Dipper had had enough, the English government had followed him all the way to Japan. The last time he had eaten was three days ago and today he would eat something. Japan had been good to him for the few weeks he resided there; the English soldiers were unable to enter the country due to a conflict and a few people were around to buy him whatever he needed.
Unfortunately, those few people were hospitalized and now he had no money. There was only one thing left to do, use his acquired skills to get as much food as he could before disappearing again.
As the evening set in Dipper sat on the roof of his hideout. He grabbed his bags and pulled his hood up. A thief had tried to break into the house he hid in since its occupants were gone. Dipper quickly knocked him out and stole his clothes to blend in. The poor kid had woken up outside the next morning in tattered clothes. Dipper left the weapons by his side. To stave off the guilt.
The market was packed with people tonight as the sounds from a festival filled the streets and he couldn't wait to just take everything he needed in the confusion. The biggest crowd made the easiest target. Walking down the isles he found food and other various goods and he stuffed most of them into his bags with a barely concealed smile. No one noticed anything missing.
Then something caught his eye, a jewellery stand with expensive gems and shining metals. Making his way over to the stand was a much harder task than he first thought. Many people pushed him around in different directions as they moved, making it harder for him to slide through the crowd. Finally, he made it over to the stand. No one was there to protect the goods and he stared at the jewels a little confused.
"What the hell?" he spoke more to himself than anybody around.
Shrugging he looked over the jewels in curiosity. He wouldn't need them for anything so grabbing them was pointless. Though a pair of earrings caught his attention and drew his eyes. They were deep blue sapphires cut into the shape of a pine tree surrounded in silver that was carved into a dream catcher. There were feathers hanging from small strings delicately attached to the silver. A rather unusual jewellery indeed.
He laughed a little at how ironic it was, he wasn't getting much sleep recently due to nightmares. They seemed to resurface every time he arrived at a new place.
He swiftly grabbed the earrings, pocketed them and started walking away. As if on cue a group of people made their way over to him. All carrying various weapons in their belts.
"Hi fellas, how can I help you?" He asked with a small smile.
The largest in the group pointed to the bags and frowned. They started to relax when Dipper grabbed his bags and opened them one by one revealing empty rooms. Of course, they really weren't and he was hiding the stolen goods in hidden pockets that were attached to the bags. You did what you could to survive out there.
After showing them the bags were empty, he reached down to empty his trouser pockets but stopped after remembering the earrings. The group noticed this and tensed again.
One stepped forward just a bit and Dipper started running. He weaved his way through the crowd while the group chased after him. He smiled, remembering the days he and Mabel used to steal from the wealthy families in England. That wouldn't be happening any time soon though... He shook his head and kept on running.
For hours the group kept coming. No matter where he hid he couldn't find any place to escape. The only other place he could go was the port and hope someone would help him out. He was currently hiding in a dark alley behind an inn he had stayed at. Watching the group pass the alleyway, Dipper rushed to the port taking the back roads. He jumped over crates and fences till the port appeared in his sight. Smiling he ran faster as the ships came into view. Though his happiness was short lived as he collided with another person and tumbled to the ground. The sound of air being knocked out of lungs was heard as the world spun around him. "Shit, what was that?" he asked himself.
"You a'ight lad?" The voice startled Dipper out of his dizziness and he looked underneath him. There, was a man with a grin on his face and a dangerous look in his eye that almost said 'get off before I smash your face in'. Quickly Dipper apologized and stood up offering his hand.
"S-Sorry! I was running and I didn't see you there." The man just smiled at him and took his hand. Dipper looked away in guilt as he pulled the other up.
"And what might you have been running from?" The man asked and Dipper froze. What should he say? He couldn't very well admit to being a thief, the man would only try to arrest him, especially since he still held Dipper's hand in a vice-like grip. He subconsciously loosened his own hand.
Dipper thought for a second before opening his mouth to speak. "I wasn't running 'from' anything. I was just running because I enjoy it." He spoke with confidence and the grin on the other quickly turned into a frown.
"I wouldn't lie if I was you lad." The man replied as if he knew what was happening and Dipper squirmed under his gaze. The single eye staring back seemed to see deeper than any human had the right to do.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Dipper replied with a hint of irritation in his voice.
"Oh, I think you do and you just won't admit it." The grin was back and the man released his hand to slide his arm around Dipper's shoulders instead, effectively trapping him. "As a matter of fact, I bet you just stole a lot of stuff from the festival and are running from the law." The man had an almost crazy look in his eye now.
Dipper sighed in defeat.
"I could help ya if you want. Just gotta promise not to screw me over." The man offered his hand and Dipper looked at him like he was crazy. Which he probably was.
Dipper thought about his options before finally giving in. Better to be on a ship away from the law. He could always escape should they try something. He grabbed the man's hand and shook without a second glance. The man's smile grew wider and he dragged Dipper over to a ship.
"The name is Bill Cipher by the way. This-" he gestured to the ship "Is the Mindscape. She is your home and your lifeline. Treat her with respect and take care of her, if you don't, then you'll be swimming with the fish." Bill yanked Dipper onto the deck and looked at his crew. "This is your family now, get used to them because you'll be with them for a while."
Dipper looked over the group of people on the deck. They were staring at him as if he was a piece of fresh fruit ready for the picking. With a sigh, he looked at the captain with a look of utter defeat. What had he gotten himself into? They couldn't be normal merchants. It had to be a concealed pirate ship. Then, before he could say anything his eyes saw nothing but blackness. His body fell to the floor and he heard a laugh before passing out. Shit.
The sound of water moving and the rocking motion of the ship had Bill smiling. He had just knocked out the kid he brought onto the ship. The other pirates were looking at him in anticipation.
"Don't just stand there you lousy bunch, get to work!" he yelled out.
His first mate Wendy walked over to him with a smug look. "I see you've caught yourself another. What did he do?" She gestured to the boy.
"Apparently he stole a lot of things from the festival but got caught so he ran away. Ran right into me, the lad! I almost stabbed him on the spot." He looked at the boy with a toothy grin.
The redhead raised her eyebrow and smiled. "Well don't let 'im sit here! He'll get a cold, you idiot." She laughed as Bills grin fell. "Don't worry we'll pack the rest of the supplies and get the ship moving before morning." She rolled her eyes and walked back to the wheel.
With a huff, Bill set to carrying dipper back to the captain's cabin. He lifted the boy into his arms, marvelling at his weight, and walked over the deck while dodging and manoeuvring around various objects. Once inside the cabin, he locked the door and placed the boy on the bed.
"Welcome to your new home kid." He quickly covered the kid in blankets and laid down beside him. No need to sleep in his chair with a bed big enough for two. Slowly he drifted off to sleep with the sound of gentle snoring and the crashing of waves surrounding him.
Dipper woke with a start at the sound of a door slamming and shouting. He groaned at the throbbing pain in his head. Where was he? He sat up slowly, holding his head in his hands.
He was in a room full of different objects, some that people would think were fake. Though Dipper knew those objects were real, after all, he'd seen them before and was all too familiar with mythical creatures.
He saw the claws and teeth of what he assumed was a hell dog and the fins of a mermaid. Vile creatures mermaids were. A disgrace and terrible at catching prey. Though they were his cousins in a sense, he himself was a half breed between a human and a siren.
Of course, he had never actually experienced his siren side but seeing his sister swim in the water with a tail and fins was enough. His mother had said he was just 'A late bloomer' and that it would happen in no time.
But she had said that 8 years ago before she had died a week later. His father already having been dead meant he and his sister had to live with their great uncles Stan and Ford.
To say they were the best family they had ever met was a lie. Stan was a swindler and Ford did nothing but research mythical creatures. He missed them but having done what he did he couldn't go back to them. Especially Mabel.
The sound of the door slamming open a second time made him jump and fall out of the bed. He hissed at the pain of hitting his head on the floor and the throbbing sensation of a headache.
"Mornin sleepin' beauty!" The sound of a woman's voice filled the room and he looked up at said woman with a scowl. "Aw sorry did I scare ya?" She laughed and walked over to help him up. "The names Wendy by the way." She said as he was helped back onto the bed. He raised his eyebrows as he examined her features.
Bright red hair was pulled back into a braid and a bandana covered her forehead. Tattered clothing framed her body and chains of gold was littered everywhere. Probably stolen, but he couldn't really judge anyone for that.
He cleared his throat before speaking. "So Wendy, where am I and why am I here?"
The redhead grinned before replying. "You, my friend, are on the Mindscape. The only ship who can survive any and every threat of the sea. You are here because you asked our captain for help. So now you owe him, you will be going with us to various places till your debt is paid off. But first I'm going to give you a checkup. So strip."
Having listened to Wendy, Dipper started to make sense of everything that happened. Wait. Did she just tell him to strip? His face paled and he frantically looked for a way out of this.
"C'mon kid I've seen plenty of guys naked so just do it." She asked with an annoyed voice.
Dipper looked directly at her and shook his head. "I don't think that's a very good idea. You see-"
Before he could try to explain his shirt was ripped off to reveal many scars and tattoos. But the thing that stood out was the pale blue scales that covered his skin lightly in patches. He tried to cover himself as the woman stared in awe.
"W-what are you?" She asked in wonder.
Dipper looked down at the ground and sighed in defeat. Well, he couldn't get away with a lie now. With a groan, he started to explain. "I'm a half breed between a human and a siren. We're kind of like a shapeshifter, able to take the form of what we need wherever we are. We can have legs if we need to walk on land, or we could have a tail and gills if we need to swim."
Wendy stood up quickly and turned towards the door. "I need to tell the captain." She ran out the door and locked it before Dipper could protest.
Seeing his first mate Wendy walking towards him put a smile on Bill's face. Though it quickly turned to a frown when he saw how serious she looked.
"What? Were his bones broken?" Bill asked.
She shook her head and pulled him away from the others to talk privately. "He's not human. Well, he is but he isn't at the same time," she said, clearly confused herself.
"What do you mean he's human but isn't?" Bill frowned and cocked his brow. Had she hit her head? Had the kid attacked her?
She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "He says he's some sort of half breed between a siren and a human. For fuck's sake, he has random patches of fish scales on his body! He's not human!" Her eyes widened with sudden realization. "If he's half siren doesn't that mean-"
Then it dawned on Bill too. Sirens were known to kill and eat prey by luring them in with songs.
As quickly as possible he ran back to the cabin and unlocked it. Bill slowly opened the door and found the kid looking at one of his maps on the desk.
"Hey, kid. What'cha looking at?" The kid jumped at his voice and put the map down. He looked up at Bill with wide eyes, fear and trepidation clear in his eyes. They almost seemed to shimmer in some unseen light.
"So, I've been told you're half siren. Can you uh- sing?"
The question caught the kid off guard. "No, I c-can't sing. W-why d-" The kid looked about ready to pass out before he took a deep breath. "Why do you ask?"
Bill sighed in relief and entered the room fully before closing the door. "Well ya'know. Stories of sirens luring sailors out to their death by singing." He slumped into the chair by the desk, stretching his arms.
Bill looked towards the kid when he started to chuckle. "What's so funny?"
The boy looked up with a grin on his face, sharp teeth showing in the sunlight. How had Bill not noticed them until now? He tightened his grip on the chair and stared at the teeth. He could have ripped their throats out at any moment. So why hadn't he?
The boy looked down and frowned for a moment before looking back up. "The name is Dipper. Dipper Pines."
With a grin, Bill stood and grabbed Dipper by the shoulder. "Well 'Dipper' do you know why you're here?" He asked and the kid struggled to get out of his hold. He only held on tighter.
"I'm here because I apparently owe you a debt for helping me. And I would appreciate it if you didn't touch me." Bill let go and the kid stumbled back onto the bed.
"You better get used to that because I am very touchy." Bill turned with a grin and cracked his knuckles. "Now then, let's go meet the rest of the family." With a wink, he strode out of the door.
The captain dragged Dipper to the middle of the ship with a grin on his face. He could handle whatever the captain threw his way. He just had to hold on until they reached the next port. Then he could disappear in the crowd and find a merchant instead. Someone he could simply pay to take him with them.
The sun glared in their eyes as they stepped outside. Looking around Dipper noticed that they were no longer docked at the port, meaning they had already left while he was passed out. The captain manoeuvred them to the quarterdeck and called for attention from the crew.
"Alright, you lazy piles of shit! This here boy is our newest member, Dipper Pines." He shouted over the crowd and into Dipper's ear. With a chuckle, Bill turned him towards the group of people.
"Dipper, these are the people in command under me. Wendy the first mate, Soos the second, Casper the medic, and Pyronica the navigator. If you need anything don't hesitate to ask." He pointed to each one then turned Dipper back around to himself. "The rest you can ignore and avoid. As for now, you will learn to tie the ropes."
Dipper looked at him unimpressed. The ropes? Really? He could do that just fine. He had learned it when his great uncles invited him to go with them on their own ship. Of course, he wouldn't tell the captain that.
With a sigh, he nodded to the group of 'important' people. Then waved to the rest of the crew.
"Well okay then, let's get to work." After saying that Bill looked at Dipper confused.
"Really? No questions? No 'I can't believe I'm on a ship full of pirate's'?" He asked. Dipper just shrugged. "Alright then! GET TO WORK!" He shouted to the crew and they reluctantly moved back to their workspaces.
Wendy walked up and smiled but Dipper could see she was worried. He would be too if he found out there was a siren on the ship.
"Glad to know you'll be working with us." She held out her hand. It was subtle, but a fine shaking of fear could be seen if you looked close enough. Dipper started to laugh and took her hand in his. He had never experienced fear from anyone towards him.
"Well, it's all right. I don't bite," he said as she calmed down. "Well not hard at least." She retracted her hand immediately. He laughed harder at that. He just couldn't help himself.
Bill stood beside them with a shocked expression. With a smile Dipper turned on his heels and walked to the ropes, tying them with practised ease.
Bill's jaw dropped when the kid shook Wendy's hand. He just made her pull back with a fearful expression. He even laughed at her. Bill almost lost it when he tied the ropes, he did it so well it was almost like he was an expert. Who was that kid?
Wendy turned to Bill with an expression full of worry. That kid could kill them at any moment. Yet he seemed rather harmless if a bit inappropriate with his jokes. Something Bill could relate to.
He was by far the strangest siren Bill had ever met. Well, he was the only siren Bill had ever met. He had met mermaids and other creatures like them before but never actually met a true siren. He turned to Wendy and nodded towards the kid, signifying she should keep an eye on him. He headed back to the wheel where their navigator Pyronica stood pouring over her maps.
"How long do you think it will be till we get to the port?" he asked.
With a sigh and a shake of her head, she looked up with a frown. "Well we won't be there for at least a couple of weeks but with how weak the wind is, we might need a whole month to finally get there."
He nodded in understanding at the irritation in her voice. This was going to be a very long trip. With a huff, Bill looked over the crew and to Dipper. The kid had almost tied all of the ropes and pulled them into place. He had a sad look in his eyes when he gazed at the ocean. Why hadn't he tried to escape yet? The question had been bugging Bill since he learned of the kid's hidden nature. He decided to ask Dipper later and walked to the railing. The deep blue of the sea looked back from the depth, waves small and crashing against the ship.
"You know I could push you over that and kill you, right?" Dipper's voice reached his ears.
"And why would you do that Pine Tree?" Bill smiled when he stared at him in confusion. With a chuckle, he pointed to the pine tree tattoo on Dipper's right shoulder.
"Oh yeah. Oops, I feel kinda dumb now." He said with a nervous laugh.
"Well, are you going to answer my question?"
Dipper rolled his eyes as if Bill should already know the answer.
"I wouldn't, but if I did, it would be because I'm stuck here for who knows how long, and to top it off you're a bunch of crazy pirates with a mad captain."
Bill laughed as Dipper puffed his cheeks out. "Hehe, whatever kid. Why don't you go help Soos pull the ropes over there." He waved him off and turned back to the ocean. With a twitch of his eye, Dipper left to do his work.
Bill woke to the sound of music and singing. When did he fall asleep? He looked in confusion as the crew danced to the music. The kid was in the middle of a circle dancing with Wendy. What the hell did he miss?
Wendy stopped when she saw Bill awake and waved him over. He stumbled through the crowd over to Wendy and the kid. Was he even a kid?
"What the hell is going on?" Bill asked her.
She laughed and clapped his shoulder. "Apparently the kid is so talented he did everyone's work already. It got done before sundown so we decided to have a celebration." She smiled at the blushing Dipper who looked like he didn't know whether to preen at the praise or hide in a hole.
Bill slapped his back, eliciting a yelp. "Well good on ya Pine tree! Have you had some rum yet?"
Dipper shook his head and Bill smiled. So innocent, he thought as he grabbed a bottle and handed it to Dipper.
"Well then, to commemorate you on getting shit done on this damn ship, drink as much as you like," he said with a hearty laugh.
Dipper looked at the bottle, shrugged, and downed the entire thing. Wendy and most of the crew stopped to stare. Everyone looked in awe as the kid grabbed one bottle after the other and downed them. In the end, he emptied 7 bottles. Bill felt the loss in his chest. Hopefully, they had enough for the rest of the journey. Nothing worse than sailing with empty rum bottles.
Dipper seemed just fine, trying and failing to hide a smirk on his face. "What? I have really high alcohol tolerance. I'd have to drink at least four more before I'm even close to drunk." He smiled, showing all his teeth to the crew. They were sharp as knives. Definitely the teeth of a predator. Each one ended in a point sharp enough to rip someone's throat out like a knife through butter.
"Red get the brand. He's part of this crew so he gets the mark of it." Bill said to his first mate without looking away. He might be dangerous, but Bill would not be cowered. Dipper started to fidget and shake his head.
"A m-mark? Why?" He asked in fear.
"Because everyone on this ship is part of the crew. They all have my mark." Bill said as the crew showed their individual marks. "I promise it will only hurt for a little while,"
Two men from the crew pinned Dipper to the ground and pulled his shirt up. Wendy walked over with an almost sad look in her eyes. Bill watched as Dipper struggled to get free from the tight grasp they had on his arms and upper body.
Soos left so he didn't have to watch. He was always too sweet and caring to watch this part.
Wendy handed Bill the brand. She shot a reassuring smile to Dipper. He hurried before the brand became too cold.
"Hold still or this will hurt more than you want it to."
Dipper stopped thrashing and looked up with pleading eyes. The crew was silent now, waiting for whatever would happen next. With a sigh, Bill held the brand right above Dipper's heart and pushed down. He cried out in pain, screaming for it to stop, it was too much. A few men emptied their bottles.
Bill slowly pulled the brand off to reveal the mark on Dipper's skin. He watched in astonishment as the burn quickly scarred over. He looked down at the boy. He was crying now, shivering in the cold night air. Bill crouched and ran a hand through the kid's hair.
"I had hoped you were drunk by the time we did this to ease the pain but it seems you can't get drunk." Dipper coughed and shook violently as Bill tried to comfort him. "I'm heading to bed. Don't bother me." He picked the boy up.
The crew dispersed as he walked to the cabin. Dipper sighed into the warmth Bill's body gave off and fell asleep. Strange how something so horrible can happen and you simply fall asleep. Bill always marvelled at the reactions humans had to trauma and pain. So different from magical creatures.
Opening the door, he placed the kid on the bed. Bill crawled onto the bed beside him and covered them both in blankets. "I'm sorry," he whispered as he drifted off to sleep.
It's not often that Dipper became worried for his life. He'd rather not die at sea on a ship that didn't even belong to him. It was two weeks since he woke up with a brand on his chest. The navigator Pyronica had entered the captain's cabin with a frantic look and a tattered map in her hands. "CAPTAIN WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" she had yelled.
Within seconds Bill was up and out the door leaving a very confused Dipper in his bed. Why was Dipper still in his bed? Well, the crew didn't dare sleep in the same room as a siren, no matter how much he tried to reassure them. So he ended up in the captain's cabin, sharing a huge bed with the only man mad enough to sleep without fear.
After finding his boots and slipping them on Dipper climbed the stairs to the upper deck. Appearing form a darkened room, he had to cover his eyes from the sharp light. Manoeuvring around the many crew members he followed the sound of a very angry captain.
"What do you mean we're lost? We've been on track for months!" Bill paced in circles for a few moments before looking at the map. "Where were we before we got lost?"
"Uh well, last I checked we were close to India. But looking around us I see none of the landmarks we normally pass." She said with a look of absolute terror.
With a huff, Dipper pushed Bill away and looked over the map. Following the marks of where they were headed he backed away with a sneer. Glancing at a confused Bill he rolled his eyes.
"I know where we are and I know how to get where we're going. I've taken the route many times," he explained while pointing at Pyronica. "Come here, I'll show you."
Both Bill and Pyronica moved to look at the map. Dipper pointed on the map with a clawed finger. Having been around Bill, Pyronica, and Wendy he quickly found out they didn't mind the casual marks of his magical half but the rest of the crew still freaked out.
"According to the map and the direction of the wind, I think we're going too far south. We need to head north and follow the Suez Route. It's the fastest way to get there and I'd rather not die of starvation if we can't find our way because someone doesn't know the sea routes."
Dipper gritted his teeth while staring at the map. They were heading back to England. The one place he didn't want to be.
"You seem conflicted," Pyronica said. "Is there something wrong with the route that we need to worry about?"
Dipper looked up and shook his head. "No, England and I just don't have a good history. I must warn you though. Don't get caught by a man named Tad Strange." With that, he turned and left to help with the ropes. The crew had done a bad job for too long, so he decided to teach them himself.
"He is one strange kid," Pyronica remarked while looking at the crew below.
Bill stared at the map in thought. "Why England? What could he have done there?"
Looking back to Dipper he took in his looks. Brown hair, strange eyes that seemed to glow and change colour, sharp teeth, claws, scars, and toned muscles. The only thing that seemed off was his look of pure innocence. No one could be innocent if they feared to return anywhere.
"You have that look in your eye. Bill, he's just a kid don't go trying to kill him," Pyronica said with a tone of annoyance.
"I'm not gonna kill him. I'm just going to test something," he replied with a smirk.
Slowly pulling his sword out of its scabbard he snuck behind Dipper, raised his sword and quickly slicing it down. Quicker than any normal human, Dipper grabbed the closest weapon and blocked the sword. The crew froze and stared at the scene.
"What the hell was that?" Dipper shouted at Bill with a glare.
Bill chuckled and slid his sword back in its scabbard. "Now that is the look of a killer." He pointed at Dipper. "You're a murderer aren't you? That's why you don't want to go back to England. So who was it? Someone important I'm guessing if you're afraid to go back."
Dipper tensed before sighing and dropping the weapon to the floor. Laughing maniacally, he turned towards the side of the ship and leant over to look at the water. The whole crew held their breath and watched as Dipper laughed.
Calming down and running a hand through his hair, Dipper turned and smiled at Bill.
"You're right, I am a murderer. But I had my reasons and I don't plan on telling you what they were." He frowned before walking away and glaring at the crew.
They took it as a sign to get back to work before he got more upset. They learned quickly that he hated slackers and would hiss at them if they didn't do their jobs properly. He acted more like Wendy seeing as she was the first mate and had to make sure they did their work.
With a roll of his eye, Bill followed Dipper back to the quarterdeck and sat on the nearest crate. "You'll tell me sooner or later. No one keeps secrets from me."
Dipper flipped him off. "I've kept this secret for eight years. Not even my family knows. So I will most definitely not tell you."
"Oh, you will. I have my ways of getting the information I want." Bill said with a dark smile.
Dinner time was different in more ways than one. Instead of dancing and singing, everyone was staring at Dipper expecting him to say something. Dipper was slowly but surely trying to curl in on himself and make it look like he wasn't there.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT?" He finally snapped when the staring grew more intense.
The crew backed away like dogs who had just gotten in trouble with their master. They stayed silent until one piped up. Dipper wasn't good with names but he believed the kid's name was Silvin. He had been on the ship longer than Dipper but still acted like a newbie.
"Everyone wants to know your story. Why you wanted to run from England and who you murdered," Silvin said with ease.
Dipper's eye twitched and he shoved his knife into the table as Bill and the crew burst out laughing. The nerve of some people.
"Come on Pine Tree. Tell us a good story!" Bill yelled over the noise.
They all went silent when Dipper slapped Bill across the face with tears in his eyes. Bill held his cheek while watching the tears stream down Dipper's face. He stared in mute surprise.
"You want to know why I don't want to go back? Then get on my good side and I'll tell you. Until then you can just go fuck off you asshole!" Dipper screamed before running up to the back deck.
Bill was angry but the shock of seeing the boy cry stopped him from doing anything. Blinking he stared at the crew who shook their heads and started eating again. Wendy and Pyronica looked at him with glares while Soos and Casper looked sadly at their plates.
"I just fucked up any hope of befriending him, didn't I?" he asked and the rest of the crew nodded.
Sighing he stood up and left. Having made the boy upset spoiled his appetite and he couldn't eat anymore.
Looking around the ship he couldn't find Dipper anywhere. The faint sound of humming came from the side of the ship. He couldn't find the source of the humming until he saw the fin of a fish. Following the shadow in the water, he found Dipper leaned over the side of the ship staring down sadly at a girl. Wait, a girl? How was that possible? Moving quickly to Dippers side he pulled him away.
"What are you doing? Do you know what that is?" He asked frantically searching his for signs of injury. Dipper's pupils weren't dilated.
"Of course I know what that is! I'm half siren. Or have you forgotten?" He moved back over to the side of the ship.
"Dipper wait! It might not know that you are!" Bill tried to pull him away again but Dipper held onto the railing.
"Stop! She's my sister!" Dipper cried out as the siren below clawed the side of the ship frantically to try and get to them.
Bill stopped immediately and released Dipper in disbelief. Looking back over the edge he took in the features of the creature Dipper called his sister. Just like him, she had brown hair, sharp teeth, and eyes that changed colour. The same look of innocence crossed her face alongside worry.
Dipper sighed in relief as he watched both of them relax. "Bill, this is my sister Mabel. She's the reason we get so lucky catching fish. Mabel, this is captain Cipher," he said while pointing to each of them.
Mabel growled at Bill before looking at her brother. "So he's the one who made you cry? Wow, what a jerk. A hot jerk who I would totally date but a jerk none the less," she said while crossing her arms. Her tail moved in the water behind her.
"Mabel, what the heck? Don't flirt with him!" Dipper said, blushing while frantically waving his arms.
Bill laughed and clasped his hand on Dippers shoulder. "Wow, your sister is a real charmer."
Mabel smiled and chuckled at her brother as he looked between Bill and Mabel with a face that screamed what the hell is going on?
"Can I come up there now that the captain knows who I am?" she asked with a pleading smile, fluttering her eyelashes at the two men.
Bill looked down at her seriously "Do you promise not to eat my crew ?"
She quickly nodded a yes and Bill visibly relaxed. He grabbed a rope to pull her up. Dipper left while Bill helped her up and over the edge of the ship.
"Thanks for letting me board captain!" She smiled and saluted. "And thanks for taking care of my brother."
Bill looked shocked at her honesty. Didn't she just say he was a jerk not too long ago?
Dipper quickly came back with clothes from the closet in the cabin. Then he grabbed Bill and turned them both around and away from Mabel. Bill gave him a confused look before Dipper turned them again to reveal a now human girl dressed in his clothes.
A look of absolute awe covered his face as he circled her before looking at Dipper.
"Can you do that?" he asked while gesturing to Mabel.
Dipper shook his head and looked down in shame.
"Dipper's never been able to do the stuff I can. Mom said he was just a late bloomer so I'm sure he'll be able to do it soon!" she said excitedly while wrapping an arm around Dippers shoulders. She yawned and rubbed her eyes before turning to Bill. "You don't mind if I sleep here do you?"
Bill smiled and offered her a hand she gladly took. The three of them made their way to an extra cabin next to Bill's. Immediately Mabel flopped onto the bed and snuggled into a pillow.
Dipper rolled his eyes and closed the door knowing Mabel was already asleep.
"She's a sweet girl," Bill said as they stepped into his own cabin.
Dipper smiled and sat on the bed. "She's very sweet and strong. Nothing gets to her."
Bill frowned before sitting in his desk chair. "I'm sorry." The words laid heavy on his tongue.
Dipper looked confused before remembering the episode during dinner. He wondered if any of the crew saw them with Mabel and how they would react to her on the ship. "It's fine, but what are we going to do about Mabel? None of the crew knows she's here."
Bill groaned and put his head his hands. "I forgot all about that."
Dipper laughed and laid back on the bed. "Just go to sleep. We'll deal with it tomorrow I suppose," he said while scooting over and patting the empty spot on the bed.
Bill happily joined him. "I thought I was supposed to 'fuck off'."
Dipper huffed and turned his side to Bill. Bill chuckled and turned in the opposite direction to sleep.
All art is appreciated!
Comments and critiques are also appreciated.
Sorry this chapter is rushed like that.
So this story is going to be strange. There will be two versions. The Wattpad version of this story will be different from now on. The endings will also be completely different.
Giggles and squeals of delight were not a part of Bill’s morning routine. In fact, happy sounds never woke him up. So when he awoke to the sight of a giggling Mabel leaning over him, he nearly jumped out of his own bed.
"Wh- What are you doing in here?" he asked, trying to compose himself and failing. In his attempt to look better he pushed his fingers through his hair.
"Oh I'm just enjoying the view of my brother’s captain," she replied truthfully with a big smile. Realizing that the space where Dipper normally slept was empty, he turned to Mabel with a questioning look. She shrugged and pointed to the door. "He went out there earlier."
Within seconds Bill was being dragged out of the room by an energetic girl. The sun was high in the sky and the crew was wide awake and working. Wendy directed them to do whatever was needed, and Dipper was looking over the map with Pyronica.
"Have I really been asleep for that long?" he asked mostly to himself but Mabel answered him anyway.
"Yes sir, you have. That's totally normal though! Normally when humans sleep very close to sirens they tend to be more tired than usual," she said with a toothy grin.
Unlike Dipper’s straight pointed teeth, Mabel’s were more jagged and curved like hooks. She noticed the intense stare Bill gave her and started to laugh. "Don't you worry there big man, these babies are meant for eating sharks and other fish." She prodded at one of the teeth. It came out easily, falling into her hand. In a swift motion, it hung on a necklace around Bill's neck.
Before Bill could ask any questions, Mabel ran off to talk to Dipper. Pyronica welcomed her with a hug and a smile. Bill stared in awe as no one asked a thing. He had no idea what was going on and why no one had confronted him about this strange girl who magically appeared on the ship. Why? Why hadn't anybody said anything?
In long strides, Bill quickly and quietly pulled Dipper away from Mabel and Pyronica who gave him strange looks.
"What the hell is going on?" Bill asked with a confused and scared look on his face.
Dipper sighed and shook his head. "You know the stories of sirens, right?" Bill quickly nodded. "Well, some sirens have special abilities that others can never get. Mabel and I have those abilities, or well, she has. I don't know if I have any powers. Anyway, her ability happens to be mind manipulation. She can change the memories and thoughts of anyone. So if you're wondering why no one cares, now you know."
Crazy was not a word that could describe the situation Bill was in. No, this was absolutely insane! Disbelief crossed Bill’s face for a second only to be replaced by rage. "YOU LET HER DO THAT? Why the hell would you let her do that to my crew?" he yelled.
Dipper backed up little by little as Bill mumbled incoherent words. Then his back hit the railing of the ship and his breath hitched as Bill’s right hand raised. Absolute shock covered Dipper’s face as Bill smacked him. A red handprint formed on his cheek and tears of pain welled in his eyes.
Mabel made it to Dipper’s side in an instant. In a blind rage, Mabel scratched Bill’s face with her sharp claws. That seemed to calm Bill down enough to realize what he had just done. In a panic, he attempted to get closer to Dipper, but Dipper pushed him away. A look of anger and hatred crossed Dipper’s face.
"I'm leaving," he said with venom in his voice. Mabel looked sadly at him and shook her head.
"How? You have no ship," Bill said confused. Mabel glared at him. Dipper began to laugh, causing the crew to stop working and stare at the scene.
"I don't need a ship. I'm not a weak human like you," he replied with as much hatred as possible.
Dipper grabbed Mabel's hand and, with a salute to the rest of the crew, jumped over the railing and into the water. Mabel trailed behind with a wave and a toothy grin. Bill looked over the side of the ship with fear. Most of the crew had simply ignored everything as if it was just a normal day. The other members were glaring at Bill with a rage that seemed to shatter Bill into pieces.
"What have I done?" he asked Wendy. Wendy only shook her head and crossed her arms. They looked out over the blue ocean where Dipper had disappeared into. "I wonder, is this normal for you Dipper?" he asked the deep sea below him. Wendy looked at him sadly, then walked away with a huff. Dipper was gone, and there was only one thing left for Bill to do. Get him back.
Coldness and salty air were the worst things you could wake up to. Not only did Dipper wash up on the shore of some stupid island, he also didn't have any food. "Good job Dipper! You're cold, hungry, and lost."
That's right! Dipper Pines was lost on some random island in the middle of God knows where. Not only was he lost, his sister was missing and he was pretty sure that this island was on his 'don't go there' list. What did he do to get this kind of luck? How was he even alive? And why was there a bird staring at him?
Dipper shivered as the bird looked at him with its black beady eyes. Where did the bird come from? Rustling from a couple of bushes startled both Dipper and the bird out of their staring contest. He looked over in curiosity.
"what the hell- oH MY GOD MABEL YOU'RE HERE!" In a sudden wave of happiness and relief, he bounced over and hugged her with all the strength he had left. Her giggles made him stop and look her dead in the eye. "Never speak of this to anyone," he said in a serious tone and she nodded reluctantly, still smiling brightly.
The smell of blood stirred Dipper from his thoughts and he looked for the source. Mabel coughed and grabbed his attention. In her right hand was a pheasant that had been freshly killed and cleaned. She laughed at the face of disgust he made. Knowing that his sister had literally pulled the guts and feathers off an animal made him want to puke.
She rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. They walked deep into the forest before making it to a campsite. The strange thing was, that it seemed to have been built over a large amount of time.
"Uh Mabel, when did you find this camp?" Dipper asked with a hint of confusion. She stopped stoking the fire and looked at him with a grin. "I built it!" she said with glee. "You were asleep for five days so I decided I would build a camp and wait for you to wake up. Of course, it took some time to get the wood and stuff, but I got it! Then I made the fire pit and laid down some leaves and vines to make a roof. Then I used some rope I stole from the ship to make this cool hammock." She rambled on and on until something in his brain finally clicked.
"I'VE BEEN ASLEEP FOR FIVE DAYS?" he yelled, cutting her off abruptly.
As if she could read every thought going through his head, she said "You have no memory of what happened, do you? Dipper, you finally transformed. We swam all the way down here. It's been two weeks since we jumped off the ship. Then when you passed out on the shore I just figured it was you being exhausted from swimming. I didn't think you would forget everything that happened."
Nothing but the sound of crackling fire could be heard for minutes as he tried to comprehend what she had just said. Dipper tried to remember anything that she had told him, but nothing came. For the second time in all of his life, he had no memory of something important. Emotions flashed in his eyes. The colours changed from brown to red and green then settled down to a grey-blue. Sadness was all he felt at that moment and Mabel was trying desperately to lighten the mood. She started to make jokes and do cool tricks with her body and magic. After a while, she finally stopped and sat down next to the fire where the pheasant slowly cooked.
"Dipper, you're never gonna guess where we're going tomorrow," she said and he quietly acknowledged her. "We're gonna see Grunkle Stan and Ford." She smiled weakly at him. Dipper smiled back and chuckled as his stomach growled.
In an instant, the cooked bird was on a leaf in front of him. Instinct kicked in and he was devouring chunks of meat without chewing. Mabel watched with a look of disgust as he shovelled the food into his mouth and swallowed.
Time seemed to speed up as Dipper let go of his thoughts and explored with Mabel. It was crazy how fast the sun went down. By the time they made it back to the camp, the sky was nothing but bright stars in a big pool of black nothingness. Laying down next to the fire Mabel slowly drifted off to sleep. Dipper knew sleep wouldn't come for him since he had slept for so long, but he laid down too and gazed at the stars. He would finally go back home tomorrow, so he’d better make the best of it. While he still could.
Bill paced the upper deck, his shoes clicking against the wooden floor. They had been following the twins for almost two weeks now and there was still no sign of anything remotely human. Even land was hard to come by. Pyronica had been buried in maps since day one, constantly yelling at the poor lad in the crow's nest. Bill himself wasn’t faring much better. He had been irritated in the beginning, which was pretty normal, but it had slowly grown into something deeper, more dangerous, especially for the crew. One night Soos had tried to get Bill to join a small party after dinner. One glare had him running out of the cabin and hide under deck for the rest of the evening. Bill almost felt bad, but he was too angry to really care. He received angry glares from Wendy all of the next day.
“Captain.” Bill growled, spinning around to yell at whoever dared to interrupt his brewing thoughts. Red hair and an angry scowl had him sighing instead. Great, Red was back to yell at him.
“Yes Red? What is it?” His hands kept moving, the restlessness making his whole body twitchy.
“Pyronica wants a word with you.” Wendy’s clipped tone almost surprised him. He would deal with that later, when everything wasn’t so confusing.
“Fine, where is she?” She crossed her arms, a stern look on her face. Bill groaned. “What?!”.
“Soos is hiding under deck again.” A weight settled in his stomach, the scowl almost dropping from his face. The big baby was still hiding? He really couldn’t deal with that right now.
“I know, I know, I’ll talk with him later. Just-” Bill made a circling gesture with his hand. Wendy huffed and walked down to the main deck, not even a simple acknowledgement to his promise. They both knew it was an empty promise anyway. Bill sighed again and pulled his sword out of his belt. Damn kid, damn Red, damn emotions! A high-pitched scream rang out in the air as he sliced the top half of his chair clean off. The crew paused in shock. All eyes rested on the cut half. That was certainly something their captain hadn’t done before. He quite liked the chair. Bill himself stared at the chair for two seconds before he flung the sword through the air. It embedded itself in the main mast, shaking from the force. Poor Silvin had to jump out of the way to avoid a new haircut. Silence hung heavily over the ship. Bill hissed at the crew and stalked down the stairs to his cabin. Someone pulled the sword out and placed it just outside the door, not daring to actually disturb their captain right away. Even Pyronica peered from the crow’s nest, suddenly not wanting to discuss their current course anymore. Maybe she could try again in a few hours. They certainly weren’t going anywhere.
Dipper woke up with a groan. His head throbbed and sand stuck to every patch of exposed skin. He felt itchy and hungry. He rolled to the side, expecting to see Mabel drooling beside him. His arm felt cold as it laid bare at his side. Had she gone for food again? Dipper cringed at the thought of seeing her pluck another bird. He stood up, rolling his stiff shoulders and moving towards the treeline again. The idea of sleeping on the beach seemed fine the night before, but now he wished they had stayed hidden inside the forest, and maybe found some soft leaves to make a bed out of or something.
“Mabel? Where are you?” he called into the forest. A few birds squawked above him, startled from their sleep by the sudden noise. Apparently not all birds were early risers. Dipper snorted. That was something Mabel easily could have joked about. Speaking of- “Mabel! Come on, where are you?” A rustle of leaves behind him alerted Dipper, but he moved too late. Mabel jumped him from behind, tackling Dipper with a cry to the ground as she screamed in delight. Dipper groaned as he hit the ground, his sore shoulders protesting the harsh treatment.
“I win!” Mabel was all smiles and giggles as she booped his nose. Dipper bared his teeth, instinct kicking in as he surged up to tackle her back. She hissed back, jagged teeth aiming for his throat. They clashed together, foreheads touching as they wrestled. Dipper pulled his right arm between them, removing the support Mabel held herself up with. She squealed as they tumbled to the side, kicking at Dipper’s stomach as he sat on her legs, claws out and reaching for her throat. Mabel pulled him over her head, his back again hitting the ground full force. They laid opposite each other, both panting for breath after the fight.
“Seriously Mabel?” Dipper moaned from the ground. “Did you really have to do that? And from the morning too!”
“I missed it! Don’t tell me it wasn’t fun.” Her pout could make the toughest sailor weak. Dipper sighed and sat up, flicking her hair over her face. She flailed, spitting strands of sandy hair out of her mouth. “Ew Dipper, why?”
“Because I missed it,” he mocked, copying her lighter voice too good for his own liking. Luckily it didn’t crack. She blew a raspberry at him, a smile tugging at her lips. He drew back, feigning disgust by the spit escaping her mouth. “You’re a dork.”
“You’re a nerd.” They both cracked, deep laughter echoing on the small island.
“But seriously, I’m hungry. Can we eat?”
After a quick but delicious breakfast Dipper and Mabel stood by the ocean, eyes scanning the vast horizon for any sign of life. Dipper’s stomach churned with nerves, his shaking hands fiddled with the hem of his shirt.
“You know Dipper. We can swim whenever you feel ready. I’m sure grunkle Ford doesn’t mind waiting a bit.” Her voice was so gentle, it only tied the knots in his stomach tighter. What would his great-uncle say? What would he do? Did he know? Did Mabel? He sat down and dug his feet down in the warm sand, hoping beyond hope he could simply disappear with them.
“I can’t Mabel.” He hated his voice for sounding so small. He had been through worse. Lots of people had hunted him through his life. Hated him for stealing their stuff or breaking their property in his mad runs for freedom. But this was different. This was Mabel, his twin and other half. He had never kept any secrets from her, never lied. And now, after 8 years of running, they were finally together again, but everything seemed off. Wrong.
“Sure you can!” Her cheerful tone was back, fake and broken as her smile. She had to know. Why else would she look at him like that. “You shifted when we left the ship. Of course you can do it again!” Apparently he did shift, he just couldn’t remember it. Everything seemed like a blur in his mind. A foggy haze. Like that time.
“Don’t you see Mabel? I can’t! I don’t remember shifting, or swimming for days, or anything! I lost two weeks of my life because of my stupid powers I can’t even control! Why couldn’t I just have been born normal?” His voice broke at the end, head turned away to hide the moisture in his eyes. He couldn’t possibly be that pathetic, right? His question was answered as a single tear slid down his cheek. Yes, he could. A hand squeezed his shoulder. Mabel’s hair tickled his neck as she hugged him from behind.
“Okay. We’ll find another way. We just have to come up with a brilliant idea!” Her jagged teeth scraped his skin as she smiled and nuzzled his cheek. Dipper chuckled and pushed her away.
“Okay, okay, just stop! You’ll end up ripping something!” They laughed together before Mabel jumped up, knocking Dipper on his back with a groan. Again.
“I got it!”
“What?” Dipper rubbed his back as he stared at her beaming face.
“We’ll build a raft!”
Dipper stared at her for several seconds. “A raft?”
“Yes dummy! A raft. I can pull you along while you just lay back and enjoy the weather. It’s perfect!” Dipper considered her idea. It could work, they just had to somehow built the damn thing, then it should be easy. Mabel was strong enough to pull him without slowing down too much. It wouldn’t be hard. He looked up to confirm her idea, but the words died in his throat as he saw Mabel had already disappeared into the forest again. Bird shrieked in the distance, clearly telling where his energetic sister was currently trying to built a raft. Somehow. Well, he couldn’t let her do all the work, right? With a warm chuckle Dipper followed his sister into the forest, hoping to finish the raft before nightfall.
Suggestions, criticism and feedback are welcomed, any questions shall hopefully be answered.
The room was cold and dark. No windows allowed any sunlight inside, making it near impossible to tell what time of day it was. Only the lantern hanging outside of the cell lit the room and hallway in a dim glow. A constant layer of moisture kept the room clammy and stuffy, yet it was impossible to generate any sort of heat. A lonely figure laid on the floor. His hair was a mess, small cuts littered his face and exposed arms, and torn clothes covered his shaking form. Had he not been silently sleeping, one would have thought he was crying. Echoes of steps woke the man, his brown eyes watching the hallway through broken glasses. He slowly moved back, hand gathering the loose chain between his left foot and the wall. The room wasn’t big, but they couldn’t reach him if he stood by the far wall away from the cell door, not even a sword or a stick could hit him. An old bruise throbbed in his right side. If he was lucky, none of his ribs would be broken but simply bruised. That would heal fine by itself. The steps grew louder, a thrill whistling penetrating the deafening silence. He sagged a bit against the wall, a sigh of relief escaping his dry lips. Only the soldiers whistled when they approached his room. Had it already been a whole day? A young man came to a stop in from of his cell, calloused fingers holding a plate and a cup. He pushed both through the bars and placed them rather harshly on the floor. Water sloshed over the top at the impact.
“Dinner.” With a bored expression the soldier turned around and left without another word. He waited until the whistling stopped again before moving away from the wall. In two long strides he kneeled before the serving and gulped half the water down first. It soothed his dry throat and chapped lips. The rest was saved for later, cup carefully placed in the far corner from the door, up against the wall for extra support. The plate contained a small piece of dried meat and a loaf of bread the size of his closed hand. Not much, but he didn’t need a lot. The meat was eaten first, knowing it would be digested slowly in his empty stomach compared to the soft bread. He splitted it in two and hid half in a pocket under his coat. The rest he dipped in the water and nibbled on until it was gone. There was still a quarter of the water left. He moved to the other corner of the room away from the door to avoid knocking the cup over in his sleep. The sound of metal hitting metal brought his attention back to the door. His eyes widened in horror as he realized he hadn’t heard the visitor arrive. Only one man in this hellhole could sneak up on him.
“Admiral,” he growled out, hands clenching at his sides. The man stood in front of the lantern, effectively shielding his face in shadows. Though he didn’t need to. His face was forever burned into his mind.
“Professor. Good to see you up and about again. You are getting better each day.” The Admiral’s tone was light, mocking, the politeness made him sick to his stomach.
“No thanks to you.” His voice shook with anger. “You’ll never catch him, even I couldn’t if I wanted to. Just give up already. You have no real reason to hold me here. Even you can’t get away with this forever.”
“But that’s the thing professor, isn’t it? You have to, even if you don’t want to. I gave you time because you said you had a plan. That he would come home on his own, but nothing has happened yet. None of my men have seen them anywhere! The longer we have to spend chasing him, the longer he will suffer.”
“You fucker!” He lunged at the door, hands barely reaching past the bars. Too far away from the man’s throat. “You leave him out of this! I’m already here and helping you, what more do you want?” A deep chuckle echoed between the walls.
“But that’s just the thing. You are only cooperating because of him. So, in a sense, isn’t it your fault he is suffering? Because you can’t get the boy home quickly enough? The one closest to you is suffering as we speak, men doing God knows what to him. Do you want to hear?” His face paled at the man’s words. Each word a jap to his very soul.
“No, please don’t. Please stop it!”
“It’s a shame really. I had higher hopes for you. Oh well, we’ll see how it plays out. I can be very patient. Enjoy your night professor.” He left the hallway with a wave, not even looking back at the hurting figure in the dark. Your fault . He huddled closer in the cold, hands fisting in his hair to block out the screams from his memory. His fault. All his fault.
The sun stood high in the sky by the time Dipper and Mabel finished the raft. It was a rather small square, tied together with thread Mabel hid God knows where, and Dipper didn’t feel like asking, and consisting of thick tree trunks. What seemed like an impossible task had quickly turned around as Mabel attacked the nearest tree with her teeth. As luck would have it they all came loose and Mabel quickly tied them to a thick branch and made a makeshift saw. Something Dipper had honestly never thought was possible, but then again, her teeth could terrify the bravest of sailors in seconds and chew through the wood on ships. Just not trunks the size of her waist apparently. But, the saw worked surprisingly well and they quickly had enough for a raft. Dipper couldn’t lay outstretched on the raft, but curling his legs a bit and bending his back gave enough room to not be uncomfortable. He preferred to sleep like that anyway, curled up and taking up as little space as possible.
Now, he was sitting on the raft, knees tucked under his chin and arms tightly around his legs. Mabel swam ahead of him, pulling the vine they had tied to the raft. She held a good speed considering the extra weight she had to pull along. The sun had been high in the sky by the time they left the island, stomachs full of grilled bird and determination to reach land as fast as possible. That was hours ago now and Dipper was growing restless. Mabel hadn’t complained about fatigue once, but Dipper knew she sooner or later would grow tired and have to rest for the night, if they wanted to continue at the same speed tomorrow.
“Hey Mabel? Wanna stop for the night soon? It’s getting late and you’ve been swimming for quite a while now.” He tried to sound cheerful, as if he wasn’t terrified of being trapped in the ocean with his only escape being transforming and possibly losing consciousness again.
“What? Hold on.” She slowed down enough to soften the splashes her tail made from swimming above the waves. She rolled onto her back, facing Dipper with a jagged smile as she kept a slow pace for conversation. “What’s up?”
Dipper shrank back, suddenly feeling the weight of asking his sister to do all the work. And now he was the one to suggest a break, even though he hadn’t done a thing! She had such a caring smile, even now, after hours of restless swimming. He felt awful, really, but he didn’t dare try and transform again. The thought was too scary. “I just suggested we stopped for the day. You know, to rest, maybe catch a fish or two for dinner. I don’t know.” He trailed off, not really sure what to say. Mabel would be the one to catch the fish too, which didn’t exactly count as rest. He mentally slapped himself, vowing to do just that next time she wasn’t looking at him like that. Like he was the most caring brother in the world.
“That’s a great idea! I was starting to get hungry anyway. Be right back!” With that she dove under the waves and left Dipper alone with his thoughts. He almost regretted suggesting it, the silence was already uncomfortable, even when she appeared just five minutes later, stopping the onslaught of thoughts he feared would drown him before she returned.
“That was amazingly fast. What did you do?”
“I’m just that good.” She winked and threw one of the fish at Dipper. He barely caught it before it could smack him in the face. “Eat up!”
They ate in comfortable silence, Dipper fought with his raw fish, trying desperately to imagine it being cooked. It didn’t make him sick, since he wasn’t quite human, but it still tasted as bad as humans thought. Mabel seemed to devour hers with great vigor, even going as far as to gnaw on the skull after she finished. Dipper decided to leave the rest. He would survive with less food than her anyway, since he wasn’t really moving about as she did.
“So, where did Ford tell you to meet him and Stan?” Dipper pushed his fish back in the ocean as he asked, washing his hands afterwards. Mabel placed the skull on the raft beside Dipper’s feet, much to his dismay, and tapped her cheek.
“If I remember correctly, it was either somewhere in England, Africa or India, depending on where I found you.” Dipper paled at her words.
“That’s way too vague! How are we supposed to find them?”
“Relax Dipper.” She patted his knee in comfort, tracing the eyehole on the skull with her other hand. “I just need to know which country we are in when we reach shore again, and I’ll know where to go! Don’t you worry little brother, big sis got you!”
“Mabel, we are twins,” he deadpanned.
“Yeah, but I came out first. That makes me the oldest!” She stuck out her tongue and grinned. Dipper snorted and pushed her down under the water. She came back up and spat the salt water from her mouth in his face.
“Ew Mabel! Not the salt water!” Dipper squeaked, manly mind you, as Mabel grabbed his leg and tried to pull him down in the water. He fought back, pulling her halfway up on the raft and almost falling backwards into the water anyway. “Okay, tie, tie!” Dipper laid down on the raft, legs bend towards the sky to avoid getting wet feet. Mabel rested her arms on the raft beside his head. “I’m sorry.”
“What?” She looked down at him, eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. “Why are you apologizing?”
“Because I’m making you do all the work! I can’t even help you, or swim beside you. I’m useless. Why can’t you just go meet Ford and I’ll find somewhere to hide. You don’t need me anyway.”
“Dipper.” Her tone was hard, eyes blazing with anger as she hoisted herself up beside him. “You are not useless and you are not running away from us again. Never. It’s been eight years. I know it’s been hard on you, but don’t forget about us. We missed you. A lot. And now that I’ve found you, I’m not letting you disappear again. You never came back that day, and I never forgot it. Don’t do this. To any of us.” At her last words, she broke down, the welling tears finally overflowing and streaming down her face. Dipper flinched, physically hurt by his sister’s breakdown. He hadn’t meant to hurt them, he just had to run. It wasn’t safe for any of them that he stayed. They were better off without him. Maybe they really didn’t know. Why else would they want to get him back home? That was almost worse than them knowing and despising him for it.
“Mabel, shh, it’s okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, please don’t cry.” He pulled her closer, threading his fingers through her wet hair. It smelled of salt but he didn’t care. A warm spot grew where her face was currently buried in his shirt. “It’s okay, I’m sorry. I just want to help you, not sit around and let you do all the work, I’m sorry I said that.” A shaking hand came up to give him a weak punch against his cheek. A broken laugh escaped him before pulling the hand down to his chest to hold it over his heart.
He was soaked by the time Mabel pulled back and wiped at her eyes. They were puffy and red, but seemed to finally dry out from the lack of tears. Dipper gave her a weak smile and squeezed her hand. She smiled back and hit his shoulder, both laughing at the weak punch.
“So, awkward sibling hug over?” Mabel snorted and scratched her eyes.
“Yeah, awkward sibling hug over. Nerd.”
“But really, I don’t mind doing all the work right now, you did the same when we left the ship, though I guess you probably can’t remember.” She looked thoughtful at that. “I never told you, did I?”
Dipper stared at her in disbelief. “No? You didn’t? What happened?”
“It was quite scary, really, you kept swimming for hours, not even stopping to rest or eat. You even carried me a few times when I grew too tired and wanted to rest. I tried to talk to you a few times, but you just stayed silent, only glancing at me from time to time. It was almost creepy, but I just thought you were still angry at Bill and didn’t want to talk, so I didn’t press you. Though, after I stopped you once and you hissed at me, I decided to leave you-”
“I hissed at you! Why didn’t you say so? Oh god, I didn’t hurt you, right? My god, I am so sorry Mabel, I didn’t-”
“Hush.” She slapped a hand over his mouth, tail flicking behind her in the water. “You didn’t know, and you didn’t hurt me. It’s fine, no grudge, no anger, we are both okay, now stop freaking out, you’ll faint or something from the rush of blood.” She smirked and flicked his nose before retreating back into the water again. “Now shush, I’m tired. See you tomorrow Dipdop!” With that she disappeared beneath the waves. Dipper sighed and leaned back, watching the sky slowly turn to a pale pink, puffy clouds shining in gold from the setting sun. He had followed along with Mabel, not left her behind or attacked her. That was good. Great, actually. Though he didn’t like the fact he had hissed at her. All the more reason to keep away from the water. If he just never swam again, he could pretend he wasn’t half siren at all, and just live like a normal human being. He would be stronger than them, but he could pretend to be weaker. He was good at that. It could work. He could stay with his family again. They just had to move. Far away from England. Maybe to Japan. It had been nice while he stayed there. Or maybe France. Though that was a bit too close to England for comfort. It didn’t matter now. He could plan another day. Now, it was time to rest. They had a long day ahead of them tomorrow.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Two weeks, and nothing . Bill was fuming. Pyronica had tried her best to cheer him up, pointing out various small islands between themselves and India. They were currently headed that way, hoping the twins had headed north in hope of finding dry land. The crew kept to their work, even Red had given up on getting him back outside after his outburst a few days back. He had been cooked up in his quarter ever since. Had he really gone too far? Yeah, he slapped the kid, sure, but he thought the girl had messed with his crew. He just didn’t get a chance to explain himself. The kid had hit him too, he didn’t get all upset and jump overboard. He growled in frustration. The kid would never listen to him again. No, Dipper wouldn’t listen to him again.
“Fuck. You’ve really done it this time Cipher.”
“You can say that.” Bill’s head snapped up. Red leaned against the door frame, looking far too pleased with herself.
“Red.” He growled and stood up from where he was splayed across his desk. “What do I own the unwanted annoyance of your presence?”
She pushed herself off the frame, heavy boots echoing as she approached him. “You’ve been cooked up in here for days. You need to get out, the crew is growing restless. A ship without a captain is a shitty one, and you know it. For God’s sake Cipher, you are acting like a child! Get yourself together and-” A hand clamped around her throat, squeezing just enough to shut her up.
“I would be very careful with what I said if I was you. I am not in the mood for your lectures right now Red. I’m still the captain here, and I want respect . Got it?” Her eyes were wide open, mouth agape in shock as she stared him in the eye. If his eye could burn, she would be a smoking crisp on the ground. A weak ‘yes’ escaped her lips before he released her and watched her body crumple to the floor. She coughed, heaving in big gulps of air as she rubbed her throat.
“Yes, Captain . I’ll leave you alone.” She walked back out of the door, purple marks just visible between the strands of red hair. Maybe he went too far again. Damnit Cipher, no time to grow soft! He threw a fist at the door frame, knuckles popping from the force. He hissed and kicked it instead, relying on the thick leather boots to take the damage. It worked better, though his knee still protested. A few crew members looked up at the swearing. They quickly averted their eyes after noting their captain’s foul mood.
“Captain! To the bow!” Pyronica yelled from the crow’s nest. Bill looked from his pointing navigator to the front of the ship. People gathered in excitement. Hopefully whatever she had seen would please their captain enough to stop his outbursts. Bill pushed himself through the crowd. Before them a small island appeared on the horizon. The sand shone in the sun. Bill’s eyes crinkled as a smile appeared on his face. It grew bigger as they neared the small piece of land. Not even close enough to walk through the water, Bill’s impatience got the best of him and drove him down into one of the boats tied to the side of the ship. He slashed the rope holding it up with his sword and fell down hard on the water.
“Well come on! What are you waiting for, an invitation? Get down here!” The crew looked around, shrugged, and jumped into the remaining boats. Pyronica grabbed a rope and swung down into Bill’s boat, grinning as she went. Bill grinned back, handing her an ore before setting to row himself. They reached the shore quickly. Pyronica was out of breath after having fought to keep up with Bill’s long strides. He rushed through the underbrush, searching for any signs of life on the small island. A campsite came into view, Bill almost laughed in relief. They were here! They had to be! He stopped in the middle. It was empty, the fireplace cold and free of ash. Old. Were they too late? Bill almost couldn’t believe it. He was so close!
“Captain! Come look!” Bill turned in the direction of the voice. Pyronica, Red and Casper stood by a cut stump, tracks in the ground indicating someone had pulled logs around.
“Is it them?” Bill couldn’t hide the small hope in his voice. Luckily the others didn’t notice or just chose to ignore it.
“Judging by the teeth mark around the cut, I believe someone tried to bite into the tree before giving up and simply cutting it down.” Casper’s voice was quiet, all three pirates looking at him in surprise. That was the longest sentence they had heard from him in months.
“Biting? Only a monster could leave such a mark” Red wondered out loud. Bill instinctively grabbed the tooth around his neck. He hadn’t removed it since she gave it to him.
“Not any monster.” He removed the necklace and pushed the tooth into one of the dents. A perfect match. “A siren apparently.” The three stared at the tooth in shock.
“So, they really were here? Did they leave again?” Red ran a thumb over the marks. Pyronica pulled a map out of her pocket.
“If they left, which it looks like, I bet they continued north to India. We should be able to reach it by late evening tomorrow, if we hurry back and sail above normal speed the whole way. The crew will be tired, but we can take shifts. It should be possible. I don’t know how quick the twins are, or when they left, but we could be lucky and catch up to them, or they will already be gone by the time we reach India. What do you think captain?” The crew looked at Bill, all awaiting his decision. A wide grin had spread on his face as Pyronica spoke. It was a plan. The twins had been here, probably not long, but long enough to build a camp and, apparently, a raft too. He would search the whole world if he had to. He wouldn’t let Dipper disappear like that. The kid owed him. And Bill owed him. Bill Cipher never owed anyone anything. He had to find him.
“Set sail. We go as the crows fly. To India!”
And finished chapter 8. Hope it didn't take too long. Suggestions, criticism and feedback are welcomed, any questions shall hopefully be answered.
They arrived in the late evening, both exhausted mentally from the long journey. Dipper pulled the raft on shore, careful to keep everything above his knees dry. Mabel flopped onto the beach beside him, all grace abandoned fit drying off. She shook her head like a dog, causing saltwater to fly in every which direction. Dipper covered his face, a groan hiding his chuckles at his sister's antics.
"Mabel, come on! Really?"
She stuck her tongue out and rolled onto her back. "Dippeeeer."
Dipper gave her an unimpressed look and took a step back. "You're going to pull me into the water, right?"
Mabel gave her best innocent look and flopped onto her belly again. "Nooo?"
"Don't answer my question with another question."
She huffed and pulled herself closer to the edge of the sand, where Dipper had retreated as they spoke. "Dipper, don't leave me."
"I'm not, I'm simply keeping my distance."
"How cruel!" She threw herself down on the ground, arms covering her shaking form. Dipper sighed and crossed his arms. He wouldn't fall for it. He wouldn't. He... Was she really crying? He took a step closer, stretching his neck towards his shaking sister.
"Mabel? Come on, don't play around. We have to find Ford, remember? Mabel?"
Another step and Mabel jumped at him. With a shriek (Mabel would tease him later for that) he went crashing down onto the sand, his sister landing heavily on his chest.
"Gotcha!" She yelled in triumph. Dipper groaned and covered his face with his hands.
"Mabel, I really have to leave you for a while."
"Why?" You could almost hear the shards falling to the ground in her chest.
"Because you need clothes when you transform. We kind of forgot them on the island."
"Oh... Oh my god." Dipper looked down at his sister in surprise. "We forgot my clothes." A smile broke out on her face, tears gathering in her eyes as she cackled. "We forgot my clothes!" Dipper couldn't help himself. He broke down laughing, heaving big gulps of air whenever he could, but unable to stop himself as Mabel shook on top of him.
As the laughter finally died down Mabel rolled off Dipper's chest. "What should we do?" She fiddled with a damp lock as she looked at him.
"As I said, I have to go into town and get something for you to wear. You can't walk around in my shirt alone."
Mabel made a face at the mental image. "No, that would be a bit embarrassing."
"I'm thinking you should hide in the water, away from shore, until tomorrow morning. By then I should hopefully have found something useful. If not, then come back again by noon. Deal?"
"Are you gonna be okay on your own?"
"Mabel, I've been..." The rest died in his throat. He couldn't exactly tell her he had been fine on his own without his sister's help throughout the years. She didn't take it too well the last time he reminded her of his disappearance. "I'll be fine, don't worry. I'm a strong man now." As a proof, he flexed his arms, something that always made her laugh when they were younger. But now, she only seemed to deflate, her eyes drooping as she pulled herself back to the water.
"Yeah, you are. See you tomorrow." With that, she ducked under the water and disappeared in the waves. Dipper stood by the shore, half of his mind screaming at him to follow her, that he had fucked up, again. The other, more rational part told him to follow the plan. Get clothes, meet up with Mabel, find Ford, and hopefully, move somewhere far away with his family.
It took Dipper most of the night to find something for Mabel to wear, only because the small town was booming with music and drunk people. Not one room had been empty and easy to search through. Most people would have thought it easy to steal from drunkards, but they were seriously the worst.
At least three women and two men had grabbed after Dipper, trying to pull him along to God knows where. It had taken all his willpower to stay in town and search for clothes instead of running back to Mabel with his figurative tail between his legs.
This was why humans were so disgusting, and even though Dipper hated his siren half, he couldn't help but be grateful he was unable to become as drunk as them without a serious effort.
He returned to the beach in the early morning, eyes drooping and feet dragging from exhaustion. As he arrived and noticed the lack of a certain hyperactive siren, he plopped down on the soft sand and placed the clothes behind him. He was just far enough away from the water for the clothes and himself to stay dry, but close enough to make it fairly easy for Mabel to reach the clothes, should she arrive before he woke up again. With that last thought in mind, he tipped over and closed his eyes, embracing the soft glow from the rising sun as he drifted off.
What felt like mere minutes passed before a shadow covered his face, disturbing the serenity the waves had created in his mind. He cracked an eye open, noticing the dripping brown hair framing a smiling face before closing it again and pointing to the clothes at his head.
"Take your time changing, I'll stay right here," he mumbled sleepily.
"'Kay Bro-Bro, thank you!"
Dipper shifted, arms coming up to rest under his head as he waited for his sister to call for him again. He had almost fallen back to sleep when she poked his face.
"Wake up Dipstick. I'm ready, let's go!"
Dipper groaned and rolled over, rising to his feet and dusting lingering sand off of his clothes. Mabel spun around, probably to show off her clothes and waiting for his approval. He wouldn't really say anything negative about the clothes anyway, having fought numerous drunkards for the damn pieces of fabric. The white shirt fit well enough, and Mabel's never ending supplies of thread held the loose pants up.
"Looks great. Where are we meeting Ford?"
"Dunno where it is, but he showed me the place on a map once."
Dipper stared at her dumbfounded, his mouth slightly ajar.
"Pfft, you should see your face!" Mabel's cackles rang in his ears as he rubbed his temples.
"So, you have no idea where we have to go?" His head was beginning to hurt.
"Relax Dip Dop, I've got it all under control. We don't know where we are right now, so , we just have to get a map and find out! I can point out the location on a map, we just have to find one."
Mabel jumped two steps away from Dipper, smiled and flicked some seaweed at his face.
"Mabel, come on!" His grin revealed the humour underneath his cry, causing Mabel to squeal in delight as Dipper rubbed his face clean and chased her from the beach through the undergrowth and right to the edge of the small town he had visited the night before. Dipper snatched her arm right before she passed the first house and pulled her back behind him.
"Mabel, we can't draw too much attention to ourselves. We have to be careful. We get the map, and get out again, okay?" His eyes sharpened, all humour had left in favour of the worrisome brother she knew too well.
"I know, I know, don't worry. I can be invisible." She smiled and bit her tongue, hiding the frown she usually gave his worrisome antics. They couldn't fight now, not with a mission and a plan to complete. Later, she could tease him again. When the fear of him running off wasn't at the forefront of her mind.
She couldn't forget their conversation on the raft. Dipper's thoughts about himself and the family's wellbeing without him in their lives. Of course, he didn't know how worried and scared they had all been after he disappeared, and how long both grunkles had used on finding him again. It was only with the help of grunkle Ford Mabel actually succeeded in tracking him down. She couldn't tell him. Not now at least. He would just blame the stress on himself.
"Well, let's find a map, shall we?" She inquired, arching her brows and clapping him on the back. The cocky grimace cracked Dipper's frown and made him smile, his grip on her arms loosening as she walked around him and strolled into the town. Dipper followed behind, grateful for the hangover that had swept the streets clean of most citizens from the crazy night before.
"So, where do you think everybody is?" Mabel peered into a bar, scrunching her nose up at the foul smell in the air.
"It was actually pretty crazy last night. I don't know if they celebrated something or what, but everybody seemed to be too drunk to stand."
Mabel spun around to gape at him. "There was a party and you didn't tell me?"
"I couldn't. You needed clothes, remember?" She pouted as Dipper patted her back and continued down the street.
They walked for a time after that in silence, only speaking when one of them suggested another route. Dipper quite enjoyed the easy silence that rested between them, having missed the automatic understanding and ease they had shared throughout their lives together. Mabel grinned each time she saw something new, pointing to each thing with one question or another. Dipper answered the best he could, though he tried to change the subject each time he got a question he couldn't answer.
"Hey, let's try in here!" Mabel ran over to a small shop between an inn, the name was not exactly written in English, which made them both unable to decipher it, and a house without any signs outside, marking it as private property. Dipper felt sorry for whoever had to endure drunken sailors and workers as neighbours each night.
They entered the building, both almost gagging as the heavy air inside filled their lungs. The heat outside was bearable since the buildings created a nice shade over the street if you were willing to walk close to the walls, and a fresh breeze from the sea nearby provided plenty of cool and fresh air. However, the old building seemed to stop any air that wanted to penetrate the walls, every window that should have been open was covered by shelves and the like with nicknack.
Mabel jumped inside, ignoring the old air was exploring the oddities on the shelves. Their grunkle Ford would have loved the place. Dipper felt his heart tighten at the thought. He really hadn't seen any of them in eight years, and now that he finally had a chance to return home, his only thought was to run as far away as possible. The thought alone was preposterous if he didn't remember the very reason why. They still didn't know what he did, and quite frankly, he didn't want them to. He couldn't bear the thought of Mabel looking at him with such contempt and fear. It terrified him. More than the thought of changing, which was the reason for everything to begin with. If only he had inherited his father's traits instead of his mother's.
Dipper was pulled out of his musings when Mabel grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the door to a corner with a few boxes. Maps and old paintings, clearly copies or amateur work, filled the wooden boxes.
"Do you think any of these show the area?"
Dipper riffled through the old paper. Some had become yellow from old age, some were brand new. Dipper found a few maps of South India and a part of Eastern Africa. They mostly depicted water, which made it perfect for navigating at sea.
Dipper remembered the maps Pyronica had showed him while he was on the Mindscape and the course they had planned. If his calculations were correct, they should be somewhere in South India, in some small town. They hadn't seen any masts from ships, but with the sea so close, they had to have some kind of small harbour for ships to berth and weigh anchor. Maybe they could ask a ship for a ride to wherever Ford awaited them if the journey proved too long on foot.
"This one might be useful, though I need to know where we are on the map."
"Well, let's just ask the owner!"
"Mabel, we don't even-" But she had already walked over and leant against the counter where an old man stared back with heavy eyes. He had probably fallen prey to the hangover as well as most of the town. Dipper was almost impressed with his diligence to keep the shop open. The man looked dead on his feet.
"Hello! My brother and I would like to buy this map. And we would appreciate it greatly if you would point out this small town on the map as well. We have an appointment with a family member we would like to reach on time."
The man stared at her with glassy eyes, half unfocused and blinking slowly every few seconds.
"I don't think he understands us, Mabel. If it's true we are in India, he might not understand English."
Mabel pouted and moved away from the counter. "Then what do we do?"
"It might not be much, but I did spend a few months in India at some point. Maybe I can make myself understandable." He took the map with him to the counter, put it down on the table and gave his best smile. The man stared impassively back. With a few broken words, Dipper pointed to the map and then himself. The man stretched and leant forward. He tapped the map and held his hand out.
"What is it?" Mabel noticed her brother's sudden silence.
"We don't have any money, right?" Her eyes widened. They didn't.
"We- We can just- Uh, I don't know. Does he accept teeth?"
Dipper fixed her with an incredulous stare. She pulled the teeth necklace they used as a saw on the island from under her shirt.
"You took it with you?"
Mabel bit her lip with a grin and shrugged. "I didn't want to leave it behind."
Dipper sighed and turned back towards the man to ask. He didn't need to, however, since the glassy eyes had gained a glimmer of interest, his form slightly moving towards the necklace with teeth in Mabel's hand.
"Something tells me he likes teeth," Mabel grinned. Dipper laughed in disbelief and took the necklace.
"I guess you're right."
The man had instantly agreed to sell the old map for the necklace, waving them goodbye with an enthusiasm Dipper didn't know you could possess in that age. If his vocabulary had been better, he would have asked why the teeth were so special, but he didn't, so he let the mystery rest for now and vowed to ask around later on. The man had pointed to somewhere near the southern tip of India on the map, which they guessed were the town they had stumbled upon. Since they didn't have any money and weren't sure teeth would work again, they walked back to the beach and settled down in the sand. Dipper placed the map gently in front of them and surveyed the area. Depending on where Ford would meet them, it could take anywhere between a few hours and whole weeks before they reached the destination.
"Mabel, where are we supposed to meet Ford?" He glanced to the side, watching his sister dig a hole in the sand. She stopped as he asked, sticking her tongue out when she looked at the map.
"Somewhere along... Here!" She pointed to a location to the north from their current position, luckily still on the west coast. Then they didn't have to travel through the whole country.
"Okay, it shouldn't take too long to get there. We might be able to meet Ford in a few days."
Mabel jumped up, kicking sand everywhere as she punched the air with a fist. "Yes! Grunkle Ford, here we come!"
Dipper sputtered and grabbed the map, saving it before Mabel could land anywhere near it. He dusted the sand off his head and the paper, carefully folding it and stuffing it in his waistband. Not the best place to hold a map, but he didn't have any pockets or his bag. It would have to work.
"Off we go!" Mabel grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the town again.
"What? Let's just go!"
"Let's walk along the beach. It's closer to the water, which makes it easier to get food, and we won't have to walk into too many people. We can just walk along the trees near the beach."
"Will that make it easier?" She looked doubtful as she shifted her gaze between the town and the beach, eyeing the tree line and yellowing grass with a critical eye. She would no doubt prefer the habitable route, but Dipper didn't trust their luck. It was India after all, most of the land was under the British Empire, which meant any soldier could know about him. He didn't want to be found, not now, with Mabel beside him. They were lucky the town was small enough for the soldiers to mostly leave it alone. Dipper hadn't seen any soldiers the night before. Though they could still be hiding somewhere, waiting for a mistake. He didn't want to take the chance.
"I'm sure it will be just the same amount of work to walk one way or the other, but this way we won't have to fear of bandits or soldiers discovering us. It'll be an adventure!"
Mabel's face lit up at the word, a game they often played as children. Dipper felt bad for using such a dirty move, but he had to keep her safe. He didn't dare imagine the terrified look she would have on her face if they were suddenly arrested for stepping into the wrong town along the way. He would take the problems with meeting Ford when they arrived. Maybe he could ask Mabel to find him alone and bring him out to the beach. They could figure something out together. They always did.
"Onward to adventures Dipdop! I sense something exciting!" Mabel tucked on his hand again, this time along the treeline, happily chatting away about old times and the adventures they had been on together. Dipper listened with half an ear, thoughts churning about Ford and their forthcoming reunion. He would have to play it safe and see if their grunkle knew anything. He knew he had to tell them someday, but for now, that thought was banished to the depths of his mind, locked away to hopefully never be found again. Eight years had passed. He could handle the rest of his life. Though it seemed a bit less bleak with Mabel back in it. Dipper smiled at the thought and squeezed her hand.
They had been sailing for a few days, following Pyronica's directions to India. Bill had stayed in his cabin most of the time, only coming out to replace whoever sat in the crow's nest. The crew was getting worried for their captain, but no one dared speak up about it. After Soos and Wendy had tried to get him out to the crew, and almost lost a hand each, they had more or less given up until they reached India.
Which was just fine with Bill. He stayed in the crow's nest most days, preferring the open sea to the confines of his cabin. It was a good hiding place, even if the whole crew knew he was up there. They wouldn't dare crawl up and disturb him, fearing he would snap and push them over the edge should they try. Which he wouldn't, of course not, they were more valuable alive. He didn't regret he yelled at Soos, the big crybaby, he just wished they wouldn't look at him like that.
"Stupid Soos, stupid Wendy, stupid kid, stupid feelings." Bill muttered a few curses as he pulled a knife out of his coat. He carved a few lines in the wood, cursing another person with each new scratch by the blade.
The stars glittered overhead. The ocean was calm, the wind slow. Bill cursed the weather as well. How would he ever catch up to the kid if the bloody wind never pushed them along! With a sigh he stood up, glancing down before throwing the knife at the door to his cabin. No one was in the range of the knife as it hit, though quite a few looked up in shock at the sudden thump.
They knew he wouldn't hit them, but with his darkening mood over the last few days, no one really felt sure anymore. Which of course made Bill even more agitated and restless. He didn't do with feelings, but they still whirled in his gut and made him anxious. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to say?
Bill gripped the edge of the wooden bowl and swung over the side, dropping a few feet before reaching for the latter of ropes leading up to the masts. He crawled down, a scowl growing on his face with each step. Most of the crew scurried off when he reached the floor. Bill didn't spare them a glance as he retrieved his dagger and entered the quarter.
He had only just sat down in the plush seat behind his desk when someone knocked on the door. Judging by his little show, it had to be Wendy or Pyronica. Nobody else dared approach him in a foul mood. They had stayed with him the longest, familiarising themselves with his behaviour.
As he had guessed, Wendy entered with a small frown on her face. She closed the door behind her and walked to the desk, leaning over the spread papers but otherwise keeping quiet.
"You didn't have to go that far. They are nervous enough as it is."
"You seem to have the impression that I actually care about their precious feelings." He grimaced, a foul taste filling his mouth.
She stared back, not backing down despite his teeth slowly becoming visible as he sneered at her.
"I know you do, we all do, you just won't admit it. You beat yourself up over Dipper, tearing your hair out and blaming yourself. I mean, you should, you really hurt the kid, but don't let it harm the crew. Everybody screws up. Just get over it and apologise! I'm sick and tired of your rotten attitude on deck. Until you sort out your thoughts, I'm getting us to India. Don't approach the crew until you lighten up."
With that said, she strode out of the cabin and slammed the door shut behind her before Bill could even say a word to stop her. He had half a mind to drag her back in and slice her throat, but that thought quickly died again. He knew she was right, but that didn't make him happy about her attitude or sudden bravery.
With a sigh, Bill stood up from his chair and walked to the small window in the door. Outside, the crew were lighting lanterns and getting ready for a long night on deck. A few went below deck to rest before the shift. The taste still lingering in his mouth got worse. A strange restlessness ran through his spine and pulled him towards a cabinet behind the desk. He pulled out a bottle of rum and sat down again. He considered a glass but shrugged and raised the bottle instead.
"To a long night," he whispered and moved his head back, letting the burning liquid soothe his throat and wash away the foul taste. It settled pleasantly in his stomach and spread out slowly to the rest of his aching body.
It had been a long day of walking when Dipper and Mabel finally decided to stop for the night. The stars were out and the moon shone softly in the dark sky. They had kept to the border between sand and grass the whole day, ducking into the forest or underbrush whenever someone approached. Luckily they had only encountered two people throughout the whole day.
"Whew, I'm exhausted!" Mabel fell down on the grass, stretching her body as she spoke. Dipper plopped down beside her, rubbing a hand over his face.
"We did walk for quite a while, it's only natural, even for us. Though some people would probably be more tired than we are after such a trip."
"And we aren't even there yet," she whined, rolling onto her stomach.
Dipper clapped her shoulder comfortingly. "Don't worry, it won't take more than a few days. We are lucky he didn't want to meet us inland, but near the coast."
Mabel pouted and stood up, stretching a hand for Dipper to take. "Then let's hurry up and eat so we can go to sleep early."
He grabbed her hand and stood as well, giving it a small squeeze before releasing it again. "Right."
He surveyed the treeline, then the beach, and back again.
"We should be able to find enough wood for a fire, and maybe something edible, though I'm not sure about the natural plants around here. If you go hunting for fish, I'll prepare a fire and hopefully find a soft spot to hide and sleep for the night."
"Sounds like a plan!" She punched his shoulder and grinned before walking to the beach. Dipper quickly turned around and walked past the first trees. No way he was seeing her undress. Hopefully, she would place the clothes far away from the water to keep it dry.
As he predicted, it didn't take long to gather enough wood for a fire, there were even a few pieces left to feed it throughout the night. Dipper found a small patch of moss under a tree not far from the beach, perfect for a single nights rest. He built the fire a few feet away from the tree's roots and made a circle of rocks from the beach around it to keep the fire in. After that, he worked a few minutes with building a flame and feeding it to the stacked branches.
Mabel appeared behind not long after, two fat fish in her hands and a grand smile on her face. As the meat cooked on sticks over the fire, they settled in on the moss and huddled together. Though the night wasn't cold, it wasn't exactly as warm and humid as the island. A bit more dry, but not cold in the slightest.
Mabel rested her head on Dipper's shoulder, glancing at the fire with tired eyes. Dipper ran a hand through her hair as he watched the surrounding trees. Though it did seem like they were alone for the night, he couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness off of him. Any second someone could see their fire and alert the officials.
"Do you think we'll find Ford?"
The question caught him off guard. He hadn't thought about it, but it must have been a while since Mabel left home to find him. What if Ford weren't at the planned location? What would they do?
"Do you think he won't be there?"
A small movement, her shoulders lifting and falling again in a shrug.
"I don't know. It has just been a while, that's all. I haven't seen any of our great uncles in a few months now. A lot could happen. A lot happened with you in a single night."
Dipper bit his lip at the last comment. He had hoped they could forget that until they found Ford.
"I know. I'm sure we'll find him. It'll only take a few days."
They sat in silence after that, both lost in their own thoughts. Dipper moved his hand to rub circles on her back instead. A small sigh escaped her as they listened to the forest around them, and the quiet whisper of the waves not far away.
"I know we'll find him. I'll gather the family again. No more running. I promise."
Hopeful eyes stared at him as Mabel lifted her head, a cold hand resting on his arm.
"You promise? No more secrets?"
With a nod, he silently vowed to make her happy again.
"No more secrets. We just have to find Ford."
It hadn't been more than a few hours when someone knocked on the door again. Bill groaned and moved his head from the desk. With squinted eyes, he focused on the door and moved the half empty bottle aside.
"Come in." His throat burned after the long sip, but it was rather pleasant for his fried mind to focus on instead of the moving room.
A red spot moved into the room. Bill rubbed his eyes and sighed. "Good evening Red."
"It's the middle of the night, sir. Are you drunk?" Her mouth dropped in disapproval.
"Hehe." Bill grinned and moved the bottle to his lips again. "I am, but apparently, someone won't let me relax with my rum in peace. What do you want?" A long swig warmed his cold body. His fingers prickled.
"We have arrived." Her voice held no emotions.
"Earlier than I expected. Great! Let's board this miserable place and get the kids back." He swayed on his feet before attempting to move towards the door. Halfway through he fell, only to be caught by Wendy and moved to stand against the desk.
"I don't think you can walk in that condition captain."
"Get off me!" He scowled and pushed her arms away. "I can walk by myself." A rather tight grip on his upper arm stopped him from moving. In any other condition he would have simply stabbed her, but with the high dosage of rum he just ingested, he had no hopes of winning a hand to hand battle, especially against Wendy.
"I'm sorry captain, but this has gone too far. I want you to sit down and listen." With a final scowl in her direction, he moved back to his chair and sat down, fighting the pout his drunk mind wanted to send her way. "The crew trust you. I trust you, but this is too much. You are freaking out over a kid, whose feelings you've hurt. Was it any other person on this ship you would just shrug and tell them to man up. I know this is different, the whole crew does as well. We want them back too. But you've got to pull yourself together, or you will never find him and apologise. You hear me?"
His mood had dropped the more she spoke, but the anger was completely gone and replaced by resignation.
"I've been a huge idiot, haven't I?"
A small smile graced her lips as Bill sighed. "Only a bit captain."
"Very well. I shall make sure to tell the crew myself."
With no small amount of self-control, he walked slowly out of the cabin and faced the crew on deck. Wendy followed right behind him and joined Soos and Pyronica at the main mast. Whoever was still awake left their posts and turned to the swaying captain on deck.
"It has come to my attention that we have arrived at our primary destination. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work in reaching land so quickly. And apologise for being so... Angry the last few days."
A snort from Wendy lightened the mood considerately. A few crew members even grinned at their captain again. His own smile grew large on his face like it always did right before a crazy plan of his.
"And as such, I want everyone in bed to rest up for tomorrow. We have a long day of searching ahead of us, and I want everyone to be in their best form."
Cheers rang out over the ship, probably waking a few people below deck in the process. Wendy smiled as Pyronica and Soos hugged each other. Everyone seemed happy that the looming darkness over their ship was finally gone. Even Bill had a smirk on his face as he turned around and headed for his cabin again.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have some rum to sleep off." With that, he shut the door behind him and fell right into bed. Outside the crew slowly settled down again and made preparations for tomorrow. Some had slept during dinner, and as such didn't need sleep, but food instead. Wendy peeked through the window to see if Bill actually went to sleep or not. He was out like a light. Pyronica looked over her shoulder and chuckled at the display.
"He really is a fool, isn't he?" A fondness filled her voice as she clapped Wendy on her shoulder. "Great job Wendy."
"Thanks, P. But he is our fool. And we wouldn't want it any other way. Hopefully, Dipper can agree with that after we find him. If not, we might need more rum in storage."
It took three long days of travelling, but Dipper and Mabel finally arrived at the designated town. Spirit had been high since the first night, both twins opting to keep positive until they found their great uncle. As the town appeared along the coast, Mabel jumped into the air and screamed in delight.
"Yes! We're finally here!"
"Relax Mabel, we don't want the whole town to hear." He couldn't help but grin alongside Mabel as they entered the small town. Her great mood was rather contagious.
The inhabitants were all busy with selling goods and transporting boxes. No one paid the newcomers any mind as the twins weaved through the crowd. Mabel gawked at the food stands, mouth watering at the display of fresh fruit and meat. Dipper didn't dare try the trick with selling teeth again, so he quickly pulled her away from the aromas.
"Just one bite, Dipper. Please?" Her eyes almost grew to double the size as she hugged his middle.
"Mabel, we have no money. When we find Ford, we can hopefully buy some lunch, but not now."
"A lunch without fish." She pouted her lips and released him, jumping aside as a man pushed a trolley between them.
"Who would have thought a siren could tire of fish." Mabel made a face at him.
"I can tire of anything if I don't get variety."
"I'll make sure to tell any future partner that they need to change appearance every few weeks before the marriage then." She spun around at his teasing tone, eyes narrowed to slits.
Dipper looked at his nails before facing her, a grin plastered on his face. "Oh, but I would."
"That's it!" With that, she jumped at him, tackling him to the ground and mercilessly tickling him. Dipper writhed beneath her, heaving for breath as he laughed, unable to properly fill his lungs as his very breath was forced out of him.
"I give, I give! Mercy!"
He rolled to the side and took Mabel along with him, both shaking with laughter as people passed them by, uncaring about the odd newcomers on the ground. As long as they didn't cause any trouble, it seemed like the citizens wouldn't care about them at all. Dipper noted that for future use as he wiped his eyes. He pulled Mabel up and into an alleyway, away from the odd looks and suspicious stares. Mabel clapped his shoulder and grinned, leaning against the wall for support.
"So, where are we meeting Ford?"
She breathed deeply and pushed away from the wall. "In some place called... I don't remember the name."
"What?" Dipper stared at her in disbelief. "Are you serious?"
"It was another language, I'm not as bookish as the two of you. I just know a weird crest belongs to the place, something with an octopus and three swords. Don't ask me why they chose that."
Dipper pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "Then I guess we're hunting for an octopus."
It took a few hours, but they finally found the inn hidden in an alleyway, away from the main road and prying eyes. Mabel had almost pushed him over when she found the slap of wood above a door, paint chipped off and small cuts making it difficult to see the original painting. Without time to consider a silent approach, Mabel dragged him inside and right to the bar, bombarding the innkeeper with questions.
"Mabel, you might have to slow down, no one understands words at that speed."
"So." The innkeeper gave them a once over and raised a brow. "You from England or something? Like the soldiers?" The accent was thick, but not impossible to understand. Dipper guessed the man must be used to Englishmen filling the bar from time to time, making it easier to pick up the language than the man in the shop a few days back.
"Yeah, just looking for... An elderly man to bring us home. We have business back in the west."
The keeper cleaned a glass and gestured to chairs alongside the bar. Dipper and Mabel sat down, eyes sweeping over the crowd for any familiar face.
"Look if you want, but don't touch anything unless you have gold. I've been cheated before." He disappeared into the crowd with a canteen of beer, occasionally looking back at them as he went.
"Well, finally someone who can speak English. That should make it easier, right?"
"Not exactly Mabel. That means soldier come here often. And they probably reside here as well, forcing the people to learn our language to communicate." A few of the guests were eyeing the twins, none of them with any friendly intentions shining from their eyes. Dipper clenched his fists and kept looking for Ford, hoping to spot the greying hair in the mass of heads.
"I don't think he's here Dipper. Maybe something has happened to him. We have to keep looking!"
"That might be a good idea." Dipper grabbed her hand and led her out before they unintentionally caused a scene. The last thing they needed were soldiers on their tail. He pulled her down two alleyways and crossed the main street before ducking into a new side road, always keeping an eye out for red fabric. Hopefully, the soldiers here would wear the same colour as they did back in England.
"Do you think he's in the city?" Her hopeful tone did not help his own falling mood. Of course, it wouldn't be that easy to start over again. He should have known it would only cause troubles.
"I don't know Mabel, but-"
A flash of red caught his eyes, pulse quickening at the prospect of being discovered now, especially with Mabel beside him.
"Mabel, did you see that?"
She looked in his direction, eyes squinted to better focus, as she always did when they were younger.
"No? What did you see?"
"I just thought I saw- Never mind. Let's go." He walked in the opposite direction, hoping it to simply be his imagination and paranoia instead of trouble.
"Hey Dipper? Maybe we should-" The sentence was cut off as Dipper collided with something and fell over, only to be caught and steadied by Mabel.
"I'm so sorry sir, I-"
"Dipper." A glance at the person he hit revealed none other than Bill Cipher, sitting on the ground with a hopeful expression on his face.
"Run." Dipper took off with Mabel right behind him, both steering into the main street and turning right, hoping to end up on the beach before Bill caught up to them.
"What is he doing here?" Mabel called over his shoulder. His pulse almost overpowered any other sound around him.
"I don't know. Just run!" They weaved through the crowd, jumping over carts and under booths, avoiding any major incidents as they raced along the road. Quite a lot of people yelled at them, but the adrenaline kept them deaf and blind to anything but the next obstacle. Daring a quick glance behind them showed Bill hot on their heels, pushing people aside as they gathered for the spectacle.
"Dipper!" Wendy came running out of a side road, joining the chase alongside her captain. Dipper swore and steered right, down an alleyway and out onto another road.
A shout caught his attention. Apparently, someone had alerted the officers and sent a group of soldiers after them as well. Mabel was heaving for air, and Dipper's own lungs burned as they raced for the docks. Just a little further. They could do it. They had to.
Bill had tried his fair share of crazy plans and improvised escapes, but this took the top. Never had he bumped right into the person he was searching for, only for a dozen soldiers to chase his prize as well. His fingers itched for the gun in his belt, but he knew it would only make Dipper's dislike for him bigger. The damn kid and his problems. Damn morals, too! Why did they have to become Bill's as well? He jumped over a booth and pushed another person aside. Can't people step away when someone is in a hurry?
"Captain, the soldiers." Red followed alongside him, jumping over anyone Bill simply pushed to the ground.
"I know Red. Just get their attention, I'll handle the kids." A quick nod followed the order, and Red dived into an alleyway. Bill continued until he heard a gunshot. People screamed and jumped to the side, confusion arising as more shots rang out in the air.
The soldiers up ahead stopped, turning around to access the new threat. Bill dove to the side and continued, catching the kids hiding in a shop not far ahead. Did sirens grow tired as quickly as humans did on land? He stored that information away for later as he followed them.
Through the door and up the stairs, looking for any sign of movement. A flash of white was the only warning before someone tackled him to the ground. Sharp teeth dove for his throat, a quick punch to the temple steering them away from his untimely demise.
Bill pushed the dizzy girl off of himself and stood up, backing away as Dipper kneeled beside her.
"Mabel, are you okay? Can you hear me?"
A weak moan escaped her, hands rubbing circles at her temples to soothe her growing headache.
"I'm sorry, but I had to stop her from ripping my throat out." A burning glare was pointed his way, pointed claws suddenly more real than ever before. "Truce?" Bill asked weakly.
"Never." It was nothing more than a hiss, but with a clear intent in that single word. They wouldn't leave this town in one piece. He lunged at Bill, teeth bared and claws pointing at his throat. Bill jumped to the side, inches from being ripped up. Dipper rolled to his back, kicking up to take Bill down. He grabbed the leg and threw the kid to the other side of the room. Before Dipper could stand up, Bill stood with his pistol, barrel pointing right at his head.
"Listen." Dipper hissed but stayed silent. "I don't want to fight. Believe it or not, I'm here to apologise. So suck it up and let me help you out of here. The soldiers won't be distracted forever."
Mabel had recovered enough to stand while the two fought. She walked over to Dipper and pulled him aside. Bill watched them with barely suppressed suspicion. He couldn't defend himself against two half sirens alone, even with a pistol pointed at them. One shot at a time was never really practical, but better than nothing.
"So, what do you say?"
Mabel straightened up with a grin plastered on her face, while Dipper simply frowned at him, anger never leaving his eyes.
"We have decided to trust you for now, but hold the right to rip your throat out if you trick us." The big smile only made her statement creepy instead of joking. At least he hoped she was joking. At least partially.
"Very well. Shall we be on our way then? I would like to leave before I lose a crew member."
"What?" Both twins looked slightly uncomfortable by the statement. Apparently, it was only the captain they hated enough to kill. Or simply maim. He supposed that was better than nothing.
"This way, we'll take the back alley out and down to the docks."
"Wait, who is distracting the soldiers?" Dipper grabbed his arm before he could climb out of the window.
"Red, of course. Why?" The concerned frown he received said all. A spark of anger made him clench his fists. They better have more rum on the ship when he returned.
"She will be fine. Don't worry Dipper." Bill didn't see the surprised look on his face as he climbed out and down, waiting for the kids to do the same. A quick glance at each other was the last push they needed to follow the captain through the town, hopefully to a new place and their great uncle. Bill just needed to bide his time and learn the twins' secrets at his own pace. He always got what he wanted in the end.
They followed Bill down to the docks, avoiding soldiers and keeping to the shadows. Dipper kept an eye on Bill at all time, making sure to stay between Bill and Mabel. He would need to acquire his own sword and pistol for future use. No way he would be unarmed near the crazy captain again. They arrived at the ship without trouble. Bill raised his pistol to the sky and pulled the trigger.
"Why would you do that?" Dipper hated his voice for sounding slightly panicked. He was still high on adrenaline after the chase and the following fight.
A crazy smile was pointed his way. "Just wait. Climb the ship."
Mabel did as told, smiling at the crew on deck. They received her with cheers. Dipper lingered behind, waiting for whatever the captain had planned. Bill glanced back, waving at the young man.
"Just go, she'll arrive soon."
"Who else." Bill sneered at the name. "Go."
Dipper boarded the ship and smiled awkwardly at the crew. They smiled back and cheered, Soos going as far as to crush him in a hug. The crew laughed alongside Mabel as her brother struggled for breath in the strong embrace. A few punched his shoulder when he was finally placed on the floor again.
The small cabin boy shouted from the crows nest, pointing to the town as Wendy emerged from the buildings, a dozen soldiers hot on her heels.
She waved at Bill as she neared them. He waved back and kneeled down, placing his hands just above the ground. Wendy placed a boot on the folded hands, Bill quickly standing up and throwing the redhead over his shoulder. She made a flip as she landed on deck, a few applauding as she sped to the wheel, not sparing the twins a glance.
The crew dispersed and readied the ship for departure. Soos threw a rope down to the captain and tied it to the main mast. Mabel pulled Dipper to the railing to watch Bill run along the ship and grab the rope. He quickly climbed up and continued to the wheel where Wendy steered them away.
The soldiers shot at the ship but not a single one of the crew was harmed. The ship soon left the docks and entered deep water, the wind catching the sails and adding speed to the retreating figure on the waves.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Chapter by Aracney
If you have any suggestions or comments, I'm more than happy to hear them.
They had sailed the whole day to put as much distance between themselves and India as possible. Bill had stayed at the helm, occasionally glancing at the twins working on deck. Dipper quickly fell into the rhythm of the ship again, as if he had never left at all. It would all have been fine and dandy if he hadn't ignored Bill the whole time, relying on Wendy or Pyronica if he needed assistance. Mabel stayed by his side the first few hours of the journey, but quickly lost interest and played a game with Soos instead. Bill would have told them off a long time ago if Dipper didn't look so happy each time his sister laughed. He really was getting soft, wasn't he?
"Captain," Wendy called from the main deck. Bill moved his eye from the twins and onto his first mate. A knowing smirk played on her lips.
"What?" His tone was more clipped than usual, but it did nothing to stop the redhead from approaching him and gripping the helm as well.
"You need a break, it's late. Go get a proper course from the kids. I'm guessing the only reason they are still here is because you promised them a ride. We need to know where to take them."
Bill grimaced and focused on the twins. Mabel was teaching Soos and two other crew members how to make intricate knots with thread. Soos showed a surprising talent for the craft. Dipper looked on from the railing, casually twirling his own thread between two fingers.
"Why don't you talk to the kid? He seems to like you better." If he sounded like a petty brat, he didn't care. The kid knew how to rub him the wrong way, and Bill was almost fed up with the attitude and obvious disdain he emitted near the captain.
"Just go." She gently pushed him towards the stairs. Bill would have lashed out at her if he felt like it. He didn't want another night with too much rum, his head still hurt. With a deep sigh, he descended the stairs to the next level of the ship.
The laughter died down as he approached the trio. Mabel looked wary but otherwise didn't acknowledge his presence. The crew members nodded or raised a hand in greeting. Bill returned the sentiment and even lifted his hat at Mabel as he passed. The bright smile sent his way told him he made the right decision.
Dipper straightened up as Bill approached, thread forgotten and eyes narrowed.
"Evening Pine Tree." He lifted his hat for the male twin as well, hoping to earn a positive reaction again. Dipper simply huffed and turned his head away, arms crossed over his chest.
"You know, Pine Tree. It's not very nice to ignore your captain." A tight smile showed the growing irritation Bill had ignored the whole day. Still no reaction. "Listen, kid-"
"Captain, we need a course before the sun goes down." Pyronica appeared before Bill could let any anger out. It was probably for the best, he mused as she pulled out a map. "It's easier to navigate with the sun up. And read the map, of course." The nonchalant tone hid her exasperation over the pair's childish antics.
Bill turned to Dipper, who had inched towards the conversation. "Well? Where do you want to go?"
"Mabel?" The girl perked up at the sound of her name. She placed the thread carefully on the floor beside Soos and joined the trio near the railing.
"Where else did Ford tell you to go?"
She thought for a minute, fingers pulling at brown strands of hair. "Somewhere in South Africa, I think. A rather big city actually."
"Great!" Pyronica exclaimed, showing the map to Mabel. "Can you point out where? We need to restock the ship anyway, so it would be great to deal with both problems at the same time."
Mabel scanned the map and grinned. She pointed somewhere near the bottom of Africa, a small dot indicating a city.
Pyronica walked to the helm beside Wendy, planning and measuring the course. The twins glanced at each other as everyone waited for the result. Finally, the navigator straightened from the small table and handed the map to Bill, who had joined her and Wendy. "The course, Captain."
His eye scanned the paper with a bored look and handed it over to Wendy. "Seems like we have some way to go."
The first mate nodded in agreement. "Seems like it captain."
Bill turned to the twins with a gleam in his eye, emotions hidden but grin shining. "I hope you like the ride. We'll be sailing for most of a month together. Might as well get comfortable."
The sun had disappeared hours ago, the moon rising in its stead with a myriad of stars above the silent water. Bill had retreated to his cabin right after dinner, preferring the solitude to the noisy crew. The twins joined the crew right away, bonds strong as ever and the mood steadily growing after the hurricane of furry Bill pulled them through during the last few weeks when they searched for the siblings.
The Mindscape gently swayed as it moved through the waves. Bill reclined in his chair, a bottle of rum beside him. Though unlike last time, he didn't simply chuck the strong liquid down, but instead sipped from a glass, enjoying the taste more than the buzz as he closed his eyes. His crew was fun to be around, no doubt about that, but every once in a while he enjoyed the peace and comfort of his office.
Especially after those tiresome twins. Dipper had kept on ignoring him all throughout dinner. Bill had placed himself by Wendy, Pyronica and Soos, hoping to make amends after his... Well, a tantrum was the only thing he could really call it, though he refused to acknowledge it out loud to the crew. They all knew it, no need to rub it in. After a few awkward attempts at apologising, Wendy had simply called him an idiot and the group had laughed along with her. The closest they would ever come to an apology among themselves. If only Dipper were that easy to interact with, Bill mused as he took another sip.
The twins had arrived right after, possibly pulled over by curiosity, at least on Mabel's part, and sat down beside Wendy, as far away from Bill as possible. It had irked him, but he refrained from saying anything. No need to aggravate the kid in front of the whole crew again. No, Bill had learned his lesson on that account. No more public inquiries. The kid would only feel cornered, which he would be to an extent, though he could always leave the Mindscape again. A thing Bill wished to avoid at all cost. He didn't feel like starting another manhunt simply to restore a young man's pride once again.
A high-pitched shriek from outside his door forced Bill from the plush chair and over to his window. Outside, the twins were currently chasing each other, or rather, Dipper chased Mabel, while the whole crew looked on in amusement. Bill had half a mind to go outside and join them, but simply stayed put, content to watch from afar. His curiosity may be great, but he could hear just fine with the noise the two were currently making. Dipper would no doubt stop whatever fun he was having and go pout in the corner if Bill showed his face outside of the cabin.
He scowled at the thought and went back to get his bottle before resuming his silent watch over the crew. Soos said something to the twins, which resulted in a flustered Dipper and howling Mabel. Bill was unable to pick up the words, muffled by the wood and voices from the rest of the crew, but guessed it was something embarrassing for the kid. His twin did seem to enjoy the comment immensely though. He would ask Mabel or Soos about it later. He knew Dipper would never tell him.
The flustered face made Bill's lips quirk, a sudden wish to make the face even redder appeared. Blaming the alcohol for any stray thoughts, he took three big gulps and wiped his mouth. Outside, the crew was slowly thinning out and getting ready for the night. Wendy and Mabel waved good night and went below deck, while Soos left for the helm, and Dipper headed for the back of the ship. Curious.
With a last look at the now empty bottle, Bill decided, what the heck, and left his cabin. Body warm from the rum and head swirling with thoughts, he slowly made his way towards the back of the ship and a certain halfling.
The kid had already placed himself at the railing, eyes following the constellations in the sky above the ship. Bill approached on silent feet but, being near a predator, was unable to truly surprise the half-siren before him. A sigh escaped Dipper as the captain sat down beside him. For a few minutes, neither said a thing, both waiting for the other to break the silence. With the alcohol in his system, Bill couldn't hold his tongue for long.
"Enjoying the night?" It was an awful attempt at small talk, but Bill had never been good at social interactions. His go-to response always consisted of snarky remarks or crazy smiles, both of which would only worsen the fragile peace forced between them by the crews growing happiness. With nothing but silence as his response, Bill felt like yelling at the stubborn kid. He was actually trying! A little bit of help would be appreciated, though he would never say it out loud. That would be admitting defeat. He still had his pride, no matter how bad he felt about making the kid angry.
"You know, at some point, you have to talk to me again. I am the captain of this ship, and the one giving you a ride to your, what was it, uncle? Grandfather?"
More silence. Bill rubbed his temples, the buzz fading and leaving a growing headache behind as a parting gift. How Bill hated running out of rum. At least after that amount of it.
"Are you even listening? I can't have a conversation with myself, people would think I'm even crazier than I already am." He snickered at his own attempt at humour, hoping the kid would at least agree with a snort or otherwise snarky remark. He stayed silent, however. Bill sighed.
A few minutes passed before Dipper stood and slowly made his way back to the main deck. Bill didn't watch him leave, instead opting to look at the black water. The empty void seemed like his only defence against the outside world, a place to hide his gaze when faced with emotions he couldn't handle. Turn his back on the world and ignore the mocking grins he knew looked back at him every time he lowered his defences.
"I'm sorry Dipper." It was barely above a whisper, the words alien on his tongue, but soothing for the grip around his chest. When had he last uttered those words to another being? It felt weird, but strangely comforting at the same time. Like he hadn't lost himself completely after all those years. Bill didn't know if he heard him, if he was even still behind him or far away, but he felt good. Even if he could never say it to Dipper's face. "I shouldn't have hit you, or accused you, before knowing the reason behind your actions. I got... Scared. I didn't want to admit it."
Bill laid back on the deck, watching the stars above instead of searching for Dipper. He couldn't say it again. Not now. He couldn't lower his defences a second time so soon. He would just wait and observe. Like he always did.
Not far away, just out of sight, a shadow moved from the mast to the sleeping captain. It was late, most of the crew slept soundly below deck. The helm was occupied, but the man looked tired, eyes drooping and posture slack.
The shadow moved silently, expertly, over the deck, carrying the blond captain to his cabin. Placing him on the soft mattress, a sigh escaped him as he snuggled up under the covers.
The shadow retreated back to the door. Glowing eyes watched the sleeping form, an array of colours flashing before settling back to a warm brown. He had heard every word the captain said before falling asleep, clearly drunk but not enough to slur his words. With a silent sigh, he left the cabin and headed below deck.
Days bled together in the small cell. Ford had long since stopped counting the days. It didn't matter. Time didn't exist down here. His right eye throbbed from the bruise he received yesterday. The swelling kept his eye mostly closed, though he could force it open just a crack if he tried.
It had to be months since he last saw any of his family. Where were the kids? Hopefully as far away as possible. He remembered where he agreed to meet up with Mabel, places he visited in his youth while he was studying. Hopefully, she would decide to stay there until he arrived, though he never would. How long would she wait before giving up, believing him dead and moving on with her life? She wasn't exactly a child anymore. She could handle herself, he knew that. They had always been strong. He and his brother had made sure of that, especially when their mother left for her annual trip. She never told them where, and they never thought to ask. It was a siren thing, he understood that. The children did as well.
With much difficulty, courtesy of the new bruises from yesterday, Ford heaved himself up from the floor and made his way to the corner right beside the door. A small crack revealed a cup of water, though it didn't hold more than a sip or two. It would be time for food soon. The only thing he could count on in this darkened hell hole. Despite their violent visits, they didn't want him to starve. Though for how much longer he could be useful remained a mystery to him. The children would never find him, it was useless to keep him hidden down here, wherever 'here' was. He never even got a chance to see, he just woke up on the cold floor with a splitting headache and a cruel voice asking for his great nephew.
"Professor, I see you are up and about." Speaking of the devil, the cold voice rang out crystal clear in the hallway. Ford moved away from the door, a reflex by now, and sneered at the looming shadow outside his cell door. The lantern behind the figure hid his face, but the voice gave him away in a second.
"Admiral Strange." A slight movement, maybe a grin, and his daily rations was pushed into his cell. "I never expected you of all people to bring me anything. What happened to the young boy?"
A shrug, shifting of feet and Strange leant against the door with his shoulder. The new angle cast a shadow over his face but made Ford able to actually see a few of his features.
"Resting. A rather nasty run-in with a pirate ship left him bleeding with a broken arm. I don't think he'll recover properly."
A heavy weight settled in his stomach. Though the kid had never been polite, he was still just a child, around Dipper's age when he disappeared. Ford felt sick just thinking about the children in a similar situation.
"I could take a look at him." He spoke before he could stop himself. The passive face turned slightly towards him. His eyes seemed black in the dim lighting.
"What would you want in return? You know I can't simply let you out of here, Professor."
Ford rubbed his eyes and gave Strange an annoyed look.
"It's called human decency Strange, though I suppose you wouldn't know what that means."
A wicked grin stretched his face, hand idly playing with a stray lock of black hair from his neat ponytail. The shadows seemed to contort his face into a devilish grimace.
"Careful professor, I wouldn't like to cut your tongue out, though I must admit it's nice to finally have some banter with you again."
"Oh spare me, your soldiers made sure to stop right before they killed me, though not without damage to my windpipe and throat. I suspect it was some kind of revenge from last time. It's not becoming for anyone to be a sore loser."
They stared each other down for a moment. Ford felt sure he had overstepped some unspoken line of respect towards his captor, but he didn't care anymore. He was sick and tired of being down here, and if his only escape would be in a coffin, the idea seemed more and more appealing each day. Hopefully, his family would then be safe from this power-hungry maniac. He couldn't let them end up like their mother.
A dark chuckle made him shudder. He had half a mind to turn around and protect his front, but he didn't want to give Strange the satisfaction of hiding his face.
"You know Professor. It's been a few months now, though I suppose it doesn't feel that way to you. I'm losing my patience. Where is your great nephew?"
"Fuck you." He spat on the floor, hands clenched at his side. The liquid looked slightly darker than it should, but the lighting made it difficult to decide. "Even if I knew, I would never tell you."
The humour disappeared from his eyes, though the smile stayed. It looked more like a sneer now. With a grace Ford felt disgusted he possessed, Strange drew his sword and swung it against the bars, a loud clang of metal ringing out in the darkness. A scream answered them, the voice instantly recognisable to Ford.
"No! Stop it!" He rushed to the cell door, hands reaching for Strange to- What? Hurt him? Beg him for mercy? With a step back he smirked at Ford, hands clasped behind his back.
"Careful Professor. You know they only listen to my orders."
"Damn you Strange. Stop it!" The screams came in bursts, never a predictable pattern to prepare yourself for. Ford flinched at each scream, his own bruises forgotten in the moment of worry for his twin.
Strange tilted his head after a particularly loud scream, small groans following the dying echo.
"Please, stop it. I don't know where they are, you know that. Please, just stop." Ford hated himself for begging, but he couldn't bear to hear his brother in pain.
With a look of mocking pity Strange hit the wall again. The following silence soothed his nerves. They stopped. He gasped for air, hands trembling where they gripped the bars of the cell. It felt like he had endured the torture as well. A wetness registered, and he automatically moved his hand to the area. His cheeks were wet, tears still rolling down in small lines. He didn't even know he was crying.
"Oh Professor, it pains me to see you right now. So broken."
A burning rage build where despair had weighed him down and a scream ripped from his throat as he lunged for Strange through the bars. This time Strange caught the hand before it could make contact instead of sidestepping it.
"Fuck you, Tad."
The use of his first name snapped him to attention, the mild irritation now full-blown anger. He pulled the arm forward, squishing Ford against the door. With a calm voice, he hissed in his face. "Watch it, professor. I hold both of your lives in my hand. You would do well to remember that."
He pushed Ford to the floor, kicking the plate and spilling the precious water before vanishing down in the dark hallway. Ford stared at the wasted food with disgust before turning his back to the door. The screams echoed in his mind as he fell into a restless slumber. Wherever the children were, he hoped they were safe.
They had sailed for twenty days straight, no stop, no slowing down, but the course was steady and spirit high. The crew enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere that had descended on the ship after the first day. No crew member knew the reason, but they wouldn't question good fortune, no matter how mysterious it was.
Only one person knew, and he kept as far away from the other as possible. The captain spent most of his time at the helm, steering his ship or simply gazing at the horizon, look far away and thoughts swirling behind a golden eye.
Dipper and Mabel spent most of their time on the main deck, helping the crew or playing games with Soos. The second mate, though the title was questionable as a real position, appreciated the help and company the twins always offered. Being one of the few pacifists on board made him an outsider, though no real hostility was directed towards him. He simply failed to join the usual topics the crew enjoyed discussing at dinner or during work. Being squeamish wasn't easy on a pirate ship, but none took offence against the other.
Dipper pulled the rope and secured the new knot. Some of the ropes had started to fray, and he agreed with Soos they needed to be replaced before a storm could reach them. Mabel kept talking behind him, though he didn't hear the words. His gaze kept straying to the captain at the helm.
They hadn't spoken since the night under the stars, where Bill had been drunk. He knew Bill only spoke to himself when he left the captain's side. A curious thought made him stay behind, however, to hear whatever the captain's drunken mind would reveal. The soft words had surprised him, enough to momentarily forget his anger with the captain and carry him back to the cabin. He had lingered in the door, unsure whether he should wake Bill or not. To actually talk now that his guard was down. In the end, he simply left and disappeared below deck to sleep, content to forget the world for a short period of time.
With a sigh, Dipper straightened from his work and looked at Mabel. She had abandoned her unfocused brother and turned her attention to Pyronica, who had joined them after her shift beside the captain. Bill himself kept staring straight ahead, over the horizon and never looking at the crew on board. Or the guests. Dipper didn't know if he appreciated it or found it annoying. He had hoped the captain would try to talk to him again after the failed night. This time he had promised himself he would listen, though Bill didn't know that, and Dipper wasn't about to tell him he had heard everything the man said in a moment of weakness and suspected solitude. That would only end badly.
A hand landed on his shoulder and Dipper removed his gaze from the helm. Pyronica looked at him with a knowing smile.
"You should go talk to him."
Dipper shrugged her hands off, though gently enough to show no real anger or annoyance.
"I have nothing to say." His tone lacked the usual bite he used whenever Bill and their clashing came up in conversation. Now it just sounded tired. They had all tried to convince him to make the first move, but he refused. It wasn't his problem, but Bill's. He just promised them all to listen, should Bill make the first move.
Pyronica gave him a small smile. She clearly expected the answer. "But you have something to hear, don't you?."
"And I will listen, should he wish to tell me." That always ended the discussion. They all knew it was the best they could get, and Dipper silently appreciated their efforts to make everything right again, though they could do nothing but wait. He could do the same.
A waving arm caught his attention and Mabel ushered him over to play another game with Soos. He nodded to the navigator and joined his sister at the railing, where their makeshift 'game table', a box and three empty barrels, stood to the side and out of the way. He snuck a final glance at the helm before turning away and dealing the cards. A few seconds later, the golden gaze flickered to the trio before focusing on the horizon once again.
Darkness had fallen over the water. In the distance, you could just make out a curved outline. Pyronica estimated they would reach land just after lunch tomorrow, which meant tonight should be celebrated. The crew had cleared the main deck and brought barrels of rum from the storage. Wooden cups had been placed around the barrels, though most were now being carried around by someone. A few men played to the side, the jolly music filling the air together with laughter.
Mabel had pulled Dipper to the middle of the floor right away, swinging around in a practised dance. It wasn't exactly a dance or any style for that matter, but a series of circles and dips they trained long ago for their mother. Mabel laughed enough for the whole crew, her high spirit pulling more and more people in to join their fun. Dipper lifted her for the last time and spun her around. She squealed with delight and hugged him as soon as her feet touched the floor again. Dipper smiled and squeezed her back. The crew clapped and applauded the grand display. Some clapped their shoulders with huge grins on their faces. Dipper shied away from the attention, Mabel no longer a sufficient distraction from the stares. He left her with Soos, who offered to take his place as a new song began, and walked to the railing beside Pyronica and a barrel of rum. He picked up a cup and filled it, ready to enjoy a drink while he caught his breath. He and his sister might be stronger than humans, but they both made up for it by working harder and more intense whenever they did something. Mabel loved the attention she could get from impressing an audience.
The feeling of empty air in his hand pulled his attention away from the dancefloor and his sister. Wendy stood beside him, drinking from the cup he had just filled.
"Hey! That's mine!" He tried to grab the cup, but she jumped behind Pyronica and burped as she emptied it completely.
"You don't need it, you can't get drunk anyway."
"But I still enjoy the taste! Let me drink."
She stuck her tongue out and grinned. "Too bad, it's already gone."
Dipper grumbled and took the empty cup from her hand, refilling it and clutching it to his chest after the first sip. Pyronica and Wendy laughed at his hostile posture, and Wendy even went as far as to ruffle his hair and call him cute. The reaction was worth it. He spluttered and flushed, hands flailing and rum sloshing over the sides. Wendy grabbed the cup and downed that as well before Dipper could protest. This time he actually hissed, though it was clear he meant it in good nature with the smile that followed. Both of the women squealed in mock fright and ran for the helm, Dipper chasing right after them.
Mabel stepped away from the floor and joined the captain at his door. He had taken refuge away from the dancing with a cup of rum and simply observed the crew, following the drunken movements and grinning at their failed attempts at dancing. He acknowledged the girl with a nod and emptied his cup. He had watched the little scene with Pine Tree and the girls in annoyed silence. The kid had thawed up to everyone but him, which left the captain in a sour mood every time he had to interact with Dipper or see how friendly he acted with others. It wasn't fair! And he wasn't pouting, though Mabel's smug grin made him straighten up anyway. That girl was too observant for her own good. Or maybe just his own good. Whatever.
"Sooooo." She pulled the vocal out for way too long. Bill almost wanted to turn around and go but ignoring the sister of the person you tried to apologise to never really worked in your favour. So he stayed, heaved a sigh and simply waited for her comment, something he already expected to be unpleasant for his mood. Or pride. Or both.
"You are losing the competition."
His eye twitched. She definitely knew too much.
"There is no competition. I have no idea what you're talking about." His tone was dismissive, final, but she didn't seem to take any offence or get the hint. Her smile only widened.
"You are and you know it. You have to try harder, people appreciate that. Fight for it. Trust me, if he didn't want to talk it through, we wouldn't be here. He wants to make up, but you have to make the first move. We have all tried to make him talk for weeks, but he won't. He has nothing to say."
Bill took a moment to digest the words. Wouldn't they have accepted the ride at all? That was a good sign at least, and the kid hadn't been openly antagonistic towards him for a few weeks now. That counted for something. When did it change? Not long ago. Did something happen? They almost hadn't talked at all. He hadn't given it much thought either. In hindsight, he probably should have.
"...I see," was all he said. Should he try to talk to Dipper now? The timing was great, everybody was happy and slightly drunk, even the kid seemed to have fun. He grimaced as the trio joined the main deck again, all three wearing smiles of content on their faces. Something burned in his chest. He blamed the rum.
A gentle nudge made him turn to Mabel again. "Go talk to him."
Bill took a deep breath and handed the girl his empty cup. He didn't see the smile on her face as he approached the group. The chatter died down as he reached them, both girls looking in mild surprise, but Dipper already sported the usual scowl he reserved for Bill, whenever the captain came too close. Bill inwardly sneered back and put on his best smile, draping an arm over Wendy's shoulder.
"Are we all enjoying ourselves?"
They looked at each other for a brief moment before nodding.
"It's quite nice to have a party again Captain," Pyronica added, breaking the silence he had caused. Bill was silently grateful.
A shout startled them all. They turned to see Mabel waving at them, pointing to Wendy and Pyronica before spinning in a circle and waving again.
"I think she wants to dance," Dipper noted, tone quiet and posture guarded. The girls excused themselves and joined Mabel for the next dance. A few whistles made her giggle and Wendy threatened them all with bodily harm.
Bill and Dipper were left alone, standing a bit away from the main area and pointedly looking in different directions. Bill coughed and gestured for the back.
"Do you want to go somewhere quieter? It's difficult to talk here."
The suspicious glare he received almost made him groan in annoyance. He hadn't assaulted the kid! It was a simple question.
The music floated over the whole ship but quieted down on the breeze as they sat in the back of the ship, backs towards the railing. Bill had sat down first, seeing as Dipper refused to lower himself, and his guard, towards the captain. They might act civilised towards each other around the crew, but the hostility resurfaced each time they ended up alone. Bill produced a bottle of rum from his coat and took a swig, before handing it over to Dipper. Alcohol made every conversation easier to handle, at least for Bill. They sat in silence for a few moments, simply enjoying the gentle breeze and starry night sky.
"I guess it's over tomorrow. You'll see your family again and we'll sail away out of your lives." Not the best start, but he didn't know what else to say. Dipper simply hummed and took another gulp of rum.
"Yeah." He handed the bottle back to Bill. "Then the stress is over."
They both chuckled softly.
"I'm sorry. I reacted too harshly, and didn't even listen to your explanation first." His words were quiet, the apology feeling heavy on his tongue. How could it be so difficult this time? Because Dipper actually looked at him this time? Because he listened? Dipper straightened and turned to face Bill. The silence stretched on and Bill grew more uncomfortable. This was a bad idea, yet he couldn't stop himself. "It's just, you did something magical to my crew without asking me, and I don't know magic all that well, or sirens, or half sirens, and I just... Freaked out, I guess. I didn't mean to, definitely not slapping you, just yelling, but you shocked me quite a bit, and I just reacted. And I... I apologise. For that." It felt awful to admit his own panic, his weakness, the fact he knew nothing about their powers, only the weird singing. He had feared the worst and simply reacted before thinking, which he had regretted since. He had thought a lot after that episode. Too much in his own opinion. He took another swig of rum.
Dipper looked over to the side, mulling the words over and avoiding Bill's gaze. The captain scratched the wood under his hands, long nails drawing lines on the floor. Dipper didn't seem to notice or simply chose not to comment on the nervous gesture. Whatever the reason, Bill appreciated the silence. His own heart beat fast, the uncomfortable feeling growing in anxious thoughts. How long had it been since he had last felt this vulnerable?
A hand landed on his shoulder. Had he not kept a sharp eye on the kid's reaction, he would have flinched in surprise from the unexpected touch. But, as he saw it coming, he simply moved his gaze from Dipper's face to his hand. The touch was light, both not wanting to test the fragile peace between them just yet.
"I... Understand. I would have reacted the same way if anyone touched Mabel. You got protective, however weird that seems to me." A nervous laugh followed, growing bolder as Bill joined, till they both laughed the tense atmosphere away.
It might not have been the most 'heartfelt' conversation, but they both got what they wanted. Bill knew Dipper understood his explanation and had accepted the apology, however weird it had been. And he knew Dipper didn't despise him anymore. At least he hoped so. They might not have made up completely, but Bill could let him leave now. They had fixed the problem, and Bill could face him again someday. He could let it go and move on. They would meet again, even if Bill had to hunt him down one more time. It would be fun this time. Bill smiled at the thought and emptied his bottle of rum, to which Dipper squeaked in outrage. He sent Bill off with an order to get him another bottle and 'don't drink it all yourself, you greedy bastard'. Mabel gave him a thumbs up as he passed her. He answered with his trademark grin and a wink, though it was difficult to see with the eyepatch.
They arrived in the late afternoon, docking away from most ships and splitting up into two groups. Pyronica and Soos were in charge of restocking the storage room and whatever else they needed before departure in the evening. Dipper, Mabel, Bill and Wendy searched through the city for the inn Ford had told Mabel to meet him in.
She kept running ahead of the group, looking at every sign before shrugging and continuing down the road. Dipper had been ready to say goodbye on the ship, but when Bill offered to escort them through the city Mabel had agreed right away. A short comment, 'he cares about us after all!', and Bill had almost taken his offer back. Especially when the whole crew snickered at her comment. Bill had simply stomped off, forcing the trio to run to catch up to him. Dipper couldn't help but laugh as well when they reached him. The look on the captain's face had been priceless.
A shout brought them over to a bar, tucked into an alleyway and looking rather dirty. Mabel pointed to the sign, a foreign name and poorly-drawn animal painted on the old wood. Was that a lion? He wasn't sure.
"It's here!" She jumped inside and looked around. Only a few tables were occupied, and the keeper looked them over with an indifferent gaze.
"So, is any of them your uncle?" Bill regarded the patrons with mild interest, hoping to spot a similarity between a guest and the twins.
"No." Dipper eyed them all before turning to Mabel, who already looked ready to give up.
"Where could he be? Do you think he's okay?" Her whine made Dipper's heart ache. He hadn't expected it to be easy, but Ford had to have a plan. They both knew it was difficult to find each other if you didn't agree on specific places.
"Let's ask the innkeeper before we panic. Maybe Ford rented a room and simply went for a walk or something."
Bill nodded and walked over to the man behind the bar, starting a conversation with the bored owner. The twins were both surprised to hear he spoke the other's language rather well. At least enough to make himself understood. Or, that's what they got out of the conversation at least. He turned back to the group and shook his head. "No man named Ford here. You got the last name?"
"Pines." Mabel wrung her hands together as she looked with hopeful eyes at the captain.
He turned back to the man, who shook his head and shrugged. Nothing. Dipper clenched his hands. What were they supposed to do now? A flash of red outside a window made him walk over, peeking down the road through the dirty glass.
"Here?" Mabel pulled at her hair nervously. "Maybe they know where Ford is."
Wendy loosened her pistol and stepped beside Dipper to the window. "I don't think they know the whereabouts of your uncle, but I bet they would love to know we're here. Let's head back to the ship and regroup."
They all nodded and left the inn, keeping to the side roads on the way back.
"I had hoped the town was small enough to make it boring for the English soldiers. Apparently not." Bill peeked around a corner before motioning them forward.
"I believe Ford had the same thought," Dipper mumbled back, half to himself, and half to the others.
They met up at the ship a few hours later. Dipper had run right back, but the other three looked through the city after they broke up. He had sent half of the crew out as well and stayed behind to wait for their return.
When the last crew member finally returned to the ship, it was late evening and most of the city left empty for the night. Mabel launched herself at her brother, squeezing him tight as she silently shook with nerves. Dipper looked at Bill, who had just finished questioning the crew. No one had found any trace of a 'Stanford Pines' in the town.
Pyronica pulled out a map from her jacket and looked it over. "And you're sure this is the right place?"
"Of course I am!" Mabel snapped as she turned towards them. A few winced at her shrill voice. She instantly shut her mouth and looked slightly apologetic, but chose not to say anything. They all knew about the twins thanks to her powers, so it didn't matter about hiding it, although she still felt bad about screaming at them. They might not fear for their lives, but it didn't mean they were completely relaxed with every show of the twins abilities.
"Well, if he's not here, he has to be somewhere else, right? Where do you think he could be?" Wendy gently patted her shoulder.
"But I don't understand. He said he would be in one of the two locations until I arrived. There weren't any other places he dared to bring us. Why isn't he here?"
"Maybe something happened?" Bill suggested. Dipper reeled at the thought, but he had a point. If they had agreed to these locations, something must have happened for Ford to stay away.
"Don't say that!" Mabel hissed the words, eyes glinting.
Bill held his hands up, palms open and relaxed. "Jeez, I'm sorry kid. But you have to face the facts. He's gone, and we have no way to track him down."
A sob broke the silence and Mabel buried her face in her hands. Dipper embraced her shaking form and glared at Bill, though he couldn't force himself to be truly mad at the captain. Only angry that he agitated his sister further. Bill was right after all. They shared the same worries. Wendy hit Bill's shoulder and comforted Mabel as well. Pyronica patted his shoulder before joining the group around the crying girl. "Nice job, captain."
Bill groaned and threw his hands in the air in frustration. "Well, what do you want me to say? We have to face the facts. I'm not going to baby a grown woman."
"You could have done it more gently," Dipper grumbled as he stroked Mabel's hair. Her sobs had quieted down to sniffles instead, hands clinging to his now soaked shirt. "We have no other choice. Let's sail to England and find Stan. He has to know where Ford is."
"And who's Stan?"
"Great uncle Ford's twin brother."
"Another pair of twins? That's pretty uncommon in the same family." Bill's eye suddenly glinted with curiosity.
"Well, how should I know? It's just how it is." Dipper sighed and waved the captain off, taking his sister to the front of the ship. He called over his shoulder to Pyronica. "Please plan a route to England. Let's leave immediately."
Pyronica looked from Dipper to Bill, not sure if she should simply follow the order or wait for Bill to agree.
He rubbed his temples and waved her away. "Just do it, I'll be in my cabin with a bottle of rum."
They stood by the railing, hand in hand as the ship gently rocked. Mabel had calmed down completely, resigned to stare at the horizon and remember old times instead of focusing on the uncertain future. Her brother stared down instead, following the waves with a tired look. In the moment she had been too upset to say anything about Dipper's plan. She had actually been quite happy to hear him suggest England as their next destination. They were going home! Though not for the reason she had hoped all these years. She couldn't help but worry about their arrival. He had disappeared for a reason, a reason she didn't know. He hadn't even told her yet but she waited patiently, mostly, for the day he would tell her.
"Are you sure about this, Dipper? I’m guessing there was a reason for your disappearance all those years ago. Is this a good idea for you?” A look of- hurt? pain? passed over his face before settling on determination. She could only guess what thoughts ran through his head at her question.
"I promised to gather the family again. I stand by that promise." His hands clenched at his sides, his gaze hard but unfocused on her. He looked so far away, more than ever before, lost in his own head and it scared her. Just what had happened that night?
A strong urge to pull him tight and hug him came over her, to tell him everything was okay and that they would never be separated again. It had been eight years. Fifteen at the time, and now, at the age of twenty-three, he felt like a different person, yet at the same time as her old twin brother. It was confusing and scary. More so because he disappeared together with their mother.
They had never really lived with her, seeing as she was a siren, so they had lived all their lives with their great uncles after the death of their father. But it still hurt. Losing two family members in one day had left their mark, and Mabel spent years building enough courage to leave her uncles and search for Dipper. Each day had felt like a year without her brother.
"Just promise me you won't do anything rash. For me?" Her voice was weak, but she had to say it. She had to make sure he wouldn't do anything stupid to make her happy. She knew that look in his eyes. The way the colours seemed to constantly shift and swirl.
He smiled, taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "I will."
The way he avoided the word 'promise' stuck with her, and she almost asked him to swear on it, when someone called for his help.
"You better go." She gave a half smile, lips pulling away to show curved teeth. It looked more like a grimace and she knew it, but he smiled back all the same and left her alone. The smile didn't reach his eyes. They knew each other too well. The only downside of being so close. Neither of them had been able to hide anything from the other for long. She would talk to him later. No way she was letting him be the self-sacrificing idiot he usually was. Not anymore.
They had been sailing for three weeks now, and although the mood had greatly increased, it was still getting to the twins. Mabel had never been staying at the same place for so long, now longing to just jump over and swim away to the depths of the ocean below them, while Dipper, though more experienced with sailing, still felt trapped and bored after so long in the same place. His travels had always been short and quick, darting from place to place with whoever left at the same time and leaving the ship behind at the first stop.
Dipper had more than once suggested his sister go for a swim alongside the ship, but each time she refused, saying she wouldn't leave the ship without him. That always ended the argument, seeing as he hadn't set a foot in the water since jumping over the ship a few months ago, and didn't plan on ever doing it again if he could help it. She was disappointed but understood his reasoning. If she lost all senses and memory every time she shifted, she would probably stay away from it as well. It had taken a great effort for Dipper to confide that much to her. She appreciated it.
But, they were halfway on the route to England, and soon they would find their great uncles and leave together. She looked forward to living with her family again, though she would miss the quirky crew greatly. Hopefully, Stan and Ford would let them visit from time to time if they stuck around long enough to learn the new location of the family.
It was a brand new day and Mabel looked forward to getting home. It wouldn't take much longer.
In the late afternoon, clouds had gathered over the ship and darkened the sky. Pyronica had taken to her compass to hold the course instead of the sun. Wendy stood at the helm, Bill beside her and both spoke softly to each other as they glided through the sea. Mabel, Dipper and Soos worked on the main deck, checking the ropes and playing around as the day went by. Casper, the quiet medic Dipper had never really spoken to, emerged from the lower deck and stood by the railing, arms crossed and grim look turned towards the sky. A quiet murmur caught Dipper's attention and he moved towards the brooding medic.
A sideways glance and a finger pointed to the sky answered him.
"The clouds? What about them?"
"Bad sign." His voice was quiet, reserved, but still deep and full of worry.
"Why?" Now Dipper felt intrigued. Not many reacted to the small changes in the weather like sailors did, and Dipper had learned to respect their instincts throughout the years.
"They came too quickly, the wind is too quiet. Bad sign."
He turned to the helm and walked away, effectively ending the conversation, however short it had been. Dipper looked to the sky. The clouds covered the sun, but the light grey colour didn't exactly seem foreboding or promising of rain and storm.
A few minutes passed where Dipper kept an eye on Casper and Bill by the helm. They quietly discussed something, probably Casper's premonition about the weather. Bill suddenly called to Wendy and pointed to the crow's nest. With no further comment, she crawled up, replacing Silvin who had stayed there for most of the day. Dipper felt the anticipation growing amongst the crew. Apparently, Casper never showed himself on deck unless something was about to happen. Some might call it pirate superstition, but the crew had experienced too many coincidences to simply ignore it.
Which only made it all the more creepy when the wind suddenly picked up and the crew stopped working altogether. Dipper shivered. Something didn't seem right. All eyes turned to Bill as the sails fluttered in the wind. With a nod to Bill, Casper excused himself below deck to ready the equipment for after the storm. Dipper didn't see that as a good sign.
"Pyronica, with me. Soos, double-check all ropes with the twins. you two, tie down every cannon below deck. The rest of you, secure the sails and get ready. It's gonna be a long night!" With that, the ship erupted into chaos. As controlled as it was, Dipper and Mabel felt out of place and confused as the crew got into well-known positions for the storm. They didn't get a chance to react before the first wave crashed into the ship and tipped them both off their feet. Luckily the rain hadn't started yet, which kept the wood dry and easier to hold onto.
They both got up and joined Soos by the main mast, grabbing a rope each and holding on, though they knew the water wasn't as dangerous to them as the rest of the crew. It could still be disorientating in the dark, especially with such tall waves. The ship rocked from side to side, tipping the crew over, but not enough to throw them off. The twins nodded to each other and set to work, syncing their movements with the waves.
As the crew finished preparing the ship, the rain fell only minutes later and people were soaked in no time. An unsynchronized wave hit the ship and Dipper held onto Mabel before they could fall off. Soos stood beside them, holding a rope and squinting at the helm where Bill stood, making sure the captain didn't fall off without anything to hold onto.
They swayed through the waves, lightning crackling overhead as they navigated through the storm. Bill's gaze never wavered from the horizon, knuckles white from his grip on the wheel.
A forceful push and the ship tipped dangerously. A scream ripped through the howling wind. Wendy hung by the nest, dangling precariously over the water below as the ship bowed to the side. Her hair hung in a wet mess over her face, obscuring the frightened gaze beneath.
Bill jumped from the helm, leaving Pyronica to steer as he ran towards the railing under Wendy. She slipped from the wood and fell. The scream that followed her down spoke of the fear everyone felt at that moment. Bill just barely caught her wrist and hauled her up onto the deck. The ship tipped to the other side and Soos slid towards them both. Bill pulled Wendy aside to avoid all three falling overboard. With no words, Dipper and Mabel let go simultaneously of their rope to jump after him. He fell over and dangled in the air as the twins grabbed an arm each and held on. Bill and Wendy grabbed a waist each to keep all three from falling in. With great effort, they hoisted all three back and over the railing, collapsing on the wet floor. Soos' complexion had changed from light brown to a greyish hue that didn't look particularly healthy.
"Watch out!" They looked up from Pyronica's shout to see a wave taller than the ship crash against the railing they leaned on. A flash of lightning illuminated the deck, but only four silhouettes could be seen by the railing. A scream tore through the wind.
The shock of cold water momentarily paralyzed Dipper as he hit the water. The burning started not long after, black spots appearing in his vision. Not now! Dipper struggled to keep his legs, even as his lungs screamed for air. His body fought to transform, to survive and live as he always should have, but his mind refused. I won't lose my consciousness again. He kicked off to resurface, to get just a single mouthful of air, to get back to the ship. The sudden air helped. He coughed up water and gulped down air before another wave pulled him down again. It almost sounded like someone screamed his name before his ears were filled again. His throat itched to grow gills. His legs felt like jelly. He looked at the ship one last time, hoping to find them again when he finally transformed back.
A black shadow suddenly moved away from the ship and into the water near him. Mabel? Of course, she would jump in after him. He hadn't hurt her before, hopefully, he wouldn't do it again. The mass seemed to have trouble moving in the water, which confused his already muddy brain. Mabel had tried bad weather before. She knew what to do. It was so calm underwater, even during a storm. The call to transform grew stronger as he sank downwards.
A sudden flash of gold distracted him. Gold? Their eyes didn't glow gold. Not such a pure colour. The silhouette swam nearer. Legs. It had legs. Why hadn't she transformed? Why did only one of her eyes glow? His eyes glinted as the figure came closer. It wasn't Mabel. It was Bill. Bill jumped in after me?
Bubbles escaped his mouth as he reached for Dipper. The golden eye closed as his hand faltered. Bill? Something clicked in his tired mind. Bill couldn't breathe underwater, he couldn't survive for longer periods of time as Dipper could. He was drowning.
In a moment of adrenaline-fueled clarity, Dipper grabbed Bill's arm and pulled him upwards. The burning in his body had dulled, but his lungs still hurt from lack of air. His legs still felt like jelly, but at least they were legs and not a tail. How had he stopped the transformation? The black spots grew. His mind screamed for survival. He was slow, burdened by the extra body, but he couldn't just let the captain die, even if he was an idiot for jumping into the water. He had to tell him that personally. Had to punch him for being stupid. Had to... What?
Dipper resurfaced and coughed up water. His lungs hurt but he was alive and still human. How he did it, he didn't know, but he would find out later. He needed to know. Right now, he had to haul the idiot out of the water.
A splash beside him almost made him swallow seawater, but when Mabel's face appeared beside him, he couldn't help but laugh, even with an unconscious pirate on his back. She flashed her crooked teeth and bound the rope from her own waist around Bill. A sudden pull lifted him upwards, and the twins watched him disappear over the railing before another rope was thrown down to them. Dipper secured it around himself and held onto Mabel as they ascended. She giggled as her tail split into a pair of legs again. Dipper almost envied her easy transformation, but squashed the feeling and smiled back at her. He didn't need the power, he was happy as a human. Or, half human.
As they finally stood back on deck, Dipper marched over and smacked Bill in the back of his head. Water dripped down his chin as he coughed up water.
"Wha th' 'ell?" Another cough stopped whatever he was going to say next.
"You idiot! I can breathe underwater, I'm a freaking siren and you jump in after me like I'm some damsel in distress. You almost drowned!" His hands flew around as he raged, eyes constantly shifting colour in his aggravated state.
Bill wiped his chin and stood up on wobbly legs. Soos tried to stabilize him, but a hand stopped him from moving further. "I jus' tried to help."
"Well don't die trying. What would I have done if you died? What about the crew?"
Mabel placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. "Let's get him inside. They can handle the rest, right Wendy?"
Wendy smiled weakly and gave a thumbs up, waving them away as she sent people back to their stations. Mabel grabbed an arm and helped Bill move towards the cabin. Dipper grumbled under his breath and joined them, holding the door open as they entered. She placed Bill on the bed and helped him get rid of his soaked boots and shirt. Dipper stayed near the door, waiting for Mabel to exit so he could close it again.
Bill laid back with a sigh, stretching his muscles and breathing deeply to work his lungs back into proper function again.
"Go join the others Dipper. I'll stay and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid again." Bill faked offence at her words. Dipper rolled his eyes and turned towards the door.
He paused for a second, face unreadable, before nodding and closing the door behind him. Bill groaned and rubbed his eyes.
"Even though it was really stupid, I'm glad you tried to help my brother."
"He would have done the same for me." He didn't exactly sound convinced by his own words, but he had to believe they had moved forward during the trip.
"He did. You almost drowned. Both of you." The last sentence caught him off guard. Her pained expression even more so.
"But he can breathe underwater, right?"
"If he transforms. He didn't, probably to save you instead. I don't know how he did it. He cares, even if he won't say it."
Bill didn't know what to say. Dipper almost drowned to save him? It seemed unlikely, but his own twin had to know him the best.
"Guess he doesn't hate me completely anymore, huh?" He said with a small grin.
Mabel gave a weak laugh. "He doesn't. But you still suck at social interactions, especially with Dipper."
Bill spluttered in indignation. How dared she? He was a charmer.
Mabel grinned and pushed him back on the bed. "Get some rest. And remove your eyepatch before it chafes your skin."
Bill selfconsciously covered his patch with a hand, visible eye twitching in discomfort. She waved goodbye and left the cabin with a wink. He felt rather grateful for her consideration. Though how she knew he was hiding something underneath it troubled him.
He slowly removed the patch and placed it on the table beside him. The darkness inside the cabin made it impossible to see much, which helped him relax as he laid down to sleep. As long as no one disturbed him tomorrow, everything would be fine. The patch would be dry and he could hide everything again. And ask her how much she knew.
The transition from unconsciousness to awareness usually happened more peacefully, but tonight Bill awoke with a jerk, hands grasping sheets too tightly. His dreams swirled with black waves and dulling eyes, a grin he would never see again and pain, too familiar for comfort.
Sweat clung to his body, making it sticky and itchy. He removed his pants and stood up, stretching to gain some circulation. He checked his eyepatch and found it dry. With a grateful sigh, he secured it over his eye and tied a knot.
A plate with cold meat and crusty bread greeted him on his desk when he turned on an oil lamp. A mug of water stood beside it. He cringed at the reminder but knew Casper would have his head if he didn't drink it. With a sigh, he emptied the plate and slowly drank the water.
Bill choked on the last mouthful, coughing violently as his lungs burned anew. A hand rubbed his back as someone whispered curses behind him.
Bill couldn't help but smirk through the pain. He knew that voice too well, especially when it cursed at him.
"Hello to you too kid."
Dipper just huffed at his grin. Bill placed the mug back down and turned to him. He looked anywhere but at the captain, a rather endearing blush spreading across his face as his eyes darted around the room. Bill squashed his own thoughts down.
With a cough, Dipper pointed to his legs and slapped a hand over his eyes. "You are not wearing pants. Or anything else for that matter."
Bill looked down. Right, sweaty pants on the floor. "Huh, that explains the sudden chill."
Dipper groaned and turned his back to Bill. Bill couldn't help but smile at his reaction.
"What's wrong? We are both men, right? Never seen another man naked before? It's okay kid, it's completely natural." His mocking tone didn't go unnoticed, but then again, he didn't exactly try to hide it either. Dipper growled and waved his hand.
"Go find some clothes before you get sick."
"Aw, you do care about me!" Bill sang as he turned to his closet.
Dipper kept muttering about pirates and modesty as Bill changed into a pair of brown pants and a white shirt. He snickered as he snuck up on the embarrassed man.
"Are you done-" Bill tapped his shoulder with a broad grin. Dipper shrieked and jumped several feet away, clutching his chest while still averting his eyes. "Don't do that!" He hissed between clenched teeth.
"Sorry kid." Bill wasn't sorry at all. "I couldn't help myself. Lighten up, I'm dressed, look!" To prove his statement, Bill did a little twirl and bowed. Dipper took a peak and rolled his eyes at the flamboyant pirate.
"Idiot." If Bill really tried, he could actually hear a bit of fondness in his voice. Or at least humour. He could work with that.
"I try my very best, Pine Tree."
The following silence felt rather awkward, but neither knew how to break it. Dipper scratched his arm as he looked around, mostly at all the knick-knack Bill had collected throughout the years. Bill stood by the desk, hand playing around with the empty mug.
"So, thanks for checking up on me and all that. You better get back to bed." Bill mentally kicked himself for dismissing the kid so quickly, but he couldn't handle the silence any longer, and he didn't dare start a conversation without rum to loosen the mood. Maybe he had a problem, but he had survived this long, so why change anything now. Dipper almost jumped again as Bill spoke. Caught in his own world, Bill mused. That meant he let his guard down. Did he feel a bit calmer around Bill now? Because of the storm?
"Right... Yeah, good idea. You too. Get some sleep." Dipper mumbled as he walked to the door. With a wave, he left, closing the door behind him. Bill followed his retreat through the window. He didn't go below deck. He crawled under the stairs to the helm and curled up. Bill sighed and rubbed his temples. Damn kid. He opened the door and leaned against the frame.
"What's wrong? Afraid of the dark?"
The shadow flinched and Dipper's head appeared in the moonlight. The annoyed look hid something else, Bill could clearly see the mask cracking.
"No, I like the fresh air."
"Sure you do."
They stared each other down for several minutes. With a sigh Dipper's expression changed to embarrassment. He mumbled something and crawled under the stairs again.
"What? Speak louder Pine Tree."
"My hammock broke!"
His... Hammock. Broke?
"It broke?" Bill felt like he missed a crucial point in Dipper's reasoning and matching reaction. "So? Isn't there another somewhere? Or can't you sleep with your sister?"
Dipper's head reappeared from the stairs. "She's sleeping with the other girls. I can't disturb them."
Bill sighed. "Pine Tree, you are too ignorant for your own good at times."
Dipper spluttered and crawled out from under the stairs. "Excuse me? I'll have you know-"
He stopped dead in his tracks. "What?"
Bill smirked and opened the door wider. "Come inside. There is plenty of space, and I still owe you for saving me. I always repay a debt." His sudden serious tone seemed to throw Dipper off. He stood there for a solid minute before he even seemed to breathe again. A sudden blush covered his face and his hands flew around in the air as he stammered.
"But I, I can't just- And you, you can't just- But what about- And together!"
Bill's smirk only grew as Dipper ranted. "But we've done it before, right? What's the problem with a second time?"
Dipper closed his mouth and squinted at Bill. "What's the catch?"
Bill held his hands up and shrugged. "We both get some sleep, and I won't get chewed out tomorrow when they find out I let you sleep under the stairs. The bloody stairs, Pine Tree. Come on. You could at least have hidden between the food or something downstairs."
Dipper deflated and took a step closer. "No funny business. No catch. Deal?"
Bill stuck his hand out, a glint in his eye. "Deal. Unless you change your mind, of course."
Dipper's horrified expression made him laugh. It was too much fun teasing the poor kid.
Being startled awake once from a bad memory is manageable. Being startled awake a second time, however, is never fun. Bill opened his eyes blearily at the high-pitched screech that suddenly filled his cabin. Being as tired as he was, he didn't even have the energy to react, just stare in confusion at the creature by the door. Mabel, his mind supplied. Why was she screaming?
"I'll just leave you alone!" The following bang from the door made him sigh and burrow further into the heat beside him. Heat? Something gasped and moved, freezing shortly after. Bill opened his eyes to find a shimmering rainbow staring back at him. Right. Pine Tree. They laid face to face, only a few inches apart, Bill's arm draped over Dipper's stomach and Dipper's leg brushing his thigh. He squeaked and pushed Bill away, causing them both to roll out of bed and onto the floor on either side. Dipper landed with a hiss, while Bill simply groaned from the rude treatment.
"Let a man borrow your bed and get kicked out in the morning. Rude," Bill mumbled as he stood up. Dipper peered over the covers with squinted eyes.
"We will never speak of this again." His eyes shone gold for a moment before settling to a blue and brown swirl.
Bill held his hands up. "Sure kid, whatever you say."
Dipper glared as he pulled on his shirt and exited the cabin. The accompanying ‘Mabel, wait!’ told Bill he had run after his sister, probably to explain the situation. Bill sighed. His arm still felt warm. He looked at the rumpled sheets, which only happened after Dipper's little stunt, and smirked. He grabbed Dippers forgotten jacket and exited the cabin to find the twins. He found them sitting by the railing behind the helm, both talking in hushed voices with lots of hand gestures. Mabel seemed stuck in a grin, while Dipper rapidly changed between a scowl, blush and eye roll. Bill plastered on a grin that matched Mabel's own and strode over, throwing the jacket on Dipper's head.
"You forgot this."
Mabel squeaked and pushed her cheeks together in mock scandal. "Dipper, you rascal!" They both howled with laughter as Dipper glowered at Bill.
"It's not like that Mabel! My hammock broke during the night."
"Suuuuure it did Dipdop."
Mabel pinched his cheek and rolled back to avoid retaliation. Bill helped her up as Dipper scrambled after. A patch of red alerted Bill of their newly-arrived company.
"What's up, guys? Dude, what's with your face?" Wendy cocked her head as Dipper hissed and pulled his jacket on with jerky movements.
"Nothing at all."
"Don't be a downer Dipper." Mabel poked his ribs and pulled Wendy along to explain somewhere else. Dipper just groaned and hid his face in his hands.
"Why did you have to do that?"
"Cheer up kid," Bill said as he clapped Dipper's back. "They won't believe her unless I let you wear my jacket."
Dipper looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Why?"
Bill stared at the horizon with a faraway look. "Because I like my jacket."
Dipper sighed and shook his head. Bill grinned and ruffled his hair.
"I want breakfast."
"Right behind you Pine Tree."
The crew had already migrated downstairs to the mess hall to eat breakfast. Bill and Dipper found Mabel with Wendy and Pyronica, all three girls whispering and giggling as they approached. Soos sat down with the trio, and everyone dug in. Dipper grabbed a bowl before sitting down as well, Bill just behind him. The giggles died down and they all smiled at the two. Bill grinned back while Dipper rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue. Mabel tried to hit it with her spoon.
Wendy clapped her shoulder. "Slept tight, boys?"
Bill stretched his back. "Like the dead." His tone teasing as he smirked.
"Well, you did almost die," Pyronica said, waving her hand dismissively. The pirates laughed. Mabel smiled weakly at the casual tone, while Dipper clenched his hand around the spoon. It bent halfway in two before he noticed and let go.
Bill clapped his back lightly. "Relax kid, you learn to deal with it in this line of business. It’s not the first time I’ve almost joined Davy Jones Locker, and it won’t be the last time either. It's just reality."
The crew nodded solemnly, the atmosphere suddenly more sombre. The laughter seemed to have died from their eyes, all caught in old memories. Bill too felt the old scars tug at his mind but refused to acknowledge them. An itch under his patch almost made him scratch it, but he ignored it to avoid unnecessary attention to the patch.
"Besides, I'm still here! You won't get rid of me that easily."
"Even if we want to," Wendy joked, poking Pyronica with a wink. She giggled and rolled her eyes. Bill feigned offence and held his chest, swooning towards the floor before straightening up again with a grin.
Dipper bent his spoon back into shape and stood up. "I've lost my appetite. You can have the rest."
Mabel moved to stand up as well. "Wait for me."
"It's okay, finish your meal." He pulled one side of his mouth up, but it looked more like a grimace than a smile. "See you later."
Mabel sat down with a heavy bump as he moved towards the door, looking dejectedly at his back. Bill groaned and rubbed his temples. "Did I say something stupid again?"
Mabel sighed and looked at him with a small smile. "No, you didn't."
They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence.
Dipper stood by the railing, wind blowing through his hair as he stared at the waves. His eyes kept changing between colours, though he couldn't see it himself.
He kept replaying the conversation at the table. He hated their nonchalant attitude towards injuries and death. He had wanted to hit Pyronica when she reminded him of the incident, and then Bill when he shrugged it off as something that happened often. Which it apparently did according to the pirates. How could they react so casually? Didn't it shake them at all? The fear of death?
He sighed and scratched the wood on the railing. It chipped off some splinters that fell into the ocean. Flashes of Bill in the water made him look back up to the sky. The coast loomed in the distance.
England. He was actually going back. After eight long years. He had hoped to keep his family safe if he stayed away, but it apparently had the opposite effect. Now he had to fix everything. And he would. For them.
The sound of boots on wood pulled him out of his thoughts. He looked up to see Casper standing beside him, looking out over the sea. Dipper smiled and turned his gaze back as well. A comfortable silence stretched out until Casper spoke up.
"The time has come."
Dipper looked at him in confusion. "To what? Dock? Isn't it a bit early?"
He turned his head to Dipper. His dark eyes seemed to hold something deeper, something important Dipper couldn't see. "To find peace."
It almost startled Dipper. Did he know? He couldn't. He grimaced and turned his head back to the ocean. That was uncanny. "Sure, peace."
A warm hand settled on his shoulder. "I can do more than apply a cast to a broken bone. If you need to talk, come find me. I can keep a secret."
He squeezed once and let go, walking back downstairs to his office. Dipper was left with a cold shoulder and a million thoughts swarming in his head. England grew bigger and bigger on the horizon. Dipper smiled and scratched his chest, right over the brand. "To peace."
Two updates in the same month? It's a miracle!
A great chaos erupted on deck not long after Casper disappeared. Dipper stayed by the railing, watching the city grow closer as the crew scrambled to prepare the ship. The flag had been replaced earlier that morning with an English flag to avoid suspicion. Bill shouted orders as he steered the ship into the port, searching for an available space between the many merchant ships. Wendy had tied her hair up and stood beside a jumping Mabel, both looking rather excited. Dipper smiled and sighed. He could do this. For peace of mind. For Mabel. For his great uncles.
"Pine Tree!" Dipper turned to see Bill smirk down at him. "Ready to dock?"
He raised his brow with a small smile and shrugged. "As ready as I'll ever be, captain."
Bill grinned wider and winked. Or, Dipper guessed he did. The exaggerated movement with his head kind of clued him in. He shook his head and joined Mabel near the main mast. As the crew secured the ship and pushed the walkway down, Bill joined the twins and nudged Dipper as Mabel ran down the creaking wood with Wendy in tow.
"Ready to leave, captain?" Pyronica asked from behind them.
Bill turned and waved her down as well. "You all know the plan. Just stick to it and be back before sundown."
She saluted and walked down the walkway as well.
"Oh, and Flames!" She turned halfway to listen. "Enjoy your day." They exchanged smirks as she left the dock and disappeared into the crowd.
Dipper shot him a curious look. "What was that about?"
Bill waved him off and walked towards the plank. "Nothing, don't worry kid. Not everything is important in this world."
Dipper grabbed Bill's coat before he could exit the ship. Bill arched a brow. Before he could say anything Dipper pulled him back with quite a bit of force, almost making him fall before bringing them eyes to eye. Bill looked startled for a second before snickering.
"What?" Dipper sounded quite miffed at his reaction.
"You really can't look intimidating when you want to, it's rather cute."
"Be serious for one second in your life, Bill."
He sobered up at the tone of voice Dipper used. He hadn't sounded that serious since their argument. Had he done something wrong after all?
"If you ever hurt Mabel, in any way, know it will be the last thing you ever do in this life."
"What, you believe in an afterlife? Wouldn't have pecked you for the type, kid."
"Shut up!" He actually hissed, eyes swirling to a light red before settling back to brown and blue swirls again.
"Jeez kid, okay, I won't. Why would I suddenly hurt Shooting Star? I thought we were past this." He held his hands up in a pacifying gesture, not really sure what to do with Dipper's sudden mood swing.
"Are you coming or what?" Mabel called from the dock. Dipper froze. Had he forgotten they were waiting for them?
"Just a second!" Bill yelled back. Dipper seemed to collect himself and sighed.
"Just- Protect her. Make sure no one hurts her. As long as she is on your ship, as part of your crew, protect her and keep her safe. Promise me that."
"Sure, but aren't you already doing a fine job at that? What more can I do?" Something wasn't right. Bill didn't feel right about Dipper's sudden request.
"Should I ever fail, or not be there to protect her, I want you and the crew to do it. I need to know she will be safe."
"You make it sound like you won't be able to do it much longer. Is there something you aren't telling me?"
Dipper looked down, tightening his grip on Bill's coat. Bill held his breath, afraid to startle him and lose the answer.
"Just promise me." He looked up with greying eyes, all colour draining as he waited for an answer. Bill almost shied back. The look in Dipper's eyes spoke volumes. Something would happen, and he didn't know if he would survive.
Bill grabbed his wrists and gently pried them away from his coat. A small squeeze accompanied his answer. "I promise."
Dipper seemed to straighten up at that, a bit of brown returning as he smiled and pulled his hands back. The smile didn't reach his eyes. Bill bit his tongue to avoid saying something stupid or emotional. That was the last thing any of them needed right now. Bill vowed to figure out what was going on and help the kid, even if it was the last thing he did.
With a flourish, he turned around and marched towards the walkway. "Coming, Pine Tree? We shouldn't keep them waiting any longer, right?"
A small, genuine smile broke out on his lips. He couldn't help but chuckle and follow along as Bill walked down. "No, that wouldn't do."
Mabel greeted them both with a smirk and a wave as they finally joined the remaining crew members on the dock. She mouthed something to Dipper, but when he raised his eyebrow in question, she simply winked and stuck her tongue out as an answer. Dipper just rolled his eyes and smiled at her fondly.
"Okay, everyone knows the plan. Restock as quickly as possible and prepare to leave in haste. We are in enemy territory now, and I will not be surprised. Got it?" The crew agreed and saluted as Bill spoke, breaking up right away to start. Bill and Wendy stayed with the twins to accompany them through the city. Soos saluted the twins as well before leaving. Mabel giggled and waved him off.
"So, where do we start looking?" Wendy asked as she straightened her ponytail.
"The shop. If he's not there, we'll take a walk around town and ask his friends. Grunkle Stan can help as well." Dipper looked over the town, eyes searching for the small shop he knew lay hidden behind the many roofs of England's dirty streets.
"Of course! Grunkle Stan! He will be so happy to see us again." Mabel clapped her hands together in excitement. "Hurry, this way!" She grabbed Bill's hand and pulled him along, leaving Wendy and Dipper behind to snicker at his shocked look. They followed at a more controlled pace, watching for any soldiers as they walked deeper into the city. As long as they didn't attract any unnecessary attention they shouldn't be recognized as pirates.
Dipper kept his head down and let his hair fall over his eyes. He scanned the crowd for any familiar faces as they walked, listening to Wendy count off soldiers any time they walked past the group. No one seemed to take notice of them.
Most of the attention went to Mabel and Bill. With his hat back in the cabin and weapons hidden, Bill looked like any other captain. Mabel, on the other hand, made up for her average appearance with loud talking and fits of laughter every time Bill sounded confused.
A young boy walked past Dipper and bumped into his arm. Dipper looked back to make sure nothing was taken from his pockets. He knew that trick from his younger days. They made eye contact for just a second, but it was enough for the kid's eyes to widen and run off down another street. What was that about? He hadn't even stolen anything from his pockets. Dipper was just about to turn around and follow the boy when a shout from Mabel made him look up.
"Come on slowpokes! We wanna get there today!"
Bill stood beside her, his arm still clutched in a vicelike grip and looked at them both pleadingly. Dipper and Wendy looked at each other before snickering and running up to join them. They weren't far from the shop now.
The Pines' shop laid between a small pub and a jeweller. The sign above the door read Mystery Shack, with a missing 'S' in 'shack'. It always seemed to fall off shortly after Stan made Dipper fix it. He looked at it with a fond smile. Mabel tried the handle but the door wouldn't budge.
"It's locked? It shouldn't be locked, Stan always keeps it open way longer than other shops." Mabel pulled her hair as she spoke. Bill had retreated beside Wendy when his arm had finally been released. Now, he looked from the door to the huge window with a thoughtful look.
"We're not breaking the glass, captain," Wendy said, tone flat and arms crossed.
"Aw, but why not?" Bill whined. "It's fast and efficient."
"Didn't expect you to know that word." Dipper clapped his shoulder as he passed the pirates to help Mabel with the door.
Bill huffed and rolled his eye. "Don't insult me, kid. I may not be a scholar, but I'm not stupid."
The girls laughed at the exchange. With a small click, the door opened and Dipper turned around. His cheeks reddened at their surprised looks.
"How did you do that?" Wendy actually seemed impressed. Bill just tilted his head with an unreadable expression on his face.
"You pick up a thing or two over the years," Dipper mumbled as he scratched his arm. "After you?"
Mabel gave him a disapproving look and mouthed 'not done' as she passed him to enter the shop. The two pirates followed and Dipper shut the door after himself, locking it just to be sure.
The shop itself looked the same, but a thin layer of dust on every surface spoke of the duration of time it had been left alone and unattended. Dipper furrowed his brows and walked to the counter. He left faint footprints in the dust. How long had the place been empty? Where were Stan and Ford?
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Bill asked, tracing a finger on one of the shelves. It came back grey. He made a face and wiped the dirt off on his pants. Not his coat, Dipper noted.
Wendy took a bottle off a shelf, looking at the thick liquid inside. Dust floated to the ground as she turned it in her hands. "Seems like no one has been here in a while." She placed the bottle back on the shelf.
"Maybe he's in the house?" Mabel couldn't keep the hopelessness out of her voice.
The group walked through the shop to the back door, luckily unlocked, and entered the kitchen. Dust covered every surface there as well. A broken bottle laid on the floor, a dark stain dried into the wood. Mabel gasped and hugged Dipper. He held her while Bill and Wendy inspected the dried mass. She almost cried when Bill touched the stuff.
"Is it?" She couldn't finish the question.
Bill caught on anyway. "No, just dried rum." He wiped his finger on his pants and stood up. Wendy went into the living room. "Coming?"
"In a minute."
Bill nodded and disappeared further into the quiet house.
Dipper stroked Mabel's hair as she sniffled. A small smile greeted him when she finally looked up. "That means he's not hurt, right Dipper?"
He smiled and hugged her tighter. "Of course." Colours swirled in his eyes as she buried her head in his shoulder. He wasn't hurt. At least not there.
They gathered in the living room after searching the whole house. Every room had a layer of dust, and it was only their own movement that disturbed the silence. Mabel sat on the old sofa, grey colouring her clothes and hair. Dipper had dusted the worst off after she sat down. Bill and Wendy leaned against the wall opposite Mabel, while Dipper had chosen to pace the floor near the kitchen.
"So what now? They're obviously not home, and haven't been for some time." Wendy straightened her ponytail and rolled her shoulders.
Mabel chewed on her hair. She had already tried to hide in her shirt, but the fabric wouldn't stretch far enough like her sweaters did.
"We search through the town. Someone has to know where they are. They can't just disappear in a city as big as London!" Dipper stopped pacing as he spoke, throwing his hands up at the end.
A hiccup made him look to the couch. Wendy sat down beside Mabel as she cried.
"You have anyone in mind?"
Dipper nodded and walked to the window, looking out on the street. "A few friends, old acquaintances. A rival."
"Oh Dipper, not Gideon."
The pirates looked confused.
"Why would you ask a rival?" Wendy furrowed her brows at the thought. The rivals her captain had acquired over the years were best left alone and forgotten.
"What kind of name is Gideon?" Dipper snorted. Of course, that would be Bill's focus.
"An old rival of our great uncles. He is a scammer, Stan is as well, they clashed quite a bit. Ford simply called his 'magic' fake and against science."
"And he's creepy," Mabel supplied.
"And he's creepy." Dipper couldn't help but smile. The gnome might be annoying and bordering obsessed, but his exaggerated plans and overall demeanour always made Dipper laugh when they met. Especially since they always managed to destroy whatever he planned. Only his behaviour towards Mabel made Dipper's temper boil. "Which is why I'll talk to him with Bill, while you and Wendy ask around town."
Mabel visibly relaxed at that, which made Dipper's stomach knot. Had anything happened between them after he left? Gideon would pay if that was the case.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Bill clapped his hands and pushed himself away from the wall. "Lead the way Pine Tree!"
The girls stood up as well, joining the other two in the middle of the room.
"We'll meet back at the ship later. No chances, no risks. In and out before any soldiers can spot us."
They saluted and laughed as Dipper opened the door. The girls quickly disappeared down the street. Dipper grabbed Bill's arm as he came out.
"Just, let me talk to Gideon, okay? He is... Easily angered."
Bill raised a brow. "Sure thing."
One corner of his mouth lifted as Dipper released Bill's arm again. "Good."
It wasn't exactly difficult to find Gideon. His business had never really been affected by his ongoing rivalry with the Pines family, so the huge sign over his private theatre was not hard to miss. Dipper and Bill entered the huge building and went straight to the back room where Gideon usually did his side business.
Being as charismatic as he was, Gideon usually got away with a lot more than he should. Ford often talked about magic and Gideon when they discussed his latest escape from the law. Stan simply called it a bribe. Dipper felt inclined to agree. Mabel used her own power each time Stan got into trouble. Perhaps Gideon had the same theories as Ford after all.
Dipper knocked on the door and waited for an answer. Bill was just about to walk in when a deep voice called for them to enter. He opened the door and squinted into the darkness. A single candle lit the room, placed on the table in the middle. Gideon sat in a chair on the other side, staring at them over the candle. His eyes shone in the light. A smile, fake and exaggerated, grew on his face as they shut the door behind them.
"Well, well, look who it is! Dipper Pines." He looked at Bill. "And a friend. What brings you here?" His voice had gotten deeper as he grew, baby fat and short stature growing away to a more mature body with rounded arms and stomach. His hair was no longer the tower he had as a child, but instead, a slicked-back mane of small curls. The white colour from his youth had gotten slightly darker, but seemed to stay until it would turn grey in his older days.
Dipper took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "We're looking for Stan and Ford. Do you know where they are?" No need to beat around the bush. Had Gideon anything to do with it, he would gloat right away if Dipper asked. If not, it might be trickier.
"The older Pines? I can't say I've seen them in quite a while now. What has it been? A year, maybe more? Difficult to say. Their shop closed shortly after Mabel left town. My little Munchkin."
Dipper clenched his fists. He couldn't hit Gideon, not yet. Beside him, Bill looked with thoughtful eyes at the exchange.
"And you haven't seen them since?"
"Oh, I don't know. I haven't seen Mabel since then. I don't really care about the old scammers, you know that."
A bang rung out in the room. Dipper breathed in and removed his hand from the table. It creaked as it rightened itself.
"Now Dipper, is that any way to treat your host?"
Bill placed a hand on Dipper's shoulder and pushed him gently back. He leaned over the table, shadows dancing on his face from the candle.
Gideon raised an eyebrow. "And you are?"
Dipper stood to the side, barely able to see Bill's face from his angle.
"Just a sailor helping a friend. We really want to find his family. Are you sure you don't know anything about their whereabouts?"
Gideon rolled his eyes and huffed. "As I already told Pines-"
"I don't really believe you, kid."
Gideon's eyes widened. Probably the first time he had been interrupted by anyone, Dipper mused. A grimace formed on his face, the sickly smile falling away to a glare.
"I'll have you know-"
"Let's try again." Bill pulled a small pistol from his belt - where had he hidden that? - and inspected it in the low light.
Gideon visibly tensed. "I didn't know you associated with pirates, Pines."
"He's an exception." Dipper shrugged and leaned against the wall. He would interfere if it got violent. If this was the only way to get some answers, so be it. Mabel would never know. She might not like Gideon, but she still frowned at unnecessary violence.
"Now, where were we?" Bill cocked the small pistol and pointed it at Gideon's head. "Do you know where they are?" Fire danced in his visible eye, a gleam Dipper had never seen before. Bill enjoyed it. He felt a shiver run down his spine from the pirate's expression.
Gideon gulped, the sound loud in the otherwise still room. No one uttered a sound. A bead of sweat gleamed beside his right eye. "I don't know where they are." He spoke slowly, nothing like his earlier arrogance.
Bill tilted his head. "Why don't I believe you kid?" Gideon opened his mouth but Bill beat him to the answer. "Your eyes are shifting, you are sweating - and that's not just from the pistol at your head - so tell me, why don't I believe you?"
Dipper moved away from the wall and checked outside the door. No one seemed alarmed, so they should be fine. Gideon spoke up behind him, moving his attention back to the conversation.
"I don't know where they are, but I know what happened to them."
Dipper narrowed his eyes. A flash of red, too fast for anyone to see, and brown returned to his eyes. "What happened? Tell me!"
Bill held his arm out before Dipper could reach Gideon. Heat rose in the small room, all three occupants tense and waiting for the other to make a wrong move. Dipper breathed.
"They were arrested! They just disappeared one night. Some of my men heard a scuffle from the shop and checked it out. Soldiers carried your uncles out in chains and away into the night." Gideon blurted out, words rushed, as if afraid of the reaction from the other two.
"Arrested?" Dipper echoed.
Bill secured his small pistol and hid it in his belt. Gideon visibly relaxed.
"Know where Pine Tree?"
"I have a good idea." He turned from his family's old annoyance and exited the room, Bill right behind him. Gideon yelled something behind them, but Dipper didn't hear it. He didn't hear anything. Nor sense their walk back to the ship. They had been arrested, both of them. Only one person would carry out an arrest in the middle of the night. Admiral Strange.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
Chapter by Aracney
Another month, another chapter. So sorry I can't put them out faster. But, on the bright side, the promised smut tag is finally fitting for the story. Be ready, it's at the end of the chapter, if you don't want to read it, you can just skip it. It shouldn't make the rest of the story confusing.
And a disclaimer, I haven't written sex scenes before, but I did my best. Hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A loud clang startled Ford from his thoughts. He flinched and moved further away from the door before turning around. His previous pride and stubbornness had faded as time passed by, quickened by his brother's screams. They grew more and more frequent, to a point where he would hear Stan every night before falling into an exhausted sleep, filled with the very screams he longed to forget.
"Good evening Professor." The voice was smooth, calculated. And happy. Ford shuddered and turned around, spotting the barely hidden smile on the man's face.
"Strange. Do I want to know what has placed you in such a good mood?" He leaned against the wall, legs spread out and arms laying in his lap. Voice raspy from minimal use. His body still ached from previous injuries. Luckily he had no broken bones. Yet.
"My scouts reported something interesting this evening." Ford's breath caught. No, it couldn't be. He made sure to send her far away to wait for him. She couldn't be back. Tad continued, uncaring of the conflict playing out on Ford's face. "Your niece and nephew have been spotted near your house. They are probably looking for you right now."
"My niece and nephew. Both of them? Here?" His voice barely rose above a whisper, but Tad still heard him none the less. A cruel smile answered Ford. "No, it can't be."
Tad leaned forward, hands resting behind his back as he spoke, slow and menacing. "It very well can, dear Professor. Finally, my patience bears fruit. And you will be reunited with your dear family again. You must be so happy for the news. Isn't a 'thank you' in order?"
Ford stared straight ahead, eyes unfocused and mind screaming.
Tad sighed. "Very well. Another time perhaps. I'll make sure to bring them down when I have them."
A tuck at his coat made Tad turn back around. Ford had stood up and reached for his coat through the bars. His eyes were hidden under dirty bangs.
A mumble answered him.
"Speak louder, Professor. I can't hear you." He pulled his coat free and turned to face Ford.
"Don't. Leave them alone. Just, please." Ford looked up. His eyes shone with unshed tears.
Tad smiled, gentle and mocking at the same time, movements slow as if approaching a scared animal. "Come now, Professor. None of that. You are stronger than this."
Ford moved back to avoid Tad's hand. Clad in leather and stretched out as if to caress his cheek. Ford felt sick from the thought.
"Just leave them alone. I'll do anything, just let them leave the country. They never have to come back. Send my brother to tell them. Please."
Tad tsked and shook his head. The sad expression fell with the glint Tad couldn't hide in his eyes. The dark blue had never felt more threatening.
"You know I can't do that. And dear Professor, you are worthless to me. You know what I want, and I will have it, no matter what. You are like a worm, bait for the fish I desire for dinner. Nothing more. you have nothing to bargain with." With that, Tad turned around and walked away.
Ford reached out to stop him, pleaded, begged, cried out in his small cell for the man to stop and just listen to him, please. But to no avail. Tad disappeared in the shadows and the screams started anew. With a broken sob, Ford fell to the floor, curling up and shielding his ears, hoping for the sounds to die down soon.
They had met up at the ship later in the evening, with the sunset lighting up the still water at the docks. Bill had placed Dipper by the stairs and waited for every last crewmember to arrive. The briefing had been short, and the crew parted after making their individual reports to the captain. Bill had shortly after gathered the twins, Wendy and Pyronica in his cabin to discuss further action. That's where they sat now, surrounding the desk and each nursing a glass of rum after a long day. Both Dipper and Bill agreed not to tell Mabel exactly how they got their information, just that they got it. She didn't take it well.
"But how could they just get arrested? They've never done anything illegal!" Dipper could mention the many times Stan had a clash with the law but decided against it. No need to make her feel worse. Her eyes were redrimmed after her crying, fear and confusion still marring her face, though a sliver of her old determined self shone through as the rum flowed into her system.
She had already emptied five bottles alone. A bit of a lightweight, but she could handle her liquor. Dipper refrained from drinking the captain's cargo in one sitting.
"Don't worry, Mabel. We'll get them out. S'not the first time we've had to bust someone out of jail." Wendy slurred only slightly as she spoke, the amount of rum she had herself was impressive for a human, though Dipper assumed they all had plenty of practice.
"Bloody soldiers," Pyronica muttered into her own glass, smoothing her maps out on the table. A corner kept curling upwards. She took it as a personal offence. Dipper decided to keep the bottle out of her reach for the rest of the night. Bill seemed to be the only other person still sober in the cabin, staring at the maps with a thoughtful expression. His glass stood empty on the table, a pen in hand and hat gliding down over his eyes every few minutes. He didn't seem to notice. His hand automatically moved it every time. Dipper drank the rest of his own rum and placed the cup away from the maps. Rings were already forming on the weathered paper. Pyronica simply stared.
"We'll break them out, alright. The question is how many guards we should anticipate." Bill looked up, obviously expecting an answer.
Mabel hummed and shrugged one shoulder. "Fifty?"
"Too few, they definitely have more."
"How about a hundred? It's not exactly the castle or anything, just a prison." Pyronica looked over her maps. "Do we even know which prison? Or if they are still alive?"
A sob broke the drunken fog in the room. Mabel hid her face in Wendy's shoulder as she cried anew. Dipper glared at Pyronica, but couldn't really lay fault on the navigator. It was a valid question. And she was drunk. Very drunk.
"They have to be alive! They just have to!" Mabel cried from the fabric of Wendy's shirt. The redhead seemed to freeze for a moment before laying a hand on her head and patting her hair gently.
"I think I know who arrested our great uncles. And he would not kill them. Not yet, anyway." Dipper clenched his teeth to avoid hissing at the end. He feared his emotions were badly concealed and based on Bill's sudden fascination with his eyes, it appeared to be true. Dipper took a deep breath and looked down on the maps.
A few places in the city were marked with a black ring. One of them being the notorious Tower of London. A place Dipper feared they wouldn't be able to reach unless in chains themselves. Another being Newgate Prison, difficult but doable and the Admiral's own home, which laid close to the castle and had a small prison built for special offenders of the crown.
Dipper guessed it had to be there Ford and Stan were hidden. After their meeting eight years ago, he didn't expect the Admiral to trust anyone but himself with important matters. Or people.
"Did Gideon tell you the name?" Mabel asked hopefully.
Dipper blinked and looked up. All four occupants stared at him, waiting for an answer. Though Bill already knew it. "Not exactly-" At that, Mabel's expression fell again. "But, he didn't need to tell me. I have a good idea."
"An idea isn't always enough, kid," Wendy mumbled into her glass.
Bill frowned and moved the bottle closer to Wendy. She smiled gratefully.
"Then how can you know?" Mabel seemed close to giving up.
Dipper bit his lip. "I... May have met him before, long ago. I left a bad impression but seeing as I didn't intend to ever return here, I didn't try very hard to act nice."
At that, Bill quirked a brow and smiled, teeth glinting in the low light from the candles. His eye seemed brighter than usual, a rich gold Dipper had never seen before on a human.
"Seems like a fellow I have to meet. So, what's the name, Pine Tree? Maybe we know him."
"I hope you don't." They all leaned forward. "Admiral Tad Strange."
"Who?" They all laughed at Pyronica's confused face. "Do we know him, captain?"
Bill wiped his eye and straightened up. "Can't say his name rings any bells. Shooting Star?"
Mabel shook her head. "No, same here. Are you sure, Dipper?"
"Yes. I met him the night our- The night I ran away. A creepy guy. He has a lot of power in the city. Close to the king. Don't trust him."
"So he's the reason you ran away? What happened?" Bill didn't expect an answer, but he still had to ask.
Dipper glanced at Mabel and sighed. "Another time. I'll tell you when we have our uncles and leave England."
"Aw, you always say later. Humour our curiosity, will you kid?" Pyronica begged, laying her head on the table and looking at him through her hair. The wild mob of blonde hair covered most of the maps.
Dipper sighed. Wendy held in a laugh.
"I broke into a wealthy merchants house. Tad and his men arrived to arrest me. I fled and jumped on the first ship I found."
They stared for a second.
"That can't be all. There has to be more!" Wendy seemed almost angry at his answer. Mabel furrowed her brows and shushed her.
He looked at her, cringed, and averted his eyes to the shelves behind her.
"I know you don't want to tell us. And it's okay. Just don't let it fester."
"I won't." His voice was barely above a whisper. "I'll tell you soon. I promise."
She smiled and stood up. They hugged for a few seconds, rocking slightly where they stood. Mostly Mabel. "I know."
The three pirates stared at the twins, unsure whether to break the silence or simply let them be. In the end, Mabel released him and stepped back, pulling Pyronica to her feet and leading her towards the door. Wendy followed behind them.
"Night boys!" Mabel called over her shoulder. Pyronica mumbled a sleepy goodnight. Wendy just waved and shut the door.
It took an hour before Dipper decided to go to bed. He had stayed up with Bill, talking about infiltrating the prison and how to get away quickly. In the end, they gave up with a huff, tired of arguing with each other. Bill had emptied another glass of rum. Tipsy but not drunk, he staggered to his feet and went to his bed. Clothes were thrown on the floor as he walked. He almost tripped when he unclasped his boots, but a hand on his back kept him standing. Dipper sighed behind him and pushed him into the mess of blankets when he finally got the damn things off. Left in nothing but his pants, Bill turned around and grinned at Dipper.
"What?" Dipper tapped his foot against the floor.
"No screams of indecency this time, Pine Tree?" Bill stretched his back and scratched around his patch. Dipper itched to remove it - the captain never did, even to bed - but refrained, and instead looked at him with a tired expression.
"You are still wearing pants, and I'm not exactly delicate."
Bill leered and moved his hands to his pants.
"No, you will not!" Dipper grabbed his hands and held them up, almost lifting the captain himself before remembering his own strength and slowly lowering him back down again.
"Impressive Pine Tree. You work out?"
"I'm a siren, Bill. And you're drunk." Dipper sighed, a small smile playing on his lips. "Go to sleep. You'll be yourself tomorrow."
Bill rolled over and buried his face in a pillow. "Don't wanna. This is fun. You're fun."
A hand shot out and grabbed Dipper, pulling him over the captain and onto the bed beside him. "You think too much. Relax."
Dipper pulled his hand free and sat up. Bill looked at him with a serious expression, nothing like the drunken smile a second before. Dipper gulped.
"I know you worry about tomorrow. You worry about Shooting Star, your uncles, this Strange fellow-" Bill almost cracked a smile at the name. "-but you gotta relax kid."
"I'm not a kid." It escaped before Dipper could think about it.
"Really? I guess you could be 19 if you squint, but you don't look a day over-"
They both stared at each other. Deep breaths filled the silence.
"I think I know my own age."
"Could have fooled me."
Dipper rolled his eyes and moved to stand. A hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"I'm serious Dipper. Relax. Get some sleep. We'll do everything we can to get them back, but you need to be ready. I don't need a useless siren on my team." Bill's eye glinted.
Dipper snorted and hit him lightly in the chest. "Idiot. You'd still have Mabel."
"I don't want Mabel."
A sudden warmth on his lips gave him pause. Bill had pulled him closer, shutting his eye and gently laid his lips to Dipper's. It was nothing special. Just touching. No movement.
Dipper felt his face heat up. Bill opened his eye and moved away, already opening his mouth to apologize. Dipper pulled him back.
They kissed again. Dipper slid his lips over Bill's, biting down on his bottom lip and pulling slightly before releasing it again. Bill sighed and moved his hands to Dipper's back. Dipper grabbed a handful of hair, fingers brushing the cord on Bill's eyepatch.
He tensed, moving away and breaking the kiss. "I can't, please don't-"
Dipper shushed him with another kiss. "It's okay."
Bill grinned and pulled Dipper's shirt over his head. The white fabric was thrown to the floor with the rest.
Bill ran his hands over old scars and tattoos. He marvelled at the scales, caressing them with featherlight touches. He moved down to kiss a patch right beside the brand. Dipper hissed and clutched at his head.
"I'm sorry I burned you." Bill kissed the mark, hand moving to circle a nipple. The other rested on Dipper's hip. A shiver ran down both men's spine.
"You had to. It's a tradition, right?" Dipper smirked and kissed the side of his throat. Bill grinned and pinched. He squeaked and bit down, eliciting a small groan from Bill. He started to suck on the skin, mindful of his teeth, to sooth the mark. Bill chuckled.
"I'm not made of glass, Pine Tree."
Dipper hummed and lifted his head. "Compared to me, you are."
They both laughed at that, falling down on the bed and holding the other.
"I never thought I would do this."
Bill sat up. His eye was serious, frown already forming on his face. "You don't have to do anything-"
Dipper clapped a hand over his mouth. "Shut up." The blush was prominent. He averted his gaze, suddenly shy from the piercing gaze. "I want to."
The sudden wetness on Dipper's hand made him pull away with a grimace. "Did you just-"
Bill tackled him, effectively cutting him off and kissing him deeply. Dipper chuckled and opened his mouth. They moved together, shifting between biting and sucking, hands sliding overheated skin. The temperature in the room grew.
"Dipper." He shivered from the use of his real name. Bill only used it when he was serious.
"Bill, please. I- I want to. Just, please."
Bill rose from the bed, leaving a panting Dipper behind to walk around to his desk. A jar was pulled out of the drawer and placed on a table beside the bed.
"Have you ever done this before?"
Dipper mumbled something and hid his face in his hands. Bill gently grabbed both wrists and pulled them away. The intensity in his single eye left Dipper speechless.
He shook his head, blushing but refusing to look away. Bill smiled, just a small quirk of his lips, and pulled his pants off. Dipper bit his bottom lip.
"Yes." A short breath. "I'm sure."
Bill sat between his legs, hands pulling at the cords to loosen Dipper's own pants. He lifted his hips to help. They sat for a moment, just staring at each other. Bill was definitely the bigger of the two, both in height and size. Dipper felt self-conscious, but Bill's smile made him laugh.
"You look like a lovestruck fool with that smile."
Bill smirked and moved up his body. "Perhaps I am."
Dipper blushed and kicked his thigh. Bill pulled the jar open and covered his fingers with the content. A clear liquid shone in the low light. Dipper unconsciously spread his legs a bit wider.
He rolled his eyes and pulled the pirate down for a kiss. The first finger prodded at his entrance. Dipper gasped into the kiss as the cold digit breached him. Bill suckled on his tongue. They moved together, Bill pushing in and Dipper moving down to meet him, moaning as a second and later third finger joined in. The slight stretch burned, but he pushed it back to focus on Bill's tongue instead. He blushed at the sounds they made, but Bill kept kissing him, so it faded into the background as well. A light sheen of sweat had covered their bodies.
Dipper reached down and grasped Bill's dick. He gasped into the kiss and jabbed hard at Dipper's sides. A rush of heat ran through his body.
"Again," Dipper whispered, moving up to help reach the area. Bill grinned and did as told, moving his fingers inside to better reach it. This time Dipper gasped and rolled his hips. "Right there."
"I think you're ready."
Dipper whimpered as Bill pulled his fingers out. Bill reached for the jar again and spread the oil over his dick. Dipper wrapped his legs around his hips and pulled him closer. Bill chuckled as he lined up.
"Try to relax."
A deep breath, a nod, and Bill slowly pushed inside. They groaned in unison as he moved, slowing down each time the smaller man whined.
"Move already!" Dipper grabbed the pirate and flipped them around, gasping as the dick inside of him moved. Bill stared with wide eyes as Dipper moved above him, teeth glinting in the low light. His eyes swirled with colour, the most prominent a rich gold, not unlike his own eye, and a gentle hue of red around the pupils. The colours mixed and danced, Bill almost entranced by his eyes alone.
Dipper moved down to bite at his neck again, this time harder, but never enough to draw blood. The pirate groaned at a particularly harsh bite and grabbed the dick resting on his stomach. Dipper hummed and licked the sore skin on his throat.
Sweat made their skin slick and clammy, the air thick with the smell of sex. Movements grew erratic as their climax approached. Dipper threw his head back as he came, white liquid staining Bill's hand and stomach, the surprise enough to stop any reaction. A soundless cry was all that escaped him. He kept moving, flexing his muscles to pull Bill under as well.
Dipper looked down, head tilted, but obeyed and surged forward. Bill groaned and came as his skin broke, warm blood running down his throat to stain the pillow. Dipper felt the warmth inside him and lifted his ass, moving to the side to lay down beside the captain. They each panted as they came down from their high, bodies tired but satisfied.
Bill rolled over to watch Dipper. His eyes were closed, mouth open and chest rising faster than normal. As if he felt the single eye on him, Dipper looked over at Bill. A small smile broke out on his lips, eyes shining with an emotion Bill couldn't quite discern.
"That was fun."
Dipper snorted and rested an arm over his eyes. "So eloquent."
Bill grinned and kissed the shoulder closest to him. "Get some sleep. We'll be ready tomorrow."
A yawn and a kiss returned. "I know."
So, hope you enjoyed. I'll try to get the next chapter out before the end of the month. Gotta finish this at some point.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Chapter by Aracney
Well, at least it hasn't been a whole month yet, though it was close.
If anyone wants to motivate me for updates, you are very welcome to do so. You can yell at me on Tumblr, but please be nice.
I'm trying my best to finish this. Right now I have 26 chapters planned total, and I will probably need a few more to finish it properly. So I'm guessing it'll be at least 30 chapters before it's finished. So, halfway point already reached? Hopefully. I can't add much more than what I already have planned.
A warm hand stroked Dipper's stomach as he roused from sleep. Light seeped in from the windows. Noise from the crew reached his ears as he turned around to face the other occupant of the bed. Bill laid with his eye closed, the patch still perfectly in place over the other, and hair a golden mop of stray locks on the white pillow. Their eyes met as he shifted, both cautious after the night before.
"Hey Pine Tree."
The hand returned to caressing his back, golden eye flickering from his eyes to his mouth. He smiled and closed the distance between them. The single eye widened.
"Thank you. For yesterday."
Bill smirked and winked. "Anytime."
Dipper laughed and shook his head, pushing Bill away when he tried to get another kiss. He pouted as Dipper got dressed. A shirt was thrown over his head in retaliation.
"Come on Bill. We have to be ready soon. They are probably all waiting for us."
Bill stood up and gathered his clothes from the floor with a sigh. "I know, I know."
They dressed in silence, the air still heavy and warm from their activity last night. Dipper tied his boots as Wendy opened the door. He suddenly felt quite grateful for pulling Bill out of bed when he did. It would have been difficult to explain their sudden closeness without revealing the cause. He was not ready for that conversation yet.
Bill stretched and fastened his belt before answering. "I was born ready, Red. The crew?"
"All ready and armed to the teeth. If shit goes down, they'll be ready to support us."
Bill grinned and sauntered over to Dipper, pulling his coat on as he went. Dipper straightened from his crouched position and met him by the door, hitting his hand when Bill tried to grab his waist. Wendy's eyes glinted and she left the doorway without a word. Dipper already felt the blush heat his cheeks and neck.
"Gotta claim what's mine. Do you want my jacket?"
Dipper remembered the captain mentioning his jacket some weeks ago when Mabel thought they had... Done the deed as she so articulately put it when he reached her.
"I think I'll pass." He clapped Bill's shoulder and left the cabin.
"You'll accept it one day!" Bill yelled behind him.
Dipper could only laugh and wave as he left to find Mabel. Perhaps he would.
He weaved between talking crewmembers as he searched for his sister, cursing the many tall individuals and his own medium stature for obscuring his sight. A giggle, light in tone, made him turn right and push through a few people to finally find Mabel near the railing overseeing the dock. She and Soos had found a box to sit on, both giggling as he approached. With a wave, Soos hopped down to give Dipper room.
"You don't need to get up, I'll just stand."
Soos shrugged. "Nah dude, it's fine. I can see just fine from the ground."
Dipper knew he didn't mean it like that, but he couldn't help but hear it as a jab to his height.
"If you insist." Dipper sat down beside Mabel, returning the blinding smile she sent him, though his was more muted.
The question was innocent enough, but Dipper thought back to the night before right away, remembering sweaty skin and soft sheets. He just hummed and looked to the city, hoping to distract Mabel from his sudden change in mood. He would tell her later. When he didn't feel mortified by the thought of her knowing.
Mabel looked too, over the city as it woke from a long night. Workers starting their day, sailors filling the decks of neighbouring ships, birds flying high above the rooftops. Somewhere a dog began barking and horses could be heard walking on the cobblestone.
"How about you?" Dipper asked as she turned back to the ship.
"Fine, Wendy and Pyronica have a nice room I can sleep in, so it's nice. But it was difficult to fall asleep from nervousness. I really hope we find them today."
Dipper squeezed her hand and bumped his shoulder against hers, smiling as she laughed. "Don't worry. We'll get them back. Even if we have to go through all of London to find them."
A sudden hush rushed over the main deck, the crew falling silent as something happened by the wheel. The twins looked up to see Bill, standing straight and arms crossed, with a rare, serious expression on his face. His hair shone like gold in the morning light, like fire and embers, single eye piercing everyone who looked at him. He was a man who could command respect, even if he rarely demanded it.
"Today, we start our most daring raid yet. Also the most important. This is not gold, or silver, or expensive fabrics and delicious wine. Not even rum!"
At that, a soft chuckle rushed over the crowd. Bill grinned and continued.
"This is a rescue mission. Two men have been unjustly imprisoned. We will free them and reunite them with their family. We will show the English crown that we will not cower in fear of their power. We will crush them. What do we fight for?"
"Freedom!" Rang out from the crew. Mabel joined the cheering as Bill left the wheel to stand before the stairs.
"You all know your role, you all know the plan. We will overpower the people inside, but we will not alert the outside world. Let them live in pleasant obliviousness. Only the men who stand in our way will suffer. Let no one escape."
"What about women?" Wendy called from the mast. She had climbed the rope to get a better view. Now she rested in the tangle of knots, a lazy smirk and glint in her eyes.
Bill bowed and laughed. "I apologise, my lady." Wendy scowled good-heartedly at his remark. "They shall suffer the same fate. No man, nor woman, is safe from us!"
The cheering grew louder, Dipper fearing the other ships would hear the commotion. Bill raised his hand and shushed the crowd.
"If everything goes according to plan, I will see you all back at the ship. Go! Make The Mindscape proud."
The crew disbanded and went their own ways in small groups. Some exited the ship right away, others went below deck or simply sat around, waiting for their time to leave. Soos wished the twins good luck and went below deck with his own group. Casper nodded to Dipper and followed the second mate down the stairs.
"You guys ready?" Pyronica appeared beside them, blond hair tied in a bun and belt full of small pouches.
"As ready as we'll be," Dipper answered, jumping down from the box.
"What are those for?" Mabel looked at the small pouches and touched one of them. The material inside gave way to her finger. "Not sand, right?"
Pyronica laughed and ruffled Mabel's hair. "They don't call me Pyronica for nothing, that's for sure."
Mabel furrowed her brows. "So?"
"It's gunpowder, right?" Dipper eyed the brown fabric with slight suspicion.
"Correct! My little errand the other day. I have a dealer in the marketplace. Fine lass, sells me as much as I want for the right price. I never join a raid without it."
"Isn't it a bit of a hazard to carry so much explosive powder?"
Bill came up to them and rested an arm over Pyronica's shoulder. "Life's not fun without a bit of risk. And it's damn useful too."
"Sounds fun!" Mabel agreed. "Do we get weapons too?"
Wendy jumped down from the ropes and joined their growing group. "Can you wield a weapon?"
Mabel bit her lip and looked at Dipper. "No?"
"We have our claws. We never needed to learn to use weapons. We'll be fine without."
"But it looks so much cooler with weapons!"
Dipper looked at her with an unimpressed stare. "If you met a man with a sword and a man with sharp claws, pointed teeth and scales on his body, which one would scare you the most?"
Mabel thought for a moment. "The man with claws?"
"Definitely the man with claws," Wendy agreed. The others nodded their own agreement. Mabel pouted and crossed her arms.
"Then I'll just use my claws, I guess."
"Atta girl." Wendy clapped her back and smiled.
They all laughed as Mabel showed her fangs. Wendy held her hands up in mock surrender.
Dipper cleared his throat and held his hand out in the circle they had formed. "Ready?"
Bill placed his hand atop Dipper's and nodded. "Ready."
"Aye." Wendy and Pyronica joined in.
"Let's get our grumbling grunkles back." Mabel finished the pile.
Dipper looked around at the faces, old and missed, new and loved. He smiled, eyes glinting a soft blue as he raised his hand, forcing the others with him. "For the Pines."
They all threw their hands to the sky. "For the Pines!"
They split up right away from the ship, Dipper and Pyronica taking one path, while Bill, Mabel and Wendy took another. The destination was a small alleyway across the street from the manor. The map had shown a wide street in front of the manor's main gate, a small driveway for carriages just inside before you came to the doors. It was easy to see through the heavy railing set up around the building.
Dipper and Pyronica had arrived first. Dipper stood guard as Pyronica checked over her maps for other ways in. When the last three arrived, they all gathered over the papers, Pyronica pointing out the small alley behind the manor where the kitchen should be placed.
They all moved to the back, confirming her suspicions when young boys dumped buckets of old food into the ditch. A few beggars gathered the food not long after. Mabel looked sad as they disappeared down the road.
"It is a sad life for anyone not born in nobility." Wendy had just clapped her shoulder and snuck to the door.
"But we weren't born in nobility. I think our lives were pretty great."
Dipper gently moved Mabel towards the door as they joined the three pirates already inside.
"I know, but you can't say we had a normal life either."
She simply sighed and shrugged her shoulders as he closed the door behind them. "I guess so. At least we had food."
Inside, two guards and the cook laid unconscious on the floor. Two women and two boys stood in a corner, trembling but quiet as the pirates peered out of the door to the inner rooms. Mabel slowly approached the servants, smile gentle and close-lipped to hide her teeth.
"It's okay, we won't hurt you, we just need to find our family. Can you promise not to alert the guards? We'll leave when we find them."
The women kept quiet, nodding their heads and holding each other as the boys looked at her with round eyes.
"Mabel, it's no use. Just put them to sleep and let's move on."
Bill perked up at Dipper's words, leaving the two female pirates to stand guard as he approached the twins. "Put them to sleep?"
Mabel sighed and shut her eyes. When she opened them again, a strange light emanated from them, a swirl of colours, like a rainbow in water, moved in her pupils before turning white. The servants opened their mouths to scream but no sound came out.
"You will forget this happened. You will forget our faces. You will only remember being knocked out like the other three. Fall asleep, and wake when others find you." Her voice was a monotone drone, words a stream of continuous sound, yet you knew exactly what she wanted.
A blank look overtook their faces before they fell to the ground, sleeping as deep as humanly possible. Mabel blinked and shook her head, turning back to Dipper and smiling sadly.
"You okay?" Dipper took her hand and guided her over to the others.
"Just sad it had to be done. They'll probably wake up confused and scared when they can't remember anything."
"Better than hurting them. Nice trick, kid," Bill applauded as the girls moved into the next room.
It appeared to be a living room, couches, tables in dark wood and cabinets filled the main space. Carpets in grey tones covered the wooden floor. It was devoid of life.
"Lucky us," Wendy mused and moved over the carpet. No creaking revealed their presence. A grand hall was their next stop. This room held guards, none quick enough to fire their pistols before the three pirates drew their swords. Mabel looked away as one was stabbed in the stomach and the two others knocked unconscious. The one with the wound dropped his pistol and gasped as Bill caught him, clamping a hand over his mouth before he could scream for help.
Wendy looked into the next room. "Where could they hide the entrance?"
Pyronica walked up the stairs to look at the second floor. "Probably not up here. I don't see any guards, but they could be in one of the rooms. Or just the occupants. We have to be quiet."
Bill released the guard and held his sword to his throat. "How many guards are left?"
The man only grunted in pain and kept quiet.
"Where is your master?"
Silence. Bill sighed and stabbed his right hand. The following scream was again muffled by a hand.
"Bill!" He looked up to see Dipper shielding Mabel from the violence.
"What? We all want answers."
"At least let Mabel get them," he hissed back. Bill cocked his head and released the guard but kept his sword pressed to his throat. Mabel resolutely kept her eyes from the bloody hand and knelt down beside him.
"Please tell us? We just want our uncles back."
"You will... Hang for this," he gasped in pain, clutching his injured hand to his chest. Mabel sighed and used her powers again. The man gaped at her, blank stare replacing the shocked expression.
"You will answer any question I ask. You want to answer me. How many people are currently in the manor?"
"Ten guards, eleven servants."
Dipper glanced at Bill. His half-lidded eyes spoke of Mabel's influence on anyone who just glanced at her. He moved to Bill's side and shook him slightly. Bill blinked and looked at Dipper.
"Don't look at her. Wait until she's done," Dipper whispered. He nodded and tilted his head towards the main door instead.
"How about your master? The head of the house? Any family?" Mabel continued.
"He left this morning for the palace."
"Where are the rest of the guards?"
He seemed to pause for a moment, slight wrinkles appearing before relaxing again. Mabel breathed deeply and held her stare.
"The basement, watching the prisoners. No one is allowed down there."
"Where is the entrance?"
"Behind the stairs, the small door opens into the servant quarters. A door in the laundry leads down a pair of stairs to the private prison."
"Thank you. You will fall asleep and wake when people arrive. You will not remember our faces. Only that you were assaulted and overpowered. Sleep."
He fell to the floor with a heavy thump, a gentle snoring proof of her words being obeyed.
"Some gift you have there. Useful," Wendy noted as Mabel stood back up, blinking rapidly to clear her eyes. Dipper held her arm to steady her.
She smiled sheepishly and scratched her neck. "Better than violence at least."
"Guys, over here." Pyronica motioned for a small door she had just opened built into the grand staircase. A short and narrow passage opened up to a small hall with doors on both sides. They quietly checked each door until they found the laundry. From there it was easy to find the hidden door and walk down the stairs.
Dipper kept looking back, expecting to see an army of guards rounding the corner to arrest them. It was too easy. Too quiet. He didn't like it. Bill caught his eyes and nodded, holding his own pistol in a firm grip. They had the same thought. They entered the prison, a clammy place with stone walls and mud on the floor. The sound of fabric moving over stone filled the silence. Someone was moving around on the ground or dragging something over the floor.
They snuck along the wall, peering into the small cells running along. All empty. A cough almost made them jump out of their skin, Bill pointing the pistol down the hall. No one appeared. They continued until a turn finally showed two guards standing on either side of a door into a cell. A figure laid on the ground, hiding in shadows and only showing their back in the low light.
"Could that be your uncle?" Bill whispered.
"Difficult to see in the darkness. We have to check."
"Stay here, we'll handle it."
Mabel grabbed Bill's coat before they could leave. "Keep one conscious. I might need to ask where the other is."
He nodded and the three pirates rushed around the corner. The men gave a surprised shout before they were both knocked to the ground. Wendy bent over one while Bill pulled the other up and squeezed his neck, just enough to stop any sound from escaping him.
The twins rushed over to the door, Dipper too impatient to find the keys and working over the lock instead. It clicked into place and they both entered the cell. The figure rolled over, exposing the face and upper torso. They both gasped at the sight, tears appearing in Mabel's eyes.
Stan laid on the ground, hands and feet chained, bloody bruises and old cuts marring his face and neck. Torn clothes showed more bruising, a nasty infection on his back and black spots around his ribs. Mabel fell to her knees and embraced their great-uncle, crying into his shoulder as he stroked her hair. The chains rattled as he moved.
"Find the key to the chains." Dipper's voice trembled as he stared in shock at his uncle. They had beat him, tortured him, hurt him. A red mist crept into his field of vision, hands shaking where he clenched them hard enough to draw bloody crescent moons in his palms. He blinked and bit his tongue, willing the redness away and taking the key from Bill's outstretched hand. He unlocked the chains, massaging the flayed wrists as Mabel wiped her eyes.
"Good to see you too, kids," Stan rasped, voice rough and hoarse. Had he been screaming? Would make sense with the bruises he had.
"Grunkle Stan, what happened to you? Are you okay?" Mabel asked as he tried to stand. They grabbed an arm each and slowly pulled him to his feet. He swayed slightly but held his ground, grunting as old wounds reopened. They had to get him to Casper. Quickly.
"I'm too old for this shit. Bloody redcoats." He spat at the unconscious guard as they exited the cell. The other stood silently in front of Bill, sword now resting against his jugular. "Not so fun, is it?"
He only sneered but remained silent. Stan smiled and ruffled Dipper's hair.
"Not that this isn't a heartwarming reunion, but we have to get out of here as fast as possible. Where is your other uncle?" Wendy cut in, an impatient tone in her voice. She kept looking over her shoulder down the hall they came from.
"I don't know. They kept us separated. I did hear his screams though. Bloody hell... He has to be here somewhere."
Mabel growled and turned to the guard, her eyes already swirling. He didn't even react before he was gone, vacant stare greeting them instead. "Where is Stanford Pines?"
He gave a jerky nod before answering. "We moved him this morning before the sun rose. Lord Strange didn't want him to be here when you arrived."
"Then where is he?" She almost shouted the question.
"He was moved to The Tower."
Dipper's heart sank. It was almost impossible to get out of the tower. Even breaking in resulted in a death sentence. It would be near impossible to get Ford out of that fortress. The pirates exchanged looks. Everyone knew The Tower of London. Not many left that place alive.
Mabel broke the spell and faced Dipper, hiding her sobs in his shoulder. "We have to save him."
He held her as she cried, looking at his found uncle and new friends. It would be difficult, but if anyone could do it, they could. Together.
"We will," he promised, stroking her cheek when she looked up at him. "I promise." Even if it was the last thing he did.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
Chapter by Aracney
Might be the fastest update I've ever done. Anyway, here's more. Hope it's to your liking!
"Damn it!" Dipper punched the wall, leaving a small crack in the wood. It creaked as he pulled his hand back.
They had all gathered back at the ship after their rescue mission. The crew hidden around the house had seen no guards or carriages approaching the manor, and no one stopped them as they slipped out and into the busy street. They had all agreed it was planned. Tad somehow knew they were here, and that they would arrive at the manor. Or he just planned for the worst. No matter the case, Ford was still trapped, now in the most well-guarded prison in all of England.
Mabel placed her hand over Dipper's own and gently moved it down to his side. Her sad smile melted the anger away to be replaced with hopelessness.
A grunt caught their attention, Stan fidgeting on the bed as Casper tended to the bigger wounds.
"Sit still," he admonished as a nasty gash was sewn shut.
The blood had been cleaned off first, then bandages and stitches applied where needed. It didn't look good, but the blood had made it seem worse than it was. Dipper felt grateful for that.
"So, what's the plan?" Wendy hit her boot against the box she sat on. The infirmary had a few beds and boxes with supplies, but the number of people inside made it feel even smaller than it already was.
Pyronica sat down beside her, stretching her legs and checking the bags with gunpowder for any tears in the fabric. "We gonna break into the Tower? Blow up the whole place? I have enough powder to blow a decent hole in the main wall. Would be quite a sight." She almost sighed dreamily at the end.
"We'll risk blowing up Ford if they placed him near the wall we choose. We have no way of knowing where he is in the building." Dipper rubbed his temples and sat on the bed beside Stan. Mabel joined him and yawned.
"You should get some sleep, sweetheart," Stan mumbled, quirking a lip when she blinked at him. "You look exhausted."
"I wanna help find grunkle Ford."
"I know, but you'll be no use to us if you suddenly pass out."
"You did use your power quite a bit. It's normal to be exhausted afterwards," Dipper pointed out, lightly bumping her shoulder with his own. She smiled back and stuck her tongue out.
"I can handle myself just fine."
"While this is all fine, and nice to see a family reunited again," Bill cut in, raising his hands to ask for attention. "We really do need to figure out what our next move is."
They all stayed quiet, mulling the options over in their heads. Mabel swung her legs back and forth, constantly staying in motion to avoid falling asleep.
Dipper bit his nail. The Tower was heavily guarded. Thick walls, small windows and most cells placed either in towers lining the wall high above the ground or the main building in the middle. It would be difficult.
"Perhaps we could send a man in?" Pyronica clapped her belt. "Give him some powder and let him blow his way out. Could give some inside information about the layout. We don't know much besides the basics."
"Could work, but we risk a quick death and no time to gather information and escape. I won't lose a man for nothing." Bill started pacing around the small room. Casper looked over his shoulder and sighed before getting up.
"He is as fixed as my abilities allow. Rest and food will do the rest."
"Thanks, doc," Stan said and stretched his arms. A crack, probably from his spine, resounded in the room.
"Do not reopen your stitches. I will not sew them shut again because of stupidity." With that, he exited the infirmary. Stan looked at the door and snorted.
"I like him. Reminds me of Ford whenever I get a bruise."
Mabel giggled at the image. Ford had a tendency to haunt Stan whenever the latter got hurt in one of his reckless stunts.
"Should we take this to your cabin?" Wendy asked as Bill passed her for the fifth time already. "It is definitely bigger than here."
"Casper will have our heads if Stan leaves the bed," Bill pointed out.
"And I ain't letting you plot without me," Stan pointed out from the bed.
Dipper's sigh was rather fond at his great uncle's stubbornness. He looked over and smiled at the twins, before pointing a finger at Dipper. His expression turned serious, eyes narrowed and wrinkles prominent.
Dipper gulped. "Yes?"
"You owe an explanation for your little disappearance. Eight years, kid. What happened?"
All eyes turned to Dipper. Serious, sad and curious eyes, Dipper suddenly felt a heavy weight around his heart, clenching uncomfortably as they all stared at him.
Bill especially caught his attention. The captain looked more intrigued than anything, while his sister just smiled sadly and looked at the floor. It had taken her weeks, months even to coax anything out of him, and he had said almost nothing.
"I- It's really a long story, or not really, I mean, it's not that long, complicated perhaps? Yeah, definitely complicated, I don't think we have time to talk about that now, shouldn't we focus on Ford?" He knew he rambled, mumbling apologies and desperately trying to change the subject. He did a poor job, but he never did perform well under that kind of pressure.
Stan raised a brow and gave him a hard look, daring him to continue the excuses. "Really kid?"
Dipper sighed and wiped his forehead. "I want to tell you, I really do, but I don't- Dare- I don't think- Just, give me time. I promise, after we rescue Ford, I'll tell you everything. All of you. Whatever you want to know. No more secrets. Just give me that. Please."
Minutes of silence stretched on, no one daring to break it as Dipper and Stan stared each other down.
"Grunkle Stan." Mabel moved to his bed and sat down. Big, brown eyes stared up at him, shining with unshed tears. "Let's think about Ford now. The important thing is that Dipper is back home, and he's not going anywhere. We'll save grunkle Ford together. And be a family again."
Stan looked back at Dipper. "This true? You're staying? No more running away and hiding from your family?"
Dipper felt the words cut deep. His family. He had run away from his family, or what was left of it. But he had done it to protect them. See where it brought him. They had all suffered after he left. Just what he had tried to avoid by leaving.
"I promise. No more running away. And the truth once Ford is back with us again."
Dipper looked at Stan's fist, outstretched towards him. He smiled and bumped his own against it.
They continued discussing possible strategies until Mabel finally fell asleep on Dipper's shoulder, a slight snoring vibrating her throat. Dipper smiled fondly and arranged her on the bed next to Stan. The other's walked out to give them some privacy. Only the Pines family remained. Dipper stroked her hair as she slept, watching his uncle lay down as well on the old bed. It creaked beneath him.
"You've been quiet."
Stan looked up with a raised brow. "So? You and your friends are the muscles this time. Didn't think I had anything to add. Not my men."
He sighed and rested his hands under his head.
"That usually doesn't stop you. And you've been in the city the longest. You should just say whatever's on your mind."
"You're handling it just fine."
"No, we're not," Dipper spoke firmly, his voice slightly raised but still low enough to avoid disturbing Mabel. Stan looked surprised at the outburst. "We aren't handling anything. We thought we knew what we were doing, what would happen, what should happen. You were there, but Ford was gone. You were supposed to be there together. I was supposed to fix this mess. To make Mabel happy again. Not this. She's more afraid than ever. And I have no idea how to get into the bloody Tower of London! It's impossible. For all we know they have already executed him. I failed you. All of you."
Dipper hung his head, shame and guilt churning in his stomach. Tears welled in his eyes, burning as he refused to blink and let them fall. A creak made him look up. Stan sat opposite him, a small smile on his face as he reached for Dipper. He threw himself at his uncle, sobbing into the fabric as Stan clapped his back.
"There, there, kid. It's okay, let it out."
They sat in silence as Dipper cried, pulling away when the last tears stopped flowing. He sniffed and gave a weak smile.
"Yeah." Dipper wiped his cheeks. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. It's better to let it out than bottle it up and leave it to fester. Only breeds bitterness and regret. You think I got so far in life by doing everything alone? I had Ford to help me. And you have us. Don't forget it Dipper."
"I won't. Not anymore."
They sat in silence, watching Mabel toss in her sleep, mumbling incoherently as she bit her pillow.
"We should have made her eat something before she fell asleep."
"Would have been wise. She can probably find something herself if she gets too hungry."
"I just fear what that may be." They laughed together.
Dipper looked to the door. "I should get some sleep. We need to come up with a plan tomorrow. We can't sit here forever."
Stan thought for a moment, scratching at his bandages. Dipper refrained from scolding him. He would sound too much like Mabel.
"Does Bill have paper and ink quills in his room? Preferably a bit old. And some wax?"
"I think so." He narrowed his eyes. "What are you planning?"
Stan grinned and puffed his chest out. A slight tremor of pain ran through him, but he refused to acknowledge it. "I still make a pretty convincing forgery if I do say so myself. I can make some documents demanding Ford released and transferred somewhere else where we can pick him up. I just need a document with Admiral Strange's signature to properly copy it."
Dipper stared at Stan. "That's brilliant! But how would we get the signature?"
"We would need a document that has already been signed. Either from his estate or somewhere else. I did take the arrest order they had on Ford and me and curled it up into a ball. Threw it somewhere in the living room, maybe it's still there. If not, we need to go directly to the source."
Dipper stood up. "I'll suggest the idea to the others. We'll come back tomorrow to finalise the plan."
Stan nodded and laid back down again, groaning as he moved his wounds. "Sounds good. I'll just... Stay here... And sleep." He fell asleep almost mid-sentence, words falling into a low mumble. Dipper smiled and pulled the blanket over him. He grabbed the lantern near the door and exited the infirmary, heading towards the cabin to explain the plan to Bill. Hopefully, Wendy and Pyronica were still up as well. He did not expect an easy infiltration a second time. They would need more men. Or a better way in.
Bill sat in his chair when Dipper entered. The look in Dipper's eyes was completely different than the hopeless void they had been when he left the family alone. Bill almost spat out his rum when Dipper grabbed his chair and spun him around to face the shorter man.
"We'll order them to let Ford go."
Bill blinked and emptied his cup. Had Dipper gone mad after Bill left them? "How would you do that? We can't just walk up and demand they release him."
Dipper placed the lantern he came in with on the table and held Bill's head in his hands. "My uncle can forge an official document to near perfection. We'll make them release him with an order from the Admiral himself."
Bill almost didn't hear the words over the blood rushing through his body. They hadn't been this close since the night before. Dipper had physically avoided him the whole day, except for when they rescued his uncle.
Dipper nodded enthusiastically. "A forgery. All we need is a document with Strange's signature on for Stan to copy."
Bill dared to move his hands to Dipper's hips. When he didn't react negatively, Bill let them linger and slowly massaged the hipbones. "Can't be an easy thing to find."
"We might have a paper lying somewhere in the house. If not, we have to go back to his estate. Break in while he's away when the manor is almost empty and steal a document directly from his desk."
Bill thought it over. It could work, but breaking in the second time would be risky.
"It won't be that easy a second time, Pine Tree."
"I know." Dipper sat on Bill's lap, effectively pinning him to the chair. "But if we break in at night, just one or two people, we could easily sneak off with whatever we wanted. I do have experience in that area."
Bill hummed and ran his hands up Dipper's back. "In your years on the run?"
He flashed a sharp smile, teeth glinting and eyes swirling with colours. "Precisely."
They kissed, teeth biting as hands roamed. Dipper nipped at Bill's lower lip. Hands pulled at strings, trying to untie pants and pull shirts off without breaking contact. A rather hopeless feat, but he persisted. Dipper laughed and pulled away, pulling first his own and then Bill's shirt off and dumping the clothes on the ground.
"I take it you enjoyed last night?"
"Shut up." Lips met yet again. Bill grabbed Dipper's ass through the fabric and squeezed. He gasped and moved down to Bill's neck, biting the red bruises from yesterday.
"I can't wear my collar high forever."
Bill pulled his pants down in retaliation, grabbing the now exposed ass to knead the flesh. Dipper hummed and moved back into the touch.
"You know I won't let you go alone, right?"
He grabbed Dipper's chin and pulled him up, face to face, as he spoke again, tone serious and gaze piercing. "I won't let you go alone."
Dipper smiled, small and fond, as he kissed the pirate's cheek. "I know. I expected nothing else."
"Good." Bill tried to kiss him again, but Dipper pulled away and stood up, lifting Bill right off the chair before he could react. Being carried bridal style to your bed by a smaller man was not something Bill had tried before, but there he sat, after being placed gently on the bed. Dipper smirked and crawled back on top of him.
"I keep forgetting your supernatural strength."
Dipper pulled Bill's pants off and let them join the growing pile on the floor.
"Hmm, you keep forgetting my other half."
"You don't show it often," Bill retaliated, wrapping his legs around Dipper as they kissed, grinding against each other. The naked contact did wonders.
"Do you want me to?"
He paused and looked down at the pirate. A grey hue appeared in the outer ring of his irises.
"I've never really tried to before. It's easier to blend in like a normal human."
Bill caressed his cheek, lifting Dipper's gaze back up from his chest to his single eye.
"Let me help you."
"I don't know. I don't think I can. I don't want to hurt you." His voice grew more panicked as he spoke.
"Shh, it's okay." Bill kissed his cheek, trying to calm the growing fear in his eyes. "Here, let me show you something."
Before Dipper could protest, he deftly untied the eyepatch and placed it on the table beside the bed. His golden eye was closed as he took a deep breath. Dipper's silence unnerved him. He finally looked up to see Dipper stare with horrified fascination at the uncovered eye. Or, what was left of it. He hadn't looked at it in months, but he remembered clearly every agonizing second. It haunted him every night, left him scared of ever removing the patch, in fear of experiencing it again on his other eye.
"Who did this?"
"Everyone believes I got it from some big battle before they joined the crew. Wendy believes I got it before becoming a captain, in a battle for this very ship. They are all wrong. I lost my eye before I left home."
"How?" Dipper whispered as if fearing Bill would run off if he spoke too loudly. He was not too far off. Bill could feel his body tensing the longer he left it exposed.
"My father." The smile was bitter, resentful. "A rather big man, violent and easily angered. He was a drunk. Spent most of his time at work or in a tavern. Wanted me to continue in his footsteps as a miner. I had already lost two brothers in accidents. I didn't want to be trapped underground until an accident buried me alive as well. I tried to run away. Some of his friends found me docking a ship and hauled me back home. I was fourteen when he took my eye and threw me out of the house. Told me to never return or he would take the other."
Bill took a deep breath, composing himself before continuing. Dipper listened with rapt attention, trying to focus on the healthy eye. Bill felt grateful for that.
"I did return, however. Years later, with my ship and crew. My mother died giving birth to my new little brother. I took him with me to a monastery in France. I left my father with nothing but a bottle of rum and a hope he would die alone filled with regret. I never found out what he did afterwards. Didn't care enough to know."
They stayed silent for a few moments. "Not that epic a tale, huh?"
Dipper pretended to think before kissing his nose. "Does it have to be?"
Bill grinned, exhaling a shaky breath as he tried to relax his shoulders again. "Suppose not. We can't all be Blackbeard or Ponce De Leon."
He blinked and stared at the captain. "You know about them?"
Bill raised a brow. "I might have missed proper education, but I have learned to read, and gossip travels fast on the sea. Especially legends with magic."
Dipper rested his head on Bill's chest, drawing patterns over the scarred skin. "I guess. Do you ever visit your brother? If he's still there."
"He doesn't need to know his only living relative is a pirate. Let him dream whatever he wants for his family. I will not kill that hope."
"I think he would be happy to know he has someone, no matter who they are. I felt the same with my father, and later my mother. He died before we were born, and our mother was almost never home before her... Death. So we had our great uncles. They took care of us. They could have been criminals, well, worse criminals, and I still would have loved them, just because they were there."
Bill sighed and pulled Dipper up for a quick kiss. "Perhaps I'll take you to see him one day. I do keep an eye on him, even if I won't let him know about me."
Dipper smiled. "I would love that."
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
Chapter by Aracney
And another update! Hope you like it.
Some backstory this chapter! Even if it is mostly just hinted at. There is more to come!
Dipper awoke to the sound of squealing. He rolled down from the bed, hit the ground hard, and turned around to see his sister at the foot of the bed. Her cheeks were smushed together by her hands, eyes swirling with pink and blue colours.
"Mabel, what the heck?" He groaned and massaged his new headache. Bill mumbled from the bed and opened his eye to find the source of the spectacle. They stared each other down for a moment before Bill smacked his hand over his uncovered eye, cursing as he fumbled for the discarded eyepatch. Mabel blushed and looked away, turning her back to the captain.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think you would be, well, indecent?" She sounded unsure.
Dipper sighed and stood up. "It's okay, we should have expected it would happen at some point. Just, wait for me outside? I'll be there in a bit."
She nodded and hurried out of the door. Bill had finally tied his patch back around his eye and sat stock still on the bed, biting his lower lip in agitation. Dipper sat beside him, holding a hand and kissing his cheek. No response.
"She saw. I took it off and she saw it. I had my suspicions since she let me wear it after the storm until she left the cabin. She spoke like she already knew. Did she? How? Did she use her powers on me?" He sounded more and more panicked. Dipper looked on in worry as he ripped a piece of the blanket off.
"She didn't, I promise. You would know. It's like, I don't know, like passing out. You know time has passed, you know something is wrong, but you can't remember, can't put your finger on it. She can't make people forget her influence, only their memories during the process."
Bill visibly relaxed, biting a piece of skin off his lip before looking up at Dipper. A small drop of blood formed as he spoke.
"I didn't want her to know. No one, I don't want anyone to know."
Dipper wiped the drop away. "I'll talk to her. She'll understand. I promise she won't tell anyone. She just- didn't expect to see you without the patch."
"I guess that makes sense..." Bill forced a grin, hollow as an empty bottle, and stood up, gathering their clothes from the floor. "Let's get dressed and call a meeting. Better get this plan over with as quickly as possible."
Dipper silently stood and accepted his clothes. He would talk with Bill later. Now he had to find Mabel and explain before they all met up.
He found Mabel at the back of the ship, sitting by the railing and staring down at the waves beneath them. A spot they had come to love on the ship. Dipper smiled and sat down beside her. She looked up to meet his eyes. A sorrowful expression met his own.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to make him uncomfortable, I thought he wore the patch all the time, at least when others are with him."
Dipper shushed her and pulled her head onto his shoulder. "It's okay, he took it off for the first time last night. You couldn't possibly have known."
"But still!" She grabbed his hands. "I just waltzed in, not caring about what you might be doing or talking about." She trailed off. A sudden blush appeared on her cheeks. "Were you- Have you- You know?"
Dipper looked away, his own blush warming his features as her words sunk in. "I mean- That is- Goodness, Mabel, it's awkward when your sibling asks about that!"
Her eyes grew wide. "You have, haven't you? Dipper!" He laughed as she launched herself at him, blowing raspberries on his stomach. "Tell me the truth!"
"Okay, okay, mercy!" he cried as he tried to wriggle away. She grinned and laid her head on his chest.
"Spill the beans, Dipdop."
"Do you really want to know?"
A beat of silence. "If you want to tell me."
Dipper ran his fingers through her hair. She needed a hairbrush. And a bath without saltwater. They all needed that.
"Sorry, got lost in thought."
"You seem happier. More comfortable with him."
"I am. I think. It's weird, really. Only a month ago I hated him with all of my being. Then he chases me across the sea just to apologise, which was actually a bit creepy when I think about it."
Mabel giggled and lifted her head to look at Dipper's features. He kept staring straight up at the sky. White clouds dotted the blue morning sky.
"I ignore him, we talk, the search for Stan and Ford. So much has happened. I think I like him."
"He seems like a good guy when you get past the crazy facade and wide smiles."
"A facade. I think I broke one down last night."
"When he took his eyepatch off?"
"Yeah." Dipper remembered the sight clearly. An empty eyesocket, scar tissue around the lids, or what was left of the lids. Signs of old infection long cured. It looked a bit sunken. Like the missing eyeball had held the surrounding area up. Held the form together. He shuddered. It must have been pure agony.
"You okay?" She ran a hand over his arm. The touch felt good, real, grounding from the visions of yesterday.
"Yeah, I am. Just thinking."
"So, are you together now? Like, 'together' together?"
Dipper chuckled at her choice of words. "I think we are. Is that weird?" He looked down, suddenly afraid of the reaction he would see. Mabel just smiled up at him, flashing her sharp teeth.
"Not at all."
He relaxed. Of course she would say that. "Thanks."
"No problem. Though I will have to eat his face if he hurts you."
Dipper gave a startled laugh. "Mabel!"
She looked up at him with big, innocent eyes. "What?"
"I know. Runs in the family."
Dipper raised a brow. "Really?"
"Really." She jumped up and raced over the deck, heading towards the infirmary. Dipper followed, laughter ringing out in the crisp morning air.
Hiding in the same alley as yesterday, Dipper and Bill scouted the manor once more. The meeting had been short that morning. Find a signature, get it to Stan, make a document demanding Ford's release. The search back at their house showed no documents hiding in the corners, so here they were, waiting for Strange to leave his estate or for nightfall, whichever came first.
It took around an hour, with Dipper and Bill taking shifts staring at the manor. Bill kept complaining about being bored, but Dipper just shook his head and ignored the captain.
Finally, Bill whispered from his perch on the ground. "He's leaving."
Dipper stood from his reclined position by the wall and leaned over Bill to see the driveway. Admiral Strange stood by his carriage, talking to a man before getting inside and motioning for the driver to move. Dipper felt a sudden rush of anger as he saw him drive away. A low growl escaped him before he could shut his mouth.
Bill looked up with a raised brow. "You okay?"
"Yeah, let's just go."
They moved out into the crowd and followed the stream of people until they reached the same alley as yesterday, sneaking by the kitchen entrance and climbing up the wall to the windows on the first floor. Luckily the room they looked into was empty. Dipper grabbed the roof, Bill pushed him up and reached a hand up to be hoisted up after the siren. They sat on the roof, kneeling down to avoid being seen from the ground.
Dipper nodded and snuck over to the left side, where a tall tree stood close to the house. He looked down, noting no guards near them and jumped. He grabbed a branch, swung around and straddled a thicker one under him. Bill gave a thumbs up with a grin. Dipper snickered and reached his arms out. Bill stepped back, breathed and jumped after him. His eyes widened as he fell. Dipper snatched his arm and yanked him towards the trunk. He landed on a branch under Dipper and clung to it with a death grip.
"You okay?" Dipper echoed from earlier.
Bill frowned and stuck his tongue out. "Just peachy sweety."
Dipper laughed as he jumped to the window and stuck his knife into the windowsill to force the lock up. It broke and he crawled inside. Bill seemed like he wanted to go back to the ship when Dipper reached his arms out again. He simply smiled and motioned at Bill to jump. Bill crawled as far out as he could before leaping from the shaking branch. Dipper caught his arms and hoisted him up to rest on the sill, legs still hanging outside.
"Need a break?"
"Nah, just hanging out."
Dipper snorted and pulled him in. Bill rested his hand over his heart as he laid on the floor.
"I need to practice some more. This sucks."
Dipper nodded and listened by the door for any approaching footsteps. When silence was the only thing he heard, he turned back to the pirate.
"Work in the crows nest. It does wonders."
Bill looked thoughtful for a moment. "Really?"
"You learn to jump from great distances when you are too lazy to crawl all the way down and up again to the opposite mast."
Bill dusted his coat off and joined Dipper by the door. "Makes sense."
They opened the door slowly and looked out. The hall looked empty, but faint sounds could be heard in the house. They weren't alone, but they hadn't exactly expected the servants to be missing.
"In and out, got it?"
"Yeah, yeah, let's just get moving."
They checked every room they passed as they moved down the hall. A bedroom, nicely decorated in blue colours, a bathroom and a library were all passed before they reached what looked like a study. They hurried inside and locked the door.
Dipper guarded the door, listening for approaching footsteps as Bill searched the room. The desk was empty, everything placed in drawers or cabinets. Bill tried a drawer. Locked. The rest appeared to be locked as well. Bill sighed and pulled a small knife and metal rod out of his pocket. A few seconds and the drawer opened with a satisfying click. Bill smirked as he pulled it open.
He looked up from the mess of documents inside to see Dipper step back from the door right as a loud thud echoed on the wood.
"Yes. And many by the sound of it. Got a signature?"
Bill pulled the whole stack of paper up and stuffed it into a thin bag hidden under his coat.
"Yeah, let's g-"
The room exploded in noise as the door broke down and seven guards entered the small study. Bill turned around and broke the window next to the desk.
He looked back to see Dipper hit one guard in the jaw and bite another as he tried to grab him. Bill pulled his pistol and shot the guard closest to himself. Two more rounds rang out before he ran out of ammunition. The last four guards drew their swords, apparently missing rifles themselves.
"Come on Dipper!"
A guard grabbed Dipper before he could reach Bill, pulling him back and earning a handful of claws to the face. Blood dripped onto the floor as he clutched the wound and screamed in pain.
Bill drew his own sword, but a gunshot rang out, effectively stopping his movements in surprise. He looked down to make sure he hadn't received a hole in his chest. Where had the shot even come from? No blood or pain appeared, so he sighed and looked up to see Dipper clutching his left arm and gritting his teeth.
"Just go! Get back to the others."
Bill tried to reach Dipper, but two guards rushed to stop him. Dipper threw himself on top of the men, pinning them down and staring at Bill.
"Run you idiot!"
"I'm not leaving you!"
Another tried to remove Dipper, this time grabbing his injured arm. Dipper hissed in pain as he was hauled to his feet. He spat and looked to Bill as the two rose from the floor. The last guard still blocked the exit. Their only way out was through the window.
"Fuck that." Dipper pushed one of the guards towards Bill, effectively tripping him and letting them both fall out of the window. Bill felt time slow down as he lost all contact with his surroundings. By some miracle, he managed to grab the guard and pull him under himself, landing on top of him with a sickening crack. Bill felt the impact but suffered no serious injuries as he stood up and looked to the window. The commotion grew quieter as they probably dragged Dipper away. Bill ran around to the front to break back in, but a line of at least fifteen soldiers stopped him.
They all drew their swords. The one time he forgot to load his pistol. He did a spin and ran as fast as he could down the street, cursing as the sound of boots followed him. He would have to lose them. And come back for Dipper. Before they moved him as well. He sped up and turned a corner, trying not to scream in frustration.
Dipper awoke with a pounding headache. The damn soldiers had knocked him out when he tried to bite them again, struggling in their grasp. Chains rattled as he moved to sit against the wall. The damp air made his skin feel clammy and itchy. Dipper looked around, recognising the cell and hallway. He was under Strange's manor, in a cell next to Stan's old one. The lighting was still as dark as last time. He clenched his fists, remembering how Stan looked when they found him.
The sound of soft footsteps pulled Dipper out of his thoughts. Someone was walking down the hallway, and by the sound of it, trying to sneak up to Dipper's cell. Dipper closed his eyes and waited, slowing his breathing down.
The footsteps stopped just before his cell, the slight rustle of fabric from someone moving their arms or toying with a sleeve. Dipper opened his eyes again to see the arrival. A man cast in shadows stood by the cell door, hands resting behind his back and a slight tilt to his head. The face was almost impossible to discern in the low light, but the voice cut through Dipper like a knife.
"Dipper Pines. You are difficult to find."
Dipper growled and stood up. The chains clanked against each other. Luckily they were long enough to allow him to stand, even with both ankles and wrists chained to the floor.
"You are difficult to avoid," he spat back.
A chuckle answered him, Tad moving closer to reveal his face in the light of a nearby lantern. A small smile full of malice greeted Dipper.
"I had hoped this little game would stop sooner, but like everything else, it has finally come to an end. I do hate losing my patience."
"And losing in general."
Tad lifted an eyebrow, eyes slightly squinted. "I do hope you will be more agreeable in the future. I don't want to hunt any more of your family down if I can avoid it. No one else has ever given me as much trouble as your family has. It is quite impressive."
"No one has ever been as crazy as you have. Gotta give it to you, your interest in my family borders on obsession." Dipper leaned against the wall and smirked at Tad, crossing his arms as he finished.
Tad looked back, smile now replaced by a grimace. "Maybe I should have taken your sister instead. Less of a hassle, I suppose."
Dipper felt his whole body freeze, a hand clenching his heart behind his ribs. "Don't touch her." It was supposed to be a threat but the words came out in a whisper, breathing quickening as the thought swirled in his mind.
"I won't, as long as I get what I want. Northwest didn't know what he was dealing with, but before I could talk some sense into the pompous aristocrat, you showed up and destroyed everything. You should have stayed away."
Dipper moved to the door, stopping a few feet away as the chains grew taut.
"Like hell, I would. She was my mother! You should have left us alone."
"I don't take kindly to threats to the crown. I was appointed Admiral of the fleet for a reason. Your mother was a threat to all life in the city. She shouldn't have been here in the first place. Whoever decided to place his seed in her made a grave mistake. But I know how to turn a bad situation around. You will be of use to me or join your mother. King William already knows about the situation and has given me full control. No one can help you unless they want to lose their heads."
Before Dipper could answer, Tad turned around and walked away, waving as he left.
"Come back here, you coward! Murderer!" He pulled and pulled at the chains, trying to rip them out of the floor and claw his way to Tad's throat, but they wouldn't budge. With a scream, he fell to the floor, exhausted and drained, tears stinging his eyes as memories of his family flashed in his mind. "Damn you, Strange."
Bill reached his ship a few hours after he was chased away from the mansion. He had lost the soldiers in the maze of the streets, resorting to hiding in dirty alleyways and climbing walls to avoid any detection. He dragged his feet on the wooden planks, not stopping when Shooting Star ran up to greet him. Her smile fell as he spared her a single glance and disappeared into his cabin.
A single lamp burned on the table, casting the room in a soft glow. Bill poured a glass of rum and sat down. The chair squeaked under his sudden weight. He sighed and lifted the glass to his lips.
The door slammed open, people streaming in as he sipped the strong liquid. He swallowed and placed the glass down.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" He looked at Stan, watching the man lean against Soos.
"I'm not that old yet."
Bill sank further into the chair. "Your problem then." He didn't want to argue, the uncle was as stubborn as his nephew. Stan could argue with Casper all by himself. Bill rubbed his eyes.
"Bill?" Mabel moved closer to the table. "Where is Dipper?"
He knew the question would come, but it still made him freeze up. What should he say? They would be angry no matter what.
The silence stretched on. Wendy looked like she was about to say something when Bill quietly muttered, "He didn't make it."
"What?" Mabel's voice broke mid-word, tears glistening in her eyes. "Is he-"
"He's still alive. At least when I last saw him."
"Well, what happened? Where is he now?" Stan sounded impatient. His wrinkles seemed more pronounced with his furrowed brows and squinted eyes. He looked older. Bill wondered if he himself looked as tired as he felt.
"Your guess is as good as mine." Bill stood from the chair and dug into the bag still tied around his waist. The stack of papers landed with a thud on the table, a small cloud of dust rising from the resulting breeze. "Better start writing. If he's with your brother we'll get them both out."
Pyronica looked from the papers to Bill's grim expression. "And if he's not?"
A sob escaped Mabel as Wendy tried to comfort her. Pyronica cringed and looked apologetic as Wendy hushed her.
"Then I'm blowing that fuckers head clean off his polished shoulders," Bill growled in answer. Stan looked mildly impressed, a small nod following the captain's words. Soos looked sick.
"Seems like we have another rescue mission on our hands," Wendy commented.
Bill grinned, teeth glinting in the light as he drew his knife. The Pines looked uncomfortable for a moment before he drove it down into the wooden desk. "And another target." The pirates grinned with him, though Soos had more of a grimace than a smile, drawing their own daggers to join the first in the wood.
"Two lives for one." Wendy drove the old knife into the wood beside Bill's.
"I like those odds," Pyronica added, throwing her own knife. It embedded itself in the wood, shaking slightly from the force.
Soos simply made a stabbing motion, twisting the knife into the wood when it wouldn't stay right away. He nodded and stepped back from the desk.
Bill let his fingers graze the knives, licking his lips and turning his head to the family. Or what was left of it. "We'll avenge your family. No matter what. From the moment Dipper joined my crew and wore our mark, he became a part of us. We protect each other. By extension, that means you as well. You are a part of this crew now, whether you like it or not."
Stan snorted and crossed his arms. "Well, I certainly thought so."
Mabel smiled and wiped her eyes, now alight with colour once more. "Thank you."
The girls wrapped her up in a hug, all three laughing as they almost toppled over onto the floor. Soos wrapped an arm around Stan and clapped his shoulder, apologising when Stan winced in pain. Bill grabbed his glass once more and emptied the cup. He couldn't stop the small, genuine small that lingered on his lips. Family, huh? Perhaps it wasn't so bad after all. At least when you got to choose for yourself.
The sun rested above the horizon, golden light filling the sky. The clouds looked like molten metal. Bill rested his cheek on the railing, legs sticking out between the bars, swinging back and forth over the water. He had spent the rest of the afternoon locked up in his cabin, after having kicked the rowdy group out, thinking about a way to get Dipper back if he wasn't with his uncle. The close confinement became too much and Bill escaped to the back of the ship.
He could hear the crew exiting the lower deck after dinner, laughter and jokes filling the air. He himself had skipped the meal, opting to simply fill his stomach with rum before bed. It made him think better, despite what Wendy and Casper might say.
Somewhere Stan's voice boomed over the noise. "I'm not that old yet!" It quieted down, probably when Casper got him below deck and back to the infirmary. Bill smiled. Not his problem. As long as the documents got written, he didn't care where the older Pines did it.
The sound of footsteps on wood alerted him of someone approaching. Mabel sat down beside him, sticking her own legs out and lightly bumping one foot against his own. He looked up from the water and greeted her with a nod. She smiled back and looked at the descending sun. It wouldn't be long before the sun and the ocean would merge. Her smile lacked the usual light her eyes brought out. Bill took a deep breath and looked at his hands resting on the railing.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring him back." It didn't feel as weird as last time, Bill noted. He was getting better at apologising.
Mabel tilted her head towards him. The smile looked slightly better this time. "It's not your fault. I'm guessing he didn't make it easy for you."
Bill chuckled dryly. "Pushed me out the damn window."
This time she giggled, colour returning to her eyes. A deep brown merged with blue and green as she started truly laughing. It reminded him of Dipper. "Self-sacrificing idiot."
Bill grinned and raised a brow. "He's done it before? Don't tell me he's pushed you out a window too."
She cleared her throat before looking away. The mood instantly fell again. "The night he disappeared. We were looking for our mother."
Bill raised both brows this time. Dipper never mentioned Mabel knowing anything, didn't act like she knew anything. He felt the uncomfortable feeling disappear as Mabel looked back out at the sea. Would he finally get some damn answers from that family?
"He actually pushed you out a window?" Bill couldn't stop himself from asking.
Mabel shook her head with a sad smile. "No, not exactly. But I could have fallen if I hadn't been careful. We tracked her down to some sleazy aristocrat's manor in the middle of London, close to the castle. We had to crawl up the wall to get to the window. It wasn't easy. Dipper snuck in first. It only took a few seconds, then I reached the window myself. Just in time to hear Dipper scream."
She shuddered at the memory. "It was... Awful. Like nothing I had ever heard before. I felt my own heart freeze at the sound. He didn't sound human. I tried to crawl in to help him, but he blocked the window and told me to run. He had his back to me, I couldn't see his face. But his voice. It was raw, almost distorted in a way. Like he tried to yell from underwater. I refused to leave him, but he didn't listen. He shut the window in my face and locked it, never looking back at me. The curtains were pulled in front of the window just as I saw soldiers enter the room.
"A bullet bounced off the wall beside my head before I could break the glass. I had to jump down and run before they actually shot me. I spent the night hiding away on a rooftop, returning home in the morning to our great uncles. They were really angry at us for sneaking out."
At that, she looked rather sheepishly towards Bill. He simply nodded and motioned for her to continue.
"Dipper didn't return the whole day. I looked through the city, checked everywhere we had been before. Even went back to the manor. Nothing. I knew something had happened last night. With him and our mother. I think he still hopes I am too clueless or confused to figure out the connection between his panic and the fate of our mother. And his disappearance of course. I haven't even told him I know something happened to our mother that night. What else would he react to inside the house? I know she's dead. Have known it since that night. But I never saw anything. It just feels empty, dissatisfying. Like I missed an important part." She sounded agitated near the end. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. Bill scooted closer to her side and placed a careful arm over her shoulders. She instantly leaned into the touch, burying her face in his coat.
"I'm sorry to hear that." Bill cringed at his choice of words, and especially the unsure way he spoke them, regretting it as soon as the words escaped him.
A wet chuckle answered him from the now damp coat. He didn't have the heart to care about his jacket at the moment. Mabel lifted her head and rubbed her reddened eyes.
"Thanks. I think I've been over it for a while now. It's been Dipper's disappearance that really weighed me down. Our mother wasn't really around much. I loved her, she was really sweet, but Stan and Ford were our real family. They raised us, took care of us. She just visited us when she could."
Mabel rested her head on Bill's shoulder, staring at the horizon. The sun had disappeared beneath the waves as she spoke, now just a pinkish hue left on the sky before the darkness of the night would truly surround them. Bill felt he should say something, but had no idea what would be appropriate. He settled with simply keeping his arm around her shoulders as they watched more and more stars appear on the darkening sky.
Bill almost felt himself drift away to the sound of the waves below them when Mabel fidgeted beside him. He was about to release her, thinking she wanted to go back to the crew. Instead, she simply looked up at him with a teasing grin, eyes sparkling with her old mischief.
"So. You and Dipper, huh?"
Bill blinked as the question slowly registered in his mind. Perhaps he had a bit too much rum. He grinned back as she waggled her eyebrows at him. "Ya really wanna know, kid?"
"Dipper was awfully flustered when I asked him this morning."
Bill chuckled as he imagined Pine Tree with a rather heavy blush on his face, nervously wringing his hands together as Mabel gave him the same look she just gave Bill. "Honestly, I never imagined we would actually end up doing it," he confessed without a single thought. Mabel's widened eyes pulled him out of his little reverie in the memories from last night. "I said that out loud, right?"
She nodded and gave a small smile, gently bumping her elbow into his stomach. "I'm happy for you. Both of you. But if you ever hurt Dipper, I will eat your face."
The way she nonchalantly announced the threat threw Bill for a loop. He stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. "I'm sorry, what?"
"You heard me." She pulled herself up, straightening her back like any general before his soldiers. "I will have to eat your face if you ever hurt Dipper. Bite it clean off. I'll do it. Just try me."
The absurdity of her statement and the exaggerated way she spoke broke him, tears streaming down his cheeks as he laughed, holding his stomach as it started to hurt. She grinned as she watched him, shaking on the ground from the force of his laughter.
He heaved a final breath before falling silent, small tremors still running through him as he tried to avoid another fit.
"You know what, Star? I don't doubt you."
The chilling air pulled Dipper from his uneasy sleep. His body ached, all his joints cracking as he rolled onto his back. His mouth felt dry, a disgusting taste that wouldn't disappear even as he tried to swallow several times. The stone ceiling looked uneven, a few bricks hanging loosely from the pattern. Dipper scooted to the side to avoid any potential damage from falling stones.
His hand bumped into something hard and cold. Thinking his meal for the day had arrived, he turned around to grab the bowl and cup, only to discover a man lying beside him. He froze for a moment, wondering if they had placed another criminal with him until he noticed the greying face and dark splatter on his shirt. A large chunk of the man's throat had been ripped off, leaving a mangled mess behind.
Dipper screamed, scrambling back to put as much distance as possible between himself and the corpse. His throat burned, but he couldn't force himself to move, even the slightest sound would be enough to confirm his fear. There was a corpse in his cell.
"It's quite impressive, really."
Dipper looked to the voice, watching Tad lazily lean against the bars of the cell.
"What the fuck? What have you done?" Dipper could hear his own voice rise with his building panic, but he didn't care. He couldn't focus on anything other than the dead man before him. Please let it be Tad's doing. Dipper could feel his stomach knot in fear of the answer.
Tad raised an eyebrow, resting a hand on his chest. His voice was high-pitched with surprise as if he didn't know exactly what had happened. Dipper wanted to punch his teeth out. "Me? Nothing. But you might want to wipe your mouth though. Here, use this." He threw a handkerchief into the cell. It landed near Dipper's feet, unfolding and showing the embroidered initials 'TS'.
Without thinking, Dipper picked the cloth up and wiped his mouth, whimpering when he looked back down at it. Brown stains marred the pristine fabric. He threw it into a corner, curling up to hide from the proof in front of him. He'd killed a man. Based on the clothes, it was a soldier, and probably one he'd fought before, but that didn't make it better. He didn't even know his name but had killed him regardless. And it looked like a painful death.
"Don't worry, you made quick work of him. I didn't even get to order them to help him before he was dead."
Dipper felt his shoulder's tense at Tad's casual tone. How could he talk so calmly, as if they were discussing the weather for tomorrow? "Why?" His voice was barely above a whisper, but Tad seemed to hear him regardless.
"Well, practice does make perfect, right? I hadn't expected the level of bloodlust you showed when you transformed. Quite impressive, nothing like your mother, too. Did your father work as a soldier? Can't imagine where else you would have gotten the taste for blood-"
"Stop talking." Dipper's voice grew in volume, bordering on hysterical as he uncurled and stared at the man before him. "Stop talking, shut up! What is wrong with you? I didn't want to kill a man, I just wanted to live in peace, but you couldn't even let me do that. Men like you don't deserve power! You do nothing but destroy everyone below you!"
Tad stared for a moment, clearly surprised by Dipper's outburst. Dipper breathed deeply, slightly out of breath from screaming, but already feeling less hopeless. He could find a way out. One way or another.
"Dipper." The condescending tone made Dipper bristle. His eyes flashed, a dark red momentarily covering the grey and brown tones before settling back again. Tad tilted his head and smirked. "You won't ever leave this place without my permission. You shouldn't exist, but since you do, I'll make the best of it. Don't try to follow your mother. I learned a lot from last time. Too bad Northwest didn't get the chance."
Dipper felt the name like a physical blow. Flashes of red and agonized screams filled his mind. His mother, the red tank. Mabel's betrayed face when he shut the window in her face. He leaned against the wall, head tilted back to feel the chill from the stones. The cold grounded him. He sighed and closed his eyes.
"Don't you get it? I can't control it. Look what happens when I transform." He waved a hand at the corpse, rubbing his temples as he tried to remember what happened. "It's nothing but a curse. You're right I shouldn't exist, I've always hated it, but I can't do anything about it. It's better to repress it than try to control it. You won't get what you want. Only more dead men."
Silence filled the cell for a long time. Dipper almost opened his eyes, expected the admiral to have disappeared after his admission to being useless. Maybe that would make his family useless as well and he would finally leave them alone. With or without Dipper beside them. Bill would help. He promised.
"I see." Dipper jumped, not expecting the sound. "In that case, I will need proper security measures for the future. And maybe some better motivation than your own life, since it seems like you have pretty much given up already. A shame, really." He seemed half lost in thought as if Dipper couldn't hear everything he mumbled to himself.
Dipper was up and halfway to the door before he even thought about it. Tad stepped back right as Dipper shot an arm out to grab him.
"Listen to me!" It was more of a hiss than spoken words. "It's impossible. I'll never do as you command. The best you'll get is dead men. And I will find a way to stop you before that happens."
Tad sighed, like a parent tired of explaining something simple to a child, and crossed his arms. His patient demeanour only spurred Dipper's own frustration on, hands twitching in their grip on the bars.
"I will make it possible one way or another. The superior species will always be humans. No hellspawn will threaten our dominance and a half-bred monster is the last creature I will ever allow to threaten the crown. You will bend to us or join your mother." With that he disappeared down the hall, effectively ignoring all the colourful expletives Dipper threw his way as he clawed at the bars.
Dipper sank to the ground, tired and angry, and scooted as far away from the corpse as possible. Maybe they would move it later. Dipper wouldn't get any rest until they did. Or food. His stomach turned and he heaved after emptying it over the floor. "Fuck."
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Chapter by Aracney
First of all, I apologise for the long silence.
Second of all, thank you for your nice comments, it really helped me get my motivation back when I felt the story led to nowhere. Especially MaeAce, who unknown to them, though I hope my answer might give an idea, really gave me the push I needed to sit down and write again. I admit I missed it, even with the fear of being inadequate and plain boring with my plot structure and writing style. Thank you.
So, with no more stalling, chapter 23!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bill sighed and lifted himself from the desk. His back ached from the slumped position. He rolled his neck, resulting in a loud crack, and moved to the window in his cabin. The crew were slowly waking up. A few already stood by their posts, having just sent the night watch down to sleep. Bill stretched his back, already regretting his decision to sleep on the desk and not move to the bed, but the thought of laying there alone seemed too strange for him right now. He refused to acknowledge why, but the thought was persistent. So was Bill. He could sleep anywhere but the bed for as long as he had to.
He saw Wendy approach his door and opened it before she could knock. She smiled and gave a nod in greeting before entering the cabin. He shut the door behind her.
"Have the scouts returned yet?"
Wendy looked to his bed, pristine and untouched from days of disuse and raised a brow. "Yeah, a few minutes ago. They're eating right now. Told them to report to you afterwards."
Bill hummed and looked back out the window. He felt grateful Wendy ignored the state of his bed. He wouldn't be able to explain it even if he tried. He wouldn't know what to say.
"How's your back?"
He turned and gave her a smile, a bit stretched compared to his usual grins, and shrugged. "Fine. Why?" His eye briefly flashed, daring her to comment. He allowed her a lot, but some things were just meant to be left unsaid, even by her.
She copied his own shrug, a glint he didn't like in her eyes. She crossed the floor to the door, for an escape or simply to end it there, he wasn't sure.
"You just seem tired. Feared something kept you awake, like a sore back." Her hand touched the doorknob.
Bill looked back out the window, a clear dismissal. "I'm fine."
"Right, captain." She closed the door behind her, quickly disappearing to the upper deck. Bill sighed and walked over to his bed. The covers seemed hard as stone, a slab of metal with a thin sheet over. He sneered at the bed, the mocking perfection of the sheets laughing at him, and ripped them off. They landed in a heap on the floor. A bare mattress laid in its place. Empty.
"Shit." He slammed the door behind him.
The scouts found Bill in the front of the ship, staring over the rooftops at the waking city. He listened as they relayed their report, this time about The Tower. The day before, they had scouted out the manor, just to be sure. They didn't know where Dipper was, but he had to be in one of those places. It was the only leads they had. Bill feared they would find nothing, but he didn't voice his doubts. Mabel could force the truth out of anyone. They would find Dipper. But first, they would get Ford back. They had planned for too long to simply leave him to rot. And both Bill and Wendy had agreed Ford was the only one in mortal danger. Especially since Strange finally had Dipper. They all feared the professor would be considered useless now. A sentiment Stan shared, even if it had pained him to have that conversation.
Bill thanked them and sent the scouts off to bed. They would need all their strength to break into The Tower. Pyronica stayed behind, balancing on the heels of her feet. Bill lifted a brow, urging her to speak instead of jumping around from impatience.
"I finished the map you wanted!" she almost yelled in excitement, pulling a piece of paper from her pocket and smoothing it out on the floor. Bill kneeled down beside her, looking at the scrawls she called handwriting on the crudely drawn map.
"Yes? Did you find a way inside?" He didn't mean to sound impatient, but he couldn't read her map and felt rather stupid for even trying. She seemed to expect some genial reaction from him.
"I did. The map isn't finished, I need to draw it up properly, and ask Casper to write for me, but it's detailed enough to be useful once it looks good. There seem to be several entrances, a few by water where you have to cross the moat. And a lot of towers. They don't call it The Tower of London for nothing. Though they should call it The Towers of London-"
She shut her mouth, looking sheepish and excited at the same time, biting her lip as she rolled the map up again.
"They have two sets of walls. Can you imagine? Two! And the outer wall is thick. Like, really thick. I would need a lot of powder to blow a hole in that. And maybe even two separate explosions in the same area to do so. It's amazing!"
Bill heard her excitement, he almost felt like smiling himself, her bubbling personality contagious for everyone on the ship, but her happiness didn't spell anything good for their plan. It sounded almost impossible. Just like Dipper said.
"But there is a way in?"
"Hm?" She looked up from her map, almost crinkling the paper in her grip. "Oh yeah, there is. Several. Just depends on how you want to do it. It won't be easy, but we've handled this kind of thing before. I'm confident we can do it. I've already given Soos a list of things we'll need. He's taken a group of men with him to get it all. And I hooked him up with my supplier. I'll take a quick nap and finish the map with Casper, then we'll plan the attack later. If everything works out, we should be ready for tomorrow night."
Bill scratched his throat as he listened. It all sounded good, doable. It was times like these he felt grateful for his crew, even if he never said it. They were ready to risk so much, never asked questions. Though he supposed the twins had captured the crew's hearts as much as they had Bill's. He blinked. Fuck, he had, hadn't he? Bill sighed and waved Pyronica's questioning look away.
"Go get some sleep."
She gave a halfhearted salute and disappeared below deck, leaving a tired and distressed Bill behind.
"Pine Tree you idiot. You just had to do it." He looked up at the sky, fluffy clouds drifting along the breeze, unconcerned by his inner turmoil. A mocking display of tranquillity he would probably never experience in his life. He had some preparation to do. At least it would keep his mind occupied. They would never know what hit them.
The moon gave a weak glow in the night, too many clouds obscuring the light and most of the stars. A light rain drizzled down, making everything clammy and cold. The night shift had soon to happen, most guards slumping in their positions along the walls of The Tower.
A boat crossed the water dug around the outer wall. The southern gate opened, a few guards looking up as the new prisoner arrived, dragged along by heavy chains. A cloak hid the face in shadows. The man rowing the boat handed the chain over and disappeared back out of the gate, leaving the confused guards with a new prisoner they hadn't heard would arrive.
One of them cleared his throat before addressing the chained man. A light voice answered back. A woman? The voices were too far away to discern any words, but she was roughly pulled away, probably after a nasty comment.
They all turned back to their posts after the brief distraction, wishing time would go faster so they could all get some sleep. It wouldn't be long now.
A huge explosion rang out in the night, startling everyone out of their tired daze. It happened near the western wall, a large hole blown in the stone. Time seemed to freeze. Guards laid strewn about, some bleeding and screaming, others deathly still on the wet ground.
A shout echoed out, shaking them out of their shock. All as one, the guards still standing on the western wall rushed down to help the wounded. A few nurses came running from the infirmary under the eastern wall. They had to cross the whole ground to reach the soldiers.
No cloak laid amongst the wounded, alerting nearby guards to their new prisoner's escape. Sudden wetness made the guard on the eastern wall look down. The pointy end of a sword stuck out of his stomach, shock and panic blocking the pain he expected. He looked behind him to see a single, yellow eye stare back at him. It almost seemed to glow in the light from the torches lining the wall.
He slumped to the ground, a last, painful grunt escaping him as Bill used the man's coat to clean his sword. He looked over the wall to see his crew members arrive as well, the last people still climbing the rope they threw over the wall in the chaos. Mabel came up beside him, pointily ignoring the corpse at his feet.
"I needed one to ask about Ford."
Bill shrugged, face a grimace as he tried to look apologetic. "Next one, I'll save for you."
"That's probably the best I'll get." She looked rather pale, even in the yellow light from the fire.
"If you don't like it, you don't have to be here. We can handle it on our own." Bill looked over the courtyard, scanning the panicked bodies for Pyronica. Her explosion had been larger than he anticipated. Hopefully, she had figured that out herself and gotten away in time.
"I have to do it. It's the easiest way to find Ford. And avoid unnecessary bloodshed." At that, she glanced down, made a face and walked towards the stairs leading down from the wall.
Bill raised his hand and motioned for everyone to follow. It appeared they had finally been noticed by the guards on the other walls. Might as well take it to even ground. The rain saved them a lot of trouble with gunfire. No rifle could be properly used if the gunpowder was wet. Luckily Pyronica could hide her powder under a cloak and keep it dry from the rain.
Mabel jumped down the last steps, ignoring the few guards coming towards her and turned left to the one cowering in a corner. Screams of agony behind her told her they had been dealt with by some of the crewmembers. She still shuddered as she knelt down beside him. He looked no older than 19, probably still new to the place. Why was he even there?
She blinked and activated her powers. The strange glow that always filled her vision, but still let her see perfectly well, crept in from the corners of her eyes, filled them completely, and the man before her took on the same blank look she always saw. She didn't like it, but the thrill of power always left her breathless in the moment and tired afterwards.
"Where is Stanford Pines?"
He gasped, fighting the tug in his mind, but succumbed as easily as the rest. Though his answer didn't really please her.
Mabel sighed and straightened back up, still keeping eye contact as she did. He looked up, following her movements with a lazy gaze.
"Nevermind. Follow me."
She broke the spell, blinked and turned towards Bill, just as he sliced a soldiers throat. She grimaced and walked towards him.
"Leave a few! I need someone who knows where Ford is."
Bill nodded and hit another with the back of his elbow. Most of the fighting had moved further away from the wall, where the pirates from the eastern wall met the guards from the other three. The few nurses had retreated back to the infirmary, watching with wide eyes from the windows. Mabel felt sorry for them, but she didn't have time to calm them down. She knew nothing would happen to them if they stayed inside.
She knelt down before the guard with a now bloody and probably broken nose. He barely had time to react before his mind went blank.
"Where is Stanford Pines?"
"In the weapons tower."
"Where is that?"
He pointed towards the eastern wall, at one of the towers built into the wall between two buildings.
She looked back at him and stood up. "Take me to him."
The guards stood up, wobbled a bit and started walking towards the small tower.
"Bill!" He looked over at her, ducking under a sword and giving a swift kick before raising a hand. "I know where he is. Get ready to move." A nod answered her before Bill jumped back into the fight. She followed the guard to the door, the younger one not far behind her. He unlocked the door, stepped inside and stopped, staring straight ahead.
"Hey, what are you doing here?"
Mabel entered to see two guards point their rifles right at her. She held up her hands, giving her best smile as they looked from her to the two soldiers beside her. She had forgotten there could be soldiers guarding her uncle.
"Don't mind me, I'm just looking for someone."
"Mabel?" A weak voice drifted out from the door between the guards, a small window with bars allowing the sound to escape.
She narrowed her eyes. "Get them." She ducked down as the two soldiers yelled in surprise, both being tackled by their hypnotised friends. Mabel grabbed the dropped rifles and bent them both in half like it was nothing, leaving the soldiers speechless as she dropped the pieces of metal and splintered wood. They were now pinned to the floor.
"Grunkle Ford, step back. I'm breaking the door down." With that said, she raised her leg and kicked, leaving a hole in the wood. The hinges creaked but held. She huffed and aimed higher, this time for the handle itself. The door hung awkwardly in its frame, making it easier to deliver the third and final kick. The door hit the back wall with a crash, small pieces of wood and splinters raining onto the floor.
Mabel rushed inside to see Ford huddled together in a ball by the right wall, arms shielding his face. Silence rang out in the suddenly quiet cell. Ford looked up when a sob broke it, echoing off the walls. Mabel hugged herself, almost afraid to touch him and find out he wasn't real after all. A few bruises coloured his skin, but otherwise, he looked good, far better than Stan when they found him. He stood up on shaky legs, stepping closer as Mabel cried.
"Mabel? Is that really you?" His hand shook as he reached out to her. She wailed and flung herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. He stumbled, only held up by Mabel's own strength and gave a startled laugh. He wrapped his own arms around her waist and felt her tears stain his shoulder. "I missed you."
"I've- I've- I've missed you too!" she hiccuped, moving back to look him in the eyes. Small wrinkles appeared around them as he smiled, moisture gathering in the corners. "You look awful."
Ford laughed, ruffling her hair. "I've been better."
"Better than grunkle Stan." Ford's expression fell at that, pain overtaking the previous joy. Mabel instantly regretted saying it. "Nevermind. We have to go." She grabbed his hand and led him out of the door. He seemed hesitant to move past the two guards, but Mabel's order to them to 'Follow me' made him relax again. The previously pinned guards seemed too scared to make a move as they left.
"You've practised since you left."
She gave a smile over her shoulder, sharp teeth glinting, and pulled him outside to the chaos still happening between the pirates and soldiers. Ford seemed shocked, eyes darting between the various fighters. He seemed sad at the bodies laying on the ground. Mabel kept her eyes off of the bodies and focused on finding Bill. There, a mop of gold and slashing swords. Rain left it flat on his head, but still discernable from the rest.
He jumped back, raised a sword and shouted a short command. As one, the pirates moved back towards the wall, climbing up and joining the two Pines. Mabel walked to the wall, looking down and motioning for Ford to join her. A shot rang out in the night, someone screaming as they fell to the ground. Mabel looked behind her in shock. The soldiers had grabbed dry gunpowder from inside and stood by the windows in the main building, riffles suddenly useful again under the cover from the rain.
"Shit." Bill cursed and shouted for his crew to hurry up. Mabel ditched the ropes and simply jumped into the water, feeling the itch to transform, but forcing it down as she looked back up to the wall where Ford still stood, looking rather dubious at the long drop.
"Jump! I'll help you to shore." He seemed to hesitate until Bill showed up behind him. She saw him mouth a single word, then pushed Ford over the edge with a grin. Another shot, however, made him frown and tell his crew to 'hurry up, dammit!' as he motioned to the ropes. Mabel grabbed Ford as he resurfaced and pulled him along to the shore, helping him up and letting him cough up whatever water he swallowed in shock.
Bill and Wendy resurfaced not long after, watching the last crewmembers jump as well, before splitting up in the planned groups. Bill shook his hair and stood up, motioning for the other three to follow him. Mabel helped Ford stand and let him lean against her as they moved away from The Tower and into the darkened streets of London, hoping no one would follow them.
They didn't walk for long before Soos appeared from an alleyway, whispering quite loudly for them to follow him. Bill shushed him with an exaggerated motion, causing the larger man to blush and the rest to laugh, adrenaline slowly ebbing out of their systems the further they walked away from the battle. Mabel felt the fatigue grow, longing for a bed and a warm meal, especially since her clothes were still soaked and the night air did nothing but chill her to her core. Ford seemed to fare no better, slight tremors wracking his body as he stumbled on beside her, still leaning against her side. She felt immensely thankful for her strength, otherwise, Ford would have already collapsed, pulling her down with him.
Finally, Soos led them to an empty house, opening the door and motioning for them to go upstairs. He locked it behind him and grabbed a few blankets laying on the table in the kitchen before joining them upstairs. Another door opened to a staircase, where he finally told them to rest. The attic.
"I checked it out earlier, it's been empty the whole day! Lucky us, huh?" He seemed overly enthusiastic, something Mabel loved and often helped to brighten her own mood, but she was too tired to do much else, other than smile and lay down beside Ford, bundling them both up in a blanket and snuggling up to his side. It wasn't comfortable, but it would do for a night.
It didn't take long for Mabel's breath to even out. Bill watched the family laying together, Ford stroking Mabel's hair with a soft smile as she slept. Wendy laid beside him, already snoring softly, while Soos stood by the door, occasionally glancing at the window to watch the street below them. Bill stretched, feeling the itchy sensation of a wet eyepatch, but refused to remove it as long as the others were there.
"You really look like your brother. Well, your hair is a bit longer."
Ford startled, blinking and shaking his head as he looked up at Bill, resting his hand on Mabel's shoulder instead of her hair. It appeared he had almost forgotten the others in the room. Bill smirked and leaned back against the wall.
"You've seen him? Is he okay?" His voice almost broke as he spoke, moisture gathering in the brown eyes. Brown like Dipper's when he was content. Relaxed.
"He's resting on the ship. We'll return tomorrow when everything has calmed down. Probably wait until dark again. It's gonna be a long day. Unless the owners suddenly return home. I don't really feel like fighting again so soon." Bill was too tired to care what he said, and the genuine concern in his voice made Ford frown.
"Thank you. I'll do everything in my power to repay you."
Bill stayed silent, only nodding and watching as Ford closed his own eyes and quickly fell asleep. Hopefully, most of his crew made it back alive to the ship. He still felt a chill run down his spine each time he remembered the scream at the wall. Who had been shot? Had it been fatal? It had been too dark to see, his instinct telling him to get everyone away before another one of his crew was hit. He thought about Dipper, wherever he might be hidden right now, and if he looked as beaten and bloodied as their uncles had been.
"'Thank you'? I didn't do it for you." He looked at their peaceful expressions, especially Mabel's. She really did look like Dipper, just more feminine. He looked at the ceiling, imagining the smile he had grown fond of. It had taken some time, but it had all been worth it. "But I'm glad I did it. Just wait, I'll get him back. Then you can owe me whatever. Not a second before." He laid down properly on the dusty wood, cushioning his head under an arm and closing his eye.
On the other side of the room, Mabel opened a single eye, blue, green and pink swirling together as she smiled. They would get her brother back. Together.
Please let me know what you think, good, bad, I'll take it all in consideration for further updates.
If you want to talk outside of the comments, you can find me on Tumblr (http://aracney.tumblr.com/)
(I have no idea how to place a hyperlink here...)
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Chapter by Aracney
New update! Yay!
And, um, I'm sorry?
It's nothing serious, but I, personally, never really liked stories with low stakes, so there will be injuries to characters you know and not just OC's in the background.
But it won't be bad! I hope!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had only been a few days since Dipper woke up with a corpse beside him in the small cell. Well, the first corpse. He had quickly figured out they visited him once a day, forced him to transform and left some food for when he awoke again. His memories from their arrival to he woke up again were as hazy as any other time he had transformed. Luckily he had only killed two men, but the guilt still made him queasy whenever he thought about it. He didn't want to kill them. Didn't want to kill anyone. He didn't want to be a damn weapon!
Dipper exhaled a shaky breath and readjusted himself against the wall. The reattached chains rattled, grating in his head. He still didn't know what really happened when he transformed. Everything was fussy and tinted in a red hue. As if he looked through painted glass. He didn't want to remember killing the guards, but a morbid curiosity lingered, wondering what actually happened each time, what he did.
A small creak echoed in the basement. Dipper visibly shuddered and held his breath, waiting for the footsteps to arrive. Nothing.
He scratched at the dried blood under his nails. No matter how much he tried, a bit always remained, making him feel disgusting.
He had to get out of there, preferably before Strange achieved whatever kind of control he wanted. If it was even possible. Dipper honestly doubted it. If he couldn't control himself, how could another person control him?
His throat stung as he coughed. It felt dry and itchy, but he didn't have any water to soothe it. He doubted he could actually force himself to drink it without panicking and spitting it back out. They always left a cup of water with the meal, but Dipper simply washed the blood out of his mouth and scrubbed his fingers in it. If he kept it up for a bit longer, he could be lucky enough to pass out from dehydration and get some peace.
Dried salt from the basin of seawater still clung to his face and hair. He had tried to rub some water over his cheeks, but the contact made him seize up in panic. He had quickly given up and pushed the water away.
The sudden slam of a door made Dipper jump, instincts screaming at him to hide or fight. Whatever would be the easiest. He backed up against the wall, legs under himself and ready to jump. He had tried every day to surprise them, and each day they had simply let him tire himself out, knowing the chains would hold. He knew it too, but the irrational part of his brain wouldn't stop, a small hope persisting in trying just one more time. It didn't help that his attacks never changed. Crouch down and be ready to jump at the first person who opened the cell door. Since they could see through the bars, he felt rather silly, they could see him waiting, but something deep inside him screamed to remain ready, appear as the predator he was born to be. He hadn't fought it for long. Couldn't. It just felt... Right.
This day was no different. He bowed his back, hands resting lightly on the floor and legs bent to pounce. He felt his lips quiver, from fear or anger, he didn't know. Probably both. The footsteps came closer. An involuntary growl escaped his throat, low and guttural, a bit scratchy and full of hurt. He cringed on the inside. Hopefully, they wouldn't be able to tell the difference. But Mabel would have heard it right away. Mabel.
His face fell at the thought of his sister. At least she was safe. Bill promised to keep her safe. The captain appeared in his mind next, the damned smile, a bit too wide, but nonetheless genuine in the darkness of the cabin. As if he couldn't smile normally anymore, but still tried. For Dipper.
"Get up, beast." Someone spoke beside him. Dipper jumped. How had he missed them entering his cell? He hissed and jumped, ready to break the chains and sink his claws into the soldier and- Dipper froze. And what? Kill him? At the last second, his attack faltered, stopped by the chains, and he ended up on the floor, curling up and pulling his hair as he fought the bloodthirst that raged inside him, screaming for revenge, to hurt and maim and kill. He couldn't become the beast they all thought he was. The monster Tad kept calling him. But he had already killed two. What was another life if it meant he could get out of here?
They grabbed his arms and hurled him up, chains rattling as he struggled, the basin ready and full with fresh seawater. Dipper hissed and pleaded as they moved him to the basin. He was forced to his knees, a hand in his hair.
Strange's voice rang out in the basement. "Don't worry Dipper. It'll all be over soon."
They pushed his head into the water, the burning sensation he now associated with transforming running through his blood. He did the only thing he could think of. He screamed.
They returned to the ship in the late afternoon, tired and sore from the long night prior. Mabel still supported Ford as they walked. Bill stayed in the back, keeping an eye on their surroundings and any pursuers they might attract to the ship. They had found a small bay not far away, perfect for hiding a ship, and only a short trip by boat let them travel between the hidden ship and the mainland. Soos and Bill rowed them over as the girls kept Ford sitting upright. He looked like he would pass out any second.
As they reached the side of the ship, ropes were thrown down and secured to the boat, before the crew hoisted them up. Mabel almost carried Ford now, both barely touching the floor of the ship before Casper showed up and sent them both downstairs. Mabel just smiled over her shoulder at Bill as she helped Ford. Wendy and Soos were joined by a few men and hoisted back down again, ready to look for any missing crewmembers in the city.
Bill turned to Casper, hands behind his back as he motioned for the doctor to follow him below deck. "What's the status?"
Casper sighed and ran a hand through his hair. The bags under his eyes spoke of a restless night for him as well. "Not good. We have many injuries, few life-threatening, but it will take time to heal properly."
"Time that Pine Tree might not have."
Bill growled and opened the door to the infirmary, a bit harder than he intended, but he felt too annoyed and tired to really care. The scene that met him did nothing to calm his growing anger, but it did make him pause. The older twins stood between the beds, both holding the other by the front of their shirts, curses flying back and forth as Mabel watched from the corner in exasperation. Damp tear tracks made both men's cheeks glisten.
Bill turned to Mabel and gestured with a hand towards her uncles. "What is happening?"
She shook her head and gave a tired smile. "They started out well enough, tears and gratefulness, but as usual-" At that she sent a pointed look towards them both, "They just had to start blaming each other, even if it is neither's fault everything has happened. I'm just happy they're alive."
Bill hummed and motioned for Casper to step in. He had no intentions of stepping in himself, but the yelling was getting on his nerves, and they honestly had other things to worry about. Shooting Star was right, they were alive and well, mostly, and they only had to find Dipper. They were closer than ever to leave this damned city.
Casper took a deep breath and stepped up to the two men, whacking both in the back of the head before pushing them away onto separate beds. Ford fell with a grunt, still sore in most of his body, while Stan just laid motionless, slight twitches telling of the pain he tried to hide. Casper pulled Ford's shirt off right away and started searching for any injuries that needed proper medical care. He spared a single glance at Stan as he tried to sit up, before focusing on Ford again.
Mabel stood up and sat beside Stan, helping him settle properly and handing him a cup of rum for the pain. He gulped it down gratefully.
"So, now that you got that out of your systems, can we focus on Pine Tree?" Bill knew he sounded impatient, but he honestly couldn't care less. He just wanted a glass of rum, maybe the whole bottle, and a nap in his cabin. Preferably in the next five minutes.
"Who?" Ford looked up with a raised brow.
"Dipper. It's a nickname," Mabel moved to Ford's side when Casper turned to check Stan over for any new injuries.
"He's not here?" Ford suddenly paled, gripping Mabel's hand tight enough to bruise a normal human. She only looked surprised at his quick change in demeanour. "Where is he? What happened?"
"That damned Strange has him- Ow, don't tighten it so much!" Stan complained from the bed, Casper tying a new bandage around his right wrist before leaving the room with a huff.
Bill sighed and sat down on a box near the door. "We tried to get some documents to forge a release for you. From Strange's manor. But we didn't know at the time how bad Stan's wrist was actually hurt." At that, Stan growled as he looked down at his own hands. The right hand had a noticeable tremor, fingers twitching as he tried to still it.
Bill continued, eyes on Ford as he visibly fell apart. "When they cornered us in the study, I tried to get him to jump out of the window with me, but he pushed me out instead right as they all jumped on us. I got lucky with my fall. Took a soldier with me and landed on top of him. Don't even know if he survived. It was only one floor above ground, but he did crunch when we landed." Mabel made a gagging sound. "Sorry Shooting Star."
"And since we couldn't just write a fake document demanding your release as we first thought, we had to break you out with brute force," Mabel continued as Bill slammed his head against the wall in frustration. "Tada! Now we are here." She shook her hands, trying and failing to deliver a bright smile to the room.
"You make it sound so simple." Bill didn't blame her, it hadn't been as dangerous for her as he had feared, breaking Dipper's promise to keep her safe, but she had still been in the middle of a battle. He didn't even know if all his crewmembers had survived. He itched to leave the ship and track down every last one of them.
But they had the last Pines member to save. Then they could finally leave. Perhaps they would go to Spain. Or back to Japan where he first met Dipper. He snorted. Quite a romantic gesture, they could reminiscent about the guards trying to kill him. He hadn't told Dipper yet, but his first instinct as they collided had been to simply slice his throat, or slash a leg and leave him to the soldiers. He felt rather grateful now that he hadn't acted so rashly. Even with all the chaos that had followed.
"-ve to save Dipper! Right now! Who knows what Strange's doing to him." Bill tuned back in to hear Ford yelling in apparent panic.
"Calm down Poindexter. Don't you think we already know that? We aren't even sure where he is." Stan crossed his arms, seeming as tired and fed up as Bill felt. Mabel kept trying to calm Ford down, but he didn't seem to hear her.
"You don't understand! He's crazy. I've seen him, heard him, he's out of his mind. Dipper is in danger!"
"Don't you think we know!" Bill hit the box, jumping up and stalking straight towards Ford, who froze with his hands still in the air. "We know he's in danger. We know it's bad. But there's nothing we can do this second. Other than heal our wounded, you two included, and plan our next attack. Don't you think I know? I hate it just as much as you, but there's nothing we can do. So lay down, shut your mouth, and wait. Got it?" Bill was seething at the end, chest heaving as he finished.
All three family members stared at him in a combination of shock, surprise, sadness and acceptance. Mabel seemed to hold herself together, but her eyes had lost most of their usual colour. The older twins seemed unable to argue, both staring at spots on the wall in defeat. Stan clenching his hands and probably making the injury worse.
Bill sighed and pinched his nose, already feeling a headache forming. "I'll make sure you are informed when we begin planning our next move. Get some sleep." If he stayed much longer, he knew he'd snap. So he turned around and exited the small room, slamming the door a bit harder than he had to, before walking back towards the upper deck. He had a crew to check up on.
Since most of the crew had joined the break-in at The Tower, Casper had gathered the wounded in the main area below deck where they slept. Bill walked the short way from the infirmary to the main room, already dreading what he might find. Soos and Casper tended to the wounded, friends and family already gathered by the individual hammocks. The air felt heavy, oppressive, the usual noise absent as everyone whispered to each other. Harsh breathing was heard from a few beds.
Bill stood in the doorway, taking in the scene and counting the wounded. Nine hammocks occupied, a third of his crew, and he still didn't know if anyone had failed to return. He felt the anger flare up anew, yet it kept being overshadowed by growing grief. How many had he lost to this mission?
A hand landed on his shoulder, red hair appearing in his vision as Wendy stepped up beside him.
She kept her head up, eyes never leaving the hammocks as she spoke. "Three. The soldiers weren't bad fighters. We found one not far from the Tower. The other two still laid inside on the ground. I watched them being taken away in a carriage. Soos buried the other."
Three. Bill breathed a small sigh of relief. It was fewer than he feared, but still, three lost members. It hurt.
"Who? I haven't seen everyone myself yet."
"James, Sean and John."
They stood in silence, both mourning their family until a scream pulled them out of their thoughts. Casper stood over a hammock, cursing in his mother tongue as someone screamed in pain. Bill rushed over to see Silvin, the young cabin boy, writhing in agony as Casper tried to fix a broken arm. The bone stuck out, fresh blood and puss oozing out each time he moved.
"Be still." Casper unhooked the hammock and placed the boy on the ground. "You, help, now." He pointed to Soos and motioned for them to move somewhere else.
Bill watched them leave, hands shaking in anger. He felt so useless.
He looked up to see Pyronica in a hammock nearby, gauze wrapped around her head and covering one eye.
"Flame." It came out weak, none of his usual bravado shining through. "Your eye."
It hung in the air. She grimaced and shrugged, trying to play it off as he came to stand beside her.
"It hurts like a bitch, but I'm alright now. You should have heard me when he cleaned it."
"Fucking disgusting," Teeth mumbled beside them. Pyronica laughed, causing everyone else to chuckle as well. It helped to lift some of the gloom.
Bill noted a few others with serious injuries. Paci-Fire had a slash across his chest and the nosering looked a bit crooked as if someone had tried to pull it out by force. A few people had broken arms and legs, but nothing as serious as Silvin. One of the other women of the crew, Em, seemed to nurse a broken nose and shredded ear. Ben sat beside her, trying to lighten the mood with his hands wrapped in gauze.
Bill cast a glance at Wendy as well. They hadn't had time to properly check for wounds last night, opting to find a place to hide and pass out for the rest of the night. She seemed fine, a bit scratched up but not worse than himself. They would heal after a few days. Another scream echoed through the ship.
"Poor kid," Pyronica sighed, staring at the door they had disappeared through. Zanthar rumbled beside his brother, a sound they had learned meant he agreed. A man of few words and invaluable in battle.
Bill smiled and stood up, facing the room with a more relaxed posture. "Everyone, thank you for your effort yesterday. We managed to save Stanford Pines and have reunited most of the family. Now our only objective left is to save Pine Tree. Afterwards, I'd say a vacation in the Caribbean sounds nice." At that, they all laughed, a few lifting their good arms to cheer. Bill smirked and wished them all well, motioning for Wendy to follow him up to the deck.
"So, what now?" Wendy asked as they exited the door and felt the warm sun on their skin. Bill hummed and looked over the ship. The crew who had stayed behind worked tirelessly to keep everything running.
"We plan. There's not much else to do. We plan, and we wait. We need more men than this. We can't take this Strange fellow head-on. We need to be clever about it."
Wendy furrowed her brows, already deep in thought. "How would we get more men?"
"Your idea is as good as mine. Who would want to fight against Strange." It wasn't even a question, just a tired observation. Stanford had seemed truly terrified when he heard where Dipper probably was. It made Bill itch, wishing to just blow up the place and take Dipper away to safety. There was one thing Bill was sure of. If they got him back, he would never let Dipper go again.
Bill blinked and looked behind him. Soos stood with his hands twisting, a bit green in the face and a few splatters of blood on his clothes. "How is he?"
Wendy placed a comforting hand on Soos' shoulder when he looked ready to pass out.
"Casper did what he could. We, uh. We removed it. He survived, for now. He's sleeping. He, um, he said- I mean, I don't know if he even knew what he was saying, but-"
Bill pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Soos. He seemed grateful as he wiped the worst blood off of his hands.
"What did he say, Soos?"
"He told us to save the arm. Not as in 'don't cut it off', he knew it had to go, but he didn't want us to burn it."
Both Wendy and Bill raised a brow at that. "Really?" she asked. "Why?"
Soos made a face, the green returning as he spoke. "He wanted to use it to smack whoever this 'Strange' guy is right in the face. Something about a cool sword, but I think he was delirious from pain at that point, so I'm not sure if he meant it. Should we actually save the arm?" Soos looked honestly conflicted at the end.
The pirates stared for all of two seconds before they both broke down laughing. Wendy even had tears in her eyes as she doubled over from the pain.
Bill composed himself first and straightened back up to look at Soos. He looked genuinely confused.
"Save his arm. We can place it with some ice in a bucket and hope he wakes up in time to make a more conscious decision. We wouldn't wanna take his 'cool sword' away from him."
Soos looked rather miserable at the order, but nonetheless saluted and went back downstairs. Hopefully, he would ask someone else to do it. They couldn't have the larger man pass out in the small corridors below deck. Bill glanced at Wendy, breaking a smile as she heaved for air.
"That kid is crazy," she wheezed. "As crazy as you!"
"Where do you think he learned it?" The cheeky grin made her snort, punching his arm as she calmed down again.
"So, we let people sleep and start planning tomorrow?"
"I don't see what else we can do. We need to be at our best for this to work. The plan, especially, needs to be carefully thought out. We don't have time for more mistakes. The clock is ticking."
She nodded, turning back to the rest of the crew, already barking out orders to prepare a trip into town for more supplies while the rest fix whatever they can on the ship. A quick escape might be needed in the future.
See, it wasn't so bad. Well, I hope so at least.
Next chapter: An old friend returns! If you can call it a friend.
I realise I made Bill an alcoholic. Don't know how I feel about that, but then again, it was one of the most common ways to deal with stress and trauma before we had psychologists, so at least it's based in reality?