can keep the steady nagging out of his mind. On one such afternoon, he lets out a muffled groan as once more his mind caves into the persistent urge, leaving him unable to focus on his work a moment longer.

He wants to visit Philza again.

He’s taken to bringing the man his evening meals under the pretense of “checking on the prisoner”, but the truth of the matter is that the pirate captain, oddly enough, intrigues him. The prisoner’s stubborn resilience is an annoyance, but impressive nevertheless, and his sharp tongue is growing less scathing with each passing day. There’s a mutual understanding of sorts between them: they are enemies, but they each nourish the barest hint of respect for the other, and so their conversations maintain a sort of civility while Philza eats.

Though… “civility” might be a stretch. Pirates aren’t exactly known for their manners, and Technoblade’s already had food lobbed into his hair once when the meal was deemed unsatisfactory. He’d stormed out of the cell in a rage, leaving Philza to plaintively whine about his empty stomach, as if it hadn’t been his fault it was empty in the first place. He’d spent an hour after washing and untangling his messy braid, all the while muttering curses about ungrateful prisoners.

In hindsight, it may have been a bit funny.

Regardless of the reasons, he can’t deny that something draws him to keep visiting each evening. He knows he should be horrified by his actions—that the Technoblade of the past would be disgusted to see him mingling with a criminal, but he’s grown bored of the monotony of his leadership over flat waters, and speaking with their prisoner is the closest thing to excitement he’s felt in a long time.

And so it becomes routine. 

Today is no exception. Once more, Technoblade finds himself meandering down to the lower levels of the ship, into the furthest corner where little light reaches, save for the flicker of a candle and the faint stream of light through the cracks of the floorboards above. He isn’t fond of the brig—hating the way it secludes, dreading its narrow walls and tight corners—but prison isn’t designed to be comfortable.

Philza is waiting for him when he arrives. He looks different today—sat beside the bars, one hand clutching white-knuckled around the cold iron. His shoulders are hunched, his back stiff, his eyes glazed as he stares off into nothingness, jolting only when the steps creak loudly beneath Technoblade’s boots.

“Philza?” He can’t keep the note of concern out of his voice, taking in the dark shadows under the man’s eyes and the messy, unkempt state of his hair, which curtains his face like a veil as he abruptly turns his cheek. 

“Captain.” Philza’s voice is short. Clipped. It lacks the usual mirth, instead low and hollow and almost threatening. It’s enough to catch Technoblade off guard, and he’s abruptly reminded that the man is in chains for a reason. He isn’t down here to visit a friend, he’s down here to check on the prisoner. He straightens, squaring his shoulders and assuming a commanding posture, staring down at the man who glares right back up at him, coiled tight like a venomous snake ready to spring. It’s a striking contrast to his attitude for the last few days—often lounging about his cell, sprawling out on his back or kicking up his feet. He looks defensive—feral, almost—his lip curling and his muscles tensing like a cornered animal. 

“What’s wrong with you?” And oh, that didn't quite come out how he intended, but he’s never been the best at softening the blow, and so the harsh words spill from his lips before he gets a chance to bite them back. Philza’s reaction is instantaneous—a soft hiss as he recoils from the bars of the cage, stalking away from Technoblade and pressing himself back into the corner. 

“You try being trapped in a cage without sunlight for a week and tell me how you feel, mate.” The final syllable is practically spat in his direction.

Technoblade scoffs.

“Maybe you should’ve thought of that before convertin’ to a life of piracy. Have you ever considered a career change?”

Philza laughs at that. It’s brittle and hollow and lacks any of the warmth it had in the past, making the hairs on the back of his neck prickle like the hackles of a cat as he squirms beneath the pirate’s gaze. It’s piercing, level and cold as ice as the man seems to take a moment to stare into his very soul. He makes a soft sound, somewhere between a hum and a growl, and Technoblade isn’t sure he liked what he saw there.

“Have you? Being the navy’s personal dog doesn’t suit a guy like you.”

“Better than murderin’ and pillagin’ innocent people for a livin’,” he snaps right back, and swallows back the uncomfortable flicker he feels in his throat when he catches the slightest flinch in response. He’s poking an angry bull, but by the gods does it feel good, after the days of insults and mockery he’s received.

“Innocent?” Philza hisses, baring his teeth. “You think the Royal Navy is innocent? You think you’re out there doing good?” He laughs, and this time it’s bitter and condescending and makes Technoblade’s blood boil. “Mate, have I got news for you. I’m no saint—never claimed to be—but your boss? The crown? He’s an absolute piece of shit if I ever saw one. You’re no better than I am.”

That’s it.

Technoblade tosses the food in his hands aside, ignoring the childish whine of annoyance his prisoner makes at the sight of his meal splattering against the wall. He strides up to the bars, wrapping one hand around them, drawing himself up to full height as he shapes his voice into something far calmer than he’s actually feeling, forcing his lips into a strained smile.

“Captain Philza.”

“That’s my name mate, don’t wear it out.”

“Your reputation precedes you, y’know.”

“Does it, now?” Philza watches him coyly from where he’s now leaning against the wall, arms folded around his chains and gaze half-lidded, his lips curled in an arrogant, cat-like smirk. 

“The Angel of Death, the ferryman of the Styx, the terror of the western seas. One of the most feared captains ever to sail, and yet, I have to wonder… how did a man like you end up all on his own? We searched the area where you were found—not another soul in sight. So,” He fixes him with a long look, allowing the silence to hover like a dark cloud, the words rolling off of his tongue with all the venom and smugness he can muster, “—tell me, Philza. Where is your crew?”

Philza goes abruptly silent, his smile vanishing. 

It’s a low blow, Technoblade knows it is, but by gods, he’s had just about enough of the pirate’s conniving lies and teasing tongue. Only… Philza suddenly averts his gaze, but before he does, Technoblade catches the faintest flicker of something dark amidst the blue—a flash of some deeper sorrow. He blinks, and it’s gone, replaced with something far closer to rage. Philza’s smile does not return. The room feels dark, and quiet, and sad.

So perhaps Technoblade feels the faintest regret after all.

The silence between them stretches on for far too long before Technoblade eventually clears his throat. 

“Right. I’ll have the cabin boy bring all of yer’ meals from now on.” Philza looks nearly ready to argue at that before his jaws click shut once more, a sneer twisting his features into something ugly. Technoblade plows on. “Just a few more days. I’ll see you when we reach the shore.” He fails to mention that the arrival at the port would be their final meeting. He doesn’t think he can stomach attending the execution. Not after he’s started to see the man before him as Philza, rather than “Captain Philza” or the “Angel of Death” or even just a mere pirate. 

No. He can’t watch. Nor can he stand to feel that spiteful gaze linger any longer on him. And so, like a coward, he turns and flees, and tries not to remember the too-human look of grief in the prisoner’s eyes.

The brig is eerily quiet behind him.

 


 

There’s a storm brewing.

Technoblade can smell it in the air, can feel it in his bones. Any captain worth his salt knows to recognize the first warning signs long before the arrival. The sky is clear and blue and bright, but he’s long since learned to trust his gut, and so with short, clipped words he orders his crew to their positions, bracing the ship for what’s to come. Sails are secured, lifelines tied, hatches battened down while Technoblade scrutinizes their work with a careful eye.

You can never be too cautious out on the sea.

They’re miles away from any coastline, still at least a day’s journey from their destination if the winds are in their favor. They’ll need to navigate the storm cautiously. Luckily for his crew, Captain Blade has always been the epitome of overpreparation. The crew of the Anemoi has full trust in their captain to see them safely through the storm and to shore.

Their prisoner is less confident in his abilities.

Technoblade brings him his evening meal, one last time. As promised, the cabin boy had taken over this duty, but he’d received word that the prisoner was starting to refuse the meals. Not keen on losing their captive before reaching shore, he’s decided to take it upon his own shoulders to make the man eat. He’ll force him if he must—never mind that the prisoner doesn’t need to be at his full strength for a hanging. He expected to be cursed at, to be screamed at and mocked, or even to receive the same silent treatment he’d been given at the end of their last talk. But what he does not expect is exactly what happens. 

The man takes one look at him, tips his head back, and laughs.

“Heh?”

This only serves to make Philza laugh even harder, his head thumping against the wall and his chains rattling as he giggles like a child; until his cheeks tinge pink and tears glitter at the corners of his eyes. Only then does he stop, heaving for breath and waving a hand around to fan his flushed face. Technoblade just stares blankly, unamused. 

“You’re fucked,” he wheezes, doubling over as far as the chains will allow him, the meager scraps of food abandoned at his feet. “Should’ve stayed at port for this one, mate.” 

Technoblade’s lip curls into an ugly sneer at the callous tone.

“Hope you’re not too attached to this piece of junk, it’s not gonna make it out of this storm in one piece.” Philza gives a condescending pat of the wooden floorboards he’s resting on, all the while holding Technoblade’s gaze with that same cool arrogance he’s come to loathe in the past two weeks. 

“It’s just a storm. We’ve braved a dozen before.”

Philza’s delight only grows.

“Keep telling yourself that, mate. But if I were you, I’d be saying your prayers now.”

And the boat lurches.

Technoblade steadies himself against the wall as Philza’s cackles grow louder and louder, as the ship begins to steadily bob and the nearby candle is snuffed by a strong gust of wind that cuts down the passageway and into the narrow space. Bewildered, he glances up toward the deck as footsteps begin to pound overhead.

There’s no way it could have reached them so soon—there hadn’t been so much as a cloud on the horizon when he’d descended to the brig. Unless…

This isn’t just any storm.

“I think that’s your cue, Captain,” the pirate grins, and tosses his head toward the steps. “Go on now. Good luck!” And then he’s laughing again—laughing as Technoblade surges up the stairs in a thunder of pounding boots against wooden planks, laughing even as the door slams shut and leaves him in total darkness.

Technoblade throws open the door and steps outside.

Water sprays his face, salty and cold and unexpected as he steps back up onto the deck. The ship gives another violent rock, and it’s then that Technoblade notices the line of clouds beginning to brew on the horizon, heavy and dark and swirling in a way that’s making the waves froth around them, tossing the ship back and forth before the storm has even set upon them. It’s approaching, thundering toward them with a sound as loud as the heavens themselves beginning to crumble, and it isn’t slowing.

They’re not going to be able to outrun it.

Technoblade curses, vaulting up to the quarter deck to stand beside the wheel, where his helmsman is already grappling to keep their course steady. 

“Stow the cannons!” he shouts, gripping the rungs with white-knuckles, taking over as his helmsman goes to do just that—all other hands preoccupied with securing the sails. If they can’t outrun it, they can’t risk having them open. Storms out on these waters can tear sails and masts alike, and a broken mast would spell certain doom for the entire crew. It takes half of his men to secure them, leaving the rest floundering to douse the lamps and other hazards around the deck.

It’s pandemonium in the minutes before the storm surrounds their ship in darkness. 

Amidst the din of stampeding feet and panicked shouts, he can still hear the faint, cackling laugh of Philza ringing out. For some reason, it fills him with a sense of eerie dread.

The storm sets upon them with savagery only the sea itself possesses. The crew of the Anemoi is competent and quick to act under the pressure, but the winds are violent and the waves high, and their vessel is quickly thrown off course. They fight an uphill battle against the ocean’s wrath, and it’s akin to a single, foolish man taking on an entire army singlehanded. They are helpless in the tide, tossed about and turned around, the wind howling around them like an angry chorus. Thunder booms around them and lightning crackles across the sky, the heavens opening up to flood them with a torrential downpour so heavy they can scarcely see through the spray.

And then disaster strikes.

Lightning splits the sky once more, and the central mast goes down in a pillar of fire and flame and smoldering wood, the crew reeling as it smashes into the deck with a devastating boom. Wood splinters beneath its weight, tearing a hole in the hull, and the deck quickly dissolves into chaos as water begins to spill into the lower levels of the ship. And then it’s every man for himself, all pretense of order abandoned as the crew realizes their fate and begins to make for any semblance of safety.

The ship is going down, whether to the tear in its hull or the might of the waves bearing down on them. One way or another, they may only have moments left in this world.

Technoblade isn’t a religious man, but as he stands alone amidst the shouts and screams of his crew, he finds himself following Philza’s earlier advice and praying to whatever god might hear him for a way out of this.

Philza.

Regretfully, he shoots a look at the now-flooded stairwell. Their prisoner had been forgotten in the scramble, and he pities him, for death by drowning is an unpleasant and dishonorable way to go. Chained and barred as he was, it’s unlikely he’s still alive, even if by some miracle he’s managed to find a pocket of air in the flooded lower level of the ship. Technoblade can’t spare the time it would take to save him. There’s no use in rescuing a man already on death row—not when the fate of the rest of his crew is still on the line.

He shouts orders as best he can, but they’re lost to the rush of wind and rain and sound, leaving his crew to fend for themselves. Technoblade makes to guide some of the stragglers to the lone dinghy at the ship’s starboard, but it’s already gone—though lost to those who had come first or the sea’s cruel grasp, he isn’t sure. It doesn’t matter, because, in the next moment, a wave sweeps over the deck and knocks his men overboard, ripping a sorrowful cry from him as he watches their heads bob once, twice in the water before being sucked into the dark depths below. He can do nothing but watch as their souls are lost to the sea, for it takes all he has to cling to the railing himself, lest he is swept away. 

And then he sees it. 

The biggest wave of them all, towering over the ship, so massive in size that it dwarfs one of the navy’s largest vessels in its shadow. Technoblade freezes in place—the screams and shouts of the men around him muted beneath the roar of blood in his ears as he looks into the eyes of death itself, and finds that he fears it.

For all his strengths, for all his wits, for all his cunning, Captain Blade has but one Achilles’ Heel: 

He’s never been the strongest swimmer.

So when he’s tossed overboard alongside his remaining crew by the wave as it crashes over the deck, he sinks like a stone. He fights his way back to the surface on pure strength alone, but he’s only able to catch half a breath before he’s knocked right back under by the next wave. Seawater fills his mouth and throat, and reflexively he coughs, which only worsens the burn in his lungs. The world is swirling around him, and he’s got no clue which way is up or down as he’s tossed about like a ragdoll in the swirling currents of the storm. He claws desperately for purchase in the frigid waters, but to no avail as the depths of the sea suck him further and further below. It becomes harder and harder to keep fighting the longer he’s under, the steady cold dragging the breath from his lungs, numbing his limbs and slowing his heart to a dull, steady beat. A pleasant emptiness begins to fill him, the burn in his lungs diminishing to a tickle as he stares, half-lidded, at the ruins of his ship as it sinks to its watery grave. Like any good captain, he is ready to sink alongside it, to surrender to the encroaching darkness.

And then strong arms curl around his waist and heave.  

He breaches the surface in an explosion of air and sound, his lungs heaving as he chokes on the liquid in them, unable to catch his breath. Something strikes the space between his shoulder blades, hard, and the next cough sends the water spilling from his lungs in a rush, burning his mouth and nose until he can finally, blessedly breathe. It’s only then that he hears the panicked shouts over the roar of the storm, and feels the way the hands on him have begun to slip. He clings desperately to his savior, unintentionally shoving them beneath the waves for a moment before they resurface with a cough and an angry snarl. 

“Fucking—shit—swim, you idiot! You’ll drown us both!” 

He doesn’t recognize the rasping voice at first; not until the water clears from his eyes and he catches a glimpse of bright blonde amidst the dark, choppy waters around them. It’s Philza. His own prisoner is saving him from certain death, miraculously free from his cell, though there are still chains clinging to his wrists. His enemy’s teeth are bared in a desperate snarl, and then a boot strikes his shin, and he’s reminded promptly to kick. He treads water like his life depends on it, all the while clinging to the pirate like a lifeline as the man makes for the nearest piece of rubble floating amidst the towering waves. 

Only, it’s not rubble at all. 

It’s the ship’s lone dinghy.

Dazed and bewildered, he finds himself not much help at all as the man drags them both aboard. His head is spinning, his limbs heavy and limp beneath him, his breathing wet and gurgling, his gaze half-lidded as he slumps against the floor of the little boat, which is already covered with a layer of water that steadily rises with each wave that crashes over them. He’s content to just lay there, gasping for breath, but a boot nudges his ribs none-too-gently, forcing him to roll over and stare up at his rescuer. Captain Philza blinks down at him, the wind tugging at sodden blonde strands, fresh crimson staining down his cheek from a cut above his brow, a wild grin stretching across his face.

He’s on his feet in a second, the boat rocking violently beneath his feet, threatening to pitch him forward back into the waves. He hears a surprised shout from the pirate, who nearly loses his own balance, gripping onto the side of their little raft with white knuckles and a glare so sharp it could cut steel. Technoblade pays him no heed, drawing his weapon with an unsteady snarl.

Philza swats it away like a child’s toy. It clatters to land in the puddle at his feet.

“The fuck, mate?”

“Don’t need a pirate savin’ me…” His tongue feels clumsy and unfamiliar in his mouth, the world swirling around him—and it isn’t just because of the waves. His knees tremble beneath him like the legs of a newborn calf, threatening to give way at any moment. Still, he’d rather die a fool than subject himself to the likes of playing the damsel in distress for a criminal

Philza snorts.

“If you wanna go for another swim, be my guest.”

Technoblade opens his mouth for a snappy retort, but a strong wave sends him crashing back to the ground. He catches himself with his wrists in inch-deep water and stays there, feeling more like a drowned rat than a dignified naval captain. Thoroughly humiliated, he lays there until he catches a glimpse of worn boots stepping his way once more.

“Y’ were plannin’ this,” he slurs, as deft hands force him upright again, the cool metal of a bucket pressed into his hands. “You were goin’ to escape durin’ the storm…”

“Yep.” Philza pops the ‘p’ with a harsh clap to Technoblade’s shoulder. “Now start bailing. We’ve got a long way to go to get to shore.”

 


 

He’s not really sure how they make it back to shore in a tiny dinghy manned by a crew of two, but somehow they do it over the span of a couple more days at sea, the storm having thankfully propelled them in the right direction. He spends half of it unconscious, much to the chagrin of his rescuer, who spends his waking hours spitting snide comments and cracking awful jokes. He laughs along to shut him up faster—not because he finds them funny—and they only increase in frequency. Needless to say, his pounding headache caused by near-drowning and subsequent dehydration has been sufficiently worsened by the constant chatter of his companion. Philza is an endless stream of noise, talking to himself when Technoblade won’t—or can’t —reply, keeping himself occupied with mindless tales of his escapades which Technoblade definitely doesn’t care to hear. 

He’s only leaning forward because Philza’s speaking too softly, okay?

He hates every minute. Though, somehow, it’s not the worst two days of his life.

He’s not sure if it’s the gratitude muddling his thoughts, or if he’s actually someone charmed by Philza's eccentric personality. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, in the end, because he can’t look at the man he once considered the enemy without feeling those arms lifting him up and seeing blonde hair like a halo of light amidst the storm.

An angel, indeed. 

An angel of death, though? He’s still not certain.

Despite the rumors, he can’t seem to correlate this goofy man to the one of myth. The tales spoke of a man as merciless as the sea itself, of certain death for any ship unfortunate enough to cross his path. The Philza he sees is lighthearted and warm, if a bit guarded, and the stories he tells are not ones of cruelty and death, but of triumph and wit and adventure.

He listens as the pirate weaves stories of great battles and dangerous stealth missions, of glory and conquest and comradery. What strikes him as most peculiar is the way the man’s pride seems to vanish when he speaks of his crew—callous words sprinkled with obscenities somehow radiating only the most gentle fondness and appreciation. It’s not hard to see the man’s love for his ship and the men at his side, especially when he accredits his success to them, and it makes Technoblade wonder what could have possibly happened to turn them against him so strongly.

He doesn’t dare breach the subject, for fear of being tossed overboard.

Philza touches upon it though. He often gets so caught up in reminiscing that he forgets what got him in this situation in the first place, and when that happens the mood goes from bright and cheery to something far more somber. 

“My first mate,” Philza says, while paddling late at night. “He’s a good lad. Found him when he was just a boy, stowed away in our grain barrels.” There’s a smile on his face, bright as the sun, the shadows under his eyes seeming to dull for a minute as he loses himself in the memories. “Kid’s smarter than a whip. Swear he has the stars memorized by now. A voice like a songbird, too—puts my pipes to shame when he gets the crew singing.” He sighs, abandoning his paddling to stare up at the stars, which cast a perfect mirror in the still waters around them. “I suppose I thought of him like a son, of a sort, but—”

He breaks off, his voice pealing off into breathy, nervous laughter. The shadow over his eyes returns.

“Guess he didn’t quite feel the same, huh?”

Technoblade, half-conscious and in a world of pain, merely grunts.

Philza goes quiet again after that. His stories peter off into short tales that lack his usual fire, and so Technoblade spends the remainder of their journey teetering on the edge of consciousness but never quite fighting his way fully back into reality.

When their boat mercifully bumps against the old wood of the docks of a small seaside town’s port, he barely notices as strong arms hoist him up and out of the boat. There’s a warm pressure beneath his shoulders and knees; an odd feeling of weightlessness as the world tilts around him from behind half-lidded lashes. He’s suddenly all-too-aware of his body’s exhaustion, of the dryness of his tongue and lips and the odd gurgling in his lungs that tells of water not properly expelled. There’s a commotion around him, a multitude of shouts. He vaguely registers Philza’s voice, oddly calm amidst the panic, and then new arms are lifting him up, pulling him away from the pirate.

There’s a soft jingle of coins.

“This should be enough to cover his care.”

Blearily, he opens his eyes to see Philza staring down at him with an inscrutable expression. The man’s face twists into a smile when he catches Technoblade watching, and then he’s winking and raising a single finger to his lips with a tilt of the head.

“See you around, mate.”

The last thing he sees is Philza vanishing into the crowd, his merry laugh breaking through the soft murmurs of the people gathered around him.

And then the pull of unconsciousness becomes too great to ignore, and the world goes dark once more.