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Seafloor Serenade

Chapter Text

He laid on the rocks.

Motionless.

Sometimes he lazily opened an eye when a suspicious sound could be heard in the bay, but most of the time the warm sun made him lay still, basking in the warm glow.

Once in a while he flicked his tail, spraying up some of the seawater to make sure he didn't dry out.

He loved the sun, something that was quite unusual for a siren, a race that thrived in moonlight and darkness, using the lack of light to hide the monstrous features they revealed when they feasted, to make sure that as many humans as possible would follow them into the depths.

Dipper was considered weird in many ways and was treated as an outcast by all but his family.
Not like he minded all that much.
Sirens weren't interesting to him, he knew all about them aleady, and he was more than content with swimming around near the bay and the seafloor, taking an interest in everything that yet held secrets from him.
Many of his expeditions were condoned by his family, mostly his grunkles Ford and Stan, and supported by his sister Mabel, who actually took the time of day to listen to his rambling, albeit only to be polite, she got distracted easily and nodded off if his stories went on for too long.

A loud splash resounded through the bay and Dipper opened an eye.

He closed it again when he spotted a dolphin, who happily jumped out of the water to greet him with high, clicking chirps.
He greeted back and shifted a bit until the sun's rays hit him just right.

 

Dipper realized he must have dozed off, as he awoke when something blocked the sun.

Groaning a bit as he noticed that his skin was getting really dry, he grumbled something akin to a curse at the thing and splashed up some water over himself, not even bothering to open his eyes, believing it to be something harmless.

The thing, however, let out a rumbling laugh and Dipper opened his eyes quickly.

He didn't know anyone with a laugh like that!

Without bothering to really look at the creature, the chance that it was dangerous was much too great, he used his tail to flip himself into the deep water behind the rock.

"Wait! Where are you going?" the creature called out to him.

"Away from you!" he called back at the creature.

"Well that's just cold. It's not like I'm dangerous, I could have easily harmed you while you were asleep, but instead I was nice enough to block the sun for you so you wouldn't dry out completely!"

"You could've just rolled me into the water." Dipper grumbled to himself.

"What?" the creature yelled.

A loud splashing could be heard as the creature tried to round the rock, and a scream echoed among the rocks as the creature fell when the seafloor suddenly dropped a few feet.

Chapter Text

Dipper rounded the rock carefully, wary of the creature, but he only spotted bubbles and a floating hat where it should have been.

He waited for a few seconds.

But it didn't come up to the surface.

Guilt started to pull at Dipper.
If the creature had really saved him from drying out, even if its methods were somewhat unorthodox, he owed it a debt.

Dipper growled low in his throat, knowing that, if he left it to die here, the guilt would nibble away at him forever.
He dived down, frantically looking for the creature.

The water was somewhat cloudy from the sand the creature had dragged down with it, so it took Dipper a bit to spot the creature.

When he spotted it he held his breath for a few seconds.
The creature, a human Dipper realized, had hair that was as golden as the sun's rays, and the human's tanned skin spoke of him constantly being outside while the sun shone.

Dipper envied the man, who had seemed to have spent so much time in the sun that he came to look like it.

The man was still, not struggling against the water that was pulling him down.
He was drowning, nearly dead even, as no bubbles escaped its mouth.

The thought hit Dipper and he shook his head wildly to steer clear of his musings while he shot towards the man, grabbing him under the arms and dragging him up as fast as he could.

They broke the surface with a loud splash and Dipper pulled the man into the shallower waters near the beach, dragging him as far as he could without stranding himself.
He then proceeded to prop up the man against his tail, while he pushed on the man's chest until the man spit out a rather large amount of water.

The man coughed wildly and opened one eye to look up at the siren.

Dipper pitied the man somewhat, it must be horrible to drown, judging by the looks on his prey's face when they broke out of the trance and realized that they were drowning.

The man slowly managed to focus, his one eye, the same golden yellow as his hair Dipper realized, scanning the siren's face.
His other eye was covered by a triangular eyepatch but a red, choppy scar trailed from above his eyebrow, under the eyepatch and down his cheek, stopping just an inch or two from the corner of his lips.

The man coughed again and managed to produce a few words with a raw voice.
"What... is your name?"

The siren blinked a few times.
What a strange thing to be the first words out of the mouth of a man who nearly drowned.

Dipper though that the man was just a bit out of it after the lack of oxygen, and decided to answer.
"Dipper. Dipper Pines...."

"Dipper Pines..." the man repeated, his voice suddenly a lot less raw....

Dipper started and wanted to move away from the man, but the man glared at the siren with a grin that nearly looked to be too wide for his face and Dipper froze.

In a flash the dazed look in the man's eye was replaced by a look akin to what a wolf would give a rabbit, wild and triumphant, the pupil morphing to that of a reptile.

The man's hand slithered around the siren's neck, pushing down upon the siren's windpipe and standing up to drag him out of the water far enough so the gills on his sides couldn't reach the water.

Dipper could only utter a small screech before all of his instincts made him fully focus on survival, struggling to breathe, clawing at the hands that were pushing down on his throat, morphing his face to its more monstrous form to snap at the man's hands and arms with razor sharp teeth.

But it was no use and, slowly, the world started to go black.

The human laughed, a loud, raw laugh without pity, and dragged the siren closer to whisper in his ear.
"You're mine now, Dipper Pines."

And the last thing Dipper felt before fainting was something being wrapped around his neck.

Chapter Text

The siren fainted, going limp in his arms.

Bill carefully lowered the siren into the water once, to make sure he wouldn’t dry out on the way to the ship.

The water was a beautiful blue today, he thought to himself as he hoisted the siren over his shoulder.

He whistled sharply towards the tree line and the few crewmembers he had taken with him came out from under the shade of the tall trees, grumbling and shaking their sleeping limbs.
The pirate crew was not made for stealth missions, most of them were too bulky or restless to ever pull of anything close to quiet.
Especially Xanthar had a hard time staying quiet. The man liked to talk and brag way too much, and as he walked towards Bill he swatted at the small bugs that had lodged themselves on his clothes, while cursing with a vengeance, but soft enough so Bill couldn’t hear what exactly the man was saying.

He and Teeth had come with the captain to capture the siren.
Bill had made sure to take only a small part of his crew with him, just in case it went wrong and they’d all drown and be ripped apart by the vicious teeth the siren sported.

Not that Bill didn’t find such an end intriguing, he would rank it high on his ‘preferred ways to die’ list, since the intense happiness the singing of a siren caused would, or so he was told, make the end a relatively pleasant one.
Some sirens even kept singing until their prey had drowned fully, so their trip to the afterlife would go over a bit more pleasantly.
Bill argued that the siren over his shoulder could very well be such a siren, he seemed a bit too kind and naïve to just straight up rip someone’s throat out.
The kindness and hesitant trust the siren had shown him almost made him feel bad.
Almost.

Well not really though, the siren had to basically throw himself at him to make him feel bad about anything he was doing.

Bill wasn’t the kind of man that regretted things easily, especially carefully planned things like this that turned out exactly the way he wanted them to.

A sudden coughing fit overcame the pirate captain and he spit out some more water.

Even if he had only pretended to drown the water he had swallowed to make it seem somewhat believable made his throat feel raw, and he noticed that he was really thirsty.
He decided then and there that the first thing he’d do when he was back on the ship was to find a bottle of rum and empty it in record time.
“Breadhead!” he called out to Xanthar and the man walked over to him.
He almost fell over as Bill pushed the siren into his arms.

Bill gestured towards the ship with his chin, and nodded to Teeth, who quickly filled the bucket he was carrying with water.
Letting the siren dry out now would be a stupidly laughable end to this mission, which had already cost him a lot of time and a potential client.
Then again it wasn’t like he liked monster hunting jobs that much, and the rich merchant that had given Bill the information on where to find sirens (with the intention of adding a siren to his extensive menagerie of rare creatures) was a man who deserved some bad luck in his life for a change.
The fat man with so much golden jewelry on his person that you could hear him coming from a mile away, clanking and jingling like a cow with a bell around its neck, seemed like the kind of person that Bill hated most.
The kind that had never known any hardship, and lived their lives while ignoring everyone around them who was struggling, just so they could buy another golden bathtub.

Bill sifted through his coat pockets, looking for the other half of the spell he had placed around the siren’s neck.

When he found it he wrapped it around his left wrist and muttered the words of the spell to the cloth in a low voice.

The seemingly very normal piece of black cloth, identical to the piece that was wrapped around the siren’s neck and fastened with the best knot Bill knew, started to glow with a soft red light, as red symbols started to appear on the fabric.
The woman who had sold him the pieces of cloth had told him what the symbols said, but he had zoned out rather quickly as the woman rattled on about the potentially magical properties of some kind of flower, effectively forgetting everything she had said prior to that moment that wasn’t related to how to cast the spell and what it did exactly.

Bill walked at a brisk pace to catch up to Xanthar and Teeth, and fell into step with Xanthar when he had reached the two men who were well on their way to the ship.

He checked the cloth around the siren’s neck for a moment and, as he clearly saw the blood red symbols on the black cloth, started to walk a bit faster so he could walk at the head of the small group.

As they walked in silence they could suddenly hear a sound, and Xanthar and Teeth turned towards it and stopped, startled.

But Bill kept walking and didn’t even look away from the ship in the distance, focused as he was on getting the siren on the ship and getting himself that bottle of rum he had promised himself.
“Hello to you too, Keyhole.” Bill spoke loudly, and the bush where the sound had originated from rustled and a lanky man with black hair, bound in a short ponytail, stepped out, and started walking next to the pirate captain.
As Xanthar cursed softly and Teeth let out an audible sigh of relief the odd group of men continued on their way towards the ship in utter silence.

Chapter Text

As the small group of men approached the boat, a loud laugh could be heard from the deck, followed by a yelled: “I predict you have an ace!” resounding through the bay.

Xanthar cursed loudly, shoved Bill out of the way while simultaneously dumping the siren into his arms, and ran up the gangplank to the deck.
Bill carefully adjusted the siren in his arms and gestured to Teeth, who dumped part of the bucket of water over the siren, also splashing Bill in the process, but Bill paid it no heed.

He walked up the gangplank slowly, careful not to let the weight of the siren shift too much to one side and trying his hardest to stay upright and walking dignified while doing this.
His attempts failed somewhat, he swayed sometimes and made a face more often than not, but luckily the only ones to witness this were Keyhole and Teeth, who stood on the shore, watching their captain, Keyhole snickering under his breath and Teeth just watching.
Neither of them would tell anyone of the cracks in Bill’s exterior of the arrogant, strong pirate captain, but there was a good chance they would amuse themselves with the image of the swaying captain when Bill got snappy with them.

Bill managed to look dignified for the last few steps and walked onto the deck with the air of a man who was used to this kind of thing and had no problem at all with lifting a siren.
He had not intended to carry the siren himself for more than a few minutes, that’s what he had brought Xanthar for, but the man was a bit too passionate when it came to his favorite deck of cards, which tended to be stolen a lot, especially by 8-ball who, at that moment, was playing cards with Hector, using said deck.

Xanthar was arguing with 8-ball at that moment, slamming his hand on the barrel they had used as a table repeatedly, seemingly to prove a point. Bill could only make out some sentences as he passed them by.

“But I predicted that you wouldn’t be back for another half hourglass!” 8-ball argued, as if that fact would help his case.

“Well you were wrong!” Xanthar argued.

At that point Hector, who had been silent, interjected and laid his cards open on the table. “Just like you were wrong about me having an ace.” He said calmly, giving 8-ball a few moments to look at the cards before taking the gold from the center of the barrel and walking off to the crew’s quarters at a leisurely pace, leaving 8-ball and Xanthar to argue among themselves.

“It must be raining then, my predictions are never wrong!” 8-ball argued, as Bill reached the stairs to the quarter deck and pushed the door to his cabin open with his elbow and back.

The door closing shut out the argument for the most part, and Bill relaxed a little bit and allowed himself to make a pained face because of the strain on his arms and shoulders, while he carried the siren to a corner of the quarters, where a large aquarium was set up.

The aquarium took up almost a quarter of the room and was relatively high, only leaving enough space between the top of it and the wooden planks of the roof to have a slanted, hatch like opening a grown-up human would fit through with some trouble.

The glass and wood planks monster had cost Bill an arm and a leg, but he could care less for the cost of the aquarium now that he had successfully captured a siren.
The use he had for the siren was worth a bit of money.
Then again, he had said it cost HIM an arm and a leg to build, but to be fair, it was the rich, fat man that had taken care of the construction and the cost for it, the man hadn’t wanted the siren to be put into a barrel or a bathtub or anything, for it could damage the creature’s skin and scales, and he wouldn’t stand for ‘damaged goods’.

Bill managed to half push, half roll the siren into the aquarium, and he pushed the lid, a big wood-and-glass thing with air holes, onto the slanted opening, sealing off the aquarium to anything but air.

He checked the glass once for cracks, and then walked out the door to go fetch himself that bottle of rum he had promised himself earlier.

The argument was still going on, and 8-ball looked significantly bored with it, so he took the chance the captain gave him by walking out of his cabin.

“Ah, captain! I predict you’re off to get some food! Let me go get that for you so you can observe the fish to make sure the spell works when he wakes up!” and with that 8-ball bolted towards the stairs to the crew’s quarters and the kitchen.

Xanthar glared at the man’s back intensely, and growled a bit under his breath. “You weren’t going to get food, were you?” he said. It was more of a statement than a question.

“Rum.” Bill answered.

Xanthar’s face lit up a bit at this notion. “Ha! Wrong again! I’ll tell him that when he returns. The fool puts so much faith into his predictions that I bet I can aggravate him into playing a round of cards with me and take everything he has left!” Xanthar laughed as this thought crossed his mind, and his eyes sparkled as he thought of the revenge he could get on 8-ball for taking his cards, his kind of revenge, one exacted through a, carefully cheated at, game of cards.

Bill thought of telling the man that that game would most probably use his favorite deck again (which Xanthar hated to get rum or filth on) as that was the one in front of him right now, but Xanthar seemed to be in his own personal world and Bill doubted that he would hear him even if he DID mention it, and Bill hated repeating himself.

So he walked off towards the kitchen, to find his rum.

On the way to the kitchen he passed Hector, who was counting his newly gained gold.
The man didn’t really look up from his activity, for fear of losing count Bill guessed, and he only nodded to the captain as he passed.

8-ball left the kitchen as Bill was nearing it, with a plate of baked fish in hand, and he approached Bill quickly. “Here you go, captain! Freshly made by the best cook on this fine ship!”

But Bill held up his hands. “I’ve got some business to attend to, would you mind placing it in my cabin for me?” the question was more of a strong suggestion, but it sounded nice enough.

So 8-ball nodded and walked off towards the deck.

Bill quickly opened the door to the kitchen and walked to the liquor cabinet the cook had set up right next to the door, partially to keep an eye on the stock and partially to make sure the crew didn’t get too drunk at the wrong time.

“It isn’t much of a compliment, but I’ll take it.” the cook said, standing with his back to Bill.

“It’s as much of a compliment as you’re going to get from the man, he doesn’t make any bold statements without putting ‘I predict that’ in front of it.” Bill answered as he rummaged through the cabinet, looking for a particular bottle.

The cook, Kryptos, laughed wholeheartedly. “True enough.” he said and returned to whatever he was doing.

Bill walked out of the kitchen with the bottle of rum in his hand, determined to avoid the rest of his crew until he had downed the whole bottle of rum.

By some kind of coincidence he managed to avoid everyone, even the looks of 8-ball and Xanthar who were indeed playing cards, while Xanthar cheated very intensely.

Bill almost kicked the door to his cabin open, turned the chair behind his desk a little bit to face the siren, and sat down on it.

He started drinking the rum at a rapid pace, only pausing once because of a coughing fit.
But this one was the pleasant kind of a coughing fit, and he quickly resumed his drinking, downing the bottle at a dizzying speed.

Chapter Text

Bill noticed after a while of indulging himself in the feeling of the rum burning down his throat and simmering in his stomach, that the bottle was disappointingly empty.

He looked up from the dark glass bottle to glance at the tank quickly.
No signs of the siren waking.

He considered what he should do while hanging back in his ornate wooden chair.
The sea outside the large window that spanned nearly half of the back wall of the cabin, kept in place by lightweight metal panels in a variety of shapes, was calm, and the waves that were lapping at the anchored boat created a pleasant rocking motion, combining with the quickly fading light of a sunset that had crept up on Bill without him noticing.
Bill was slowly lulled into a daze.

The rum had decided to work in weird ways.
Where it had, just a minute before, seemed warm and comforting, it turned to a sharp, alarming sting as soon as Bill’s head fell to his chest.

Cursing inelegantly, Bill jumped up from his chair wildly, toppling the thing and nearly swatting a pile of papers (maps, documented information and various scraps of naval texts and trade routes) clean off the desk.
He managed to steady himself on the edge of the desk, nearly toppling after noticing that the rum had done more than just warm his body.

Bill stood up straight as best he could, dusted off his clothes and looked over at the desk to ensure that everything was still on there, he knew that there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t just fall flat on his face if he had to pick up something off the ground in his condition.
Luckily the unsteadiness cleared up quickly, and Bill, unwisely, decided that he could take another bottle of the rich rum and not get drunk off his feet.

With the unsteady, swinging steps of someone who was a tad over tipsy Bill went out of his cabin and onto the deck, assuming his regal, haughty demeanor, keeping it up even after he noticed that no one was on deck.

He descended the stairs to the crew’s quarters and the kitchen at a slow pace, cursing the sea for suddenly growing wild, not realizing that the sea still held the slow, calm pace that had nearly lulled him to sleep.
He managed to reach the bottom of the stairs without falling or cursing too loud, and he continued towards the kitchen with all the confidence of someone who doesn’t realize he’s walking in zigzags while losing his balance at almost every pointy angle of the Z-shape.

Kryptos had heard him coming, and luckily for Bill he was the only one, and the rather large man walked up to the swaying captain, pushed a second bottle of the good rum into his hands, turned Bill around and gently pushed him forward, all the while grinning and snickering at the sight of the, clearly drunk, pirate captain.
Kryptos didn’t bother saying anything as Bill clambered back up the stairs, but kept grinning while shaking his head.

It was rare that Bill had these one-man parties, and they were normally hosted after the captain had done something that he KNEW was life threatening.
But he did it anyway.
Kryptos sometimes thought that the captain had a death wish, that he longed for an end to his life that would befit an infamous pirate captain.
But Bill would be just as happy to be alive when he returned as the crew was.

It was puzzling, but it was nothing that Kryptos cared to dwell on.
The second bottle of rum would get the captain to sleep quickly, so the bulky man decided that it was time for him to hit the hang mat, and he quickly took off into the kitchen to do a last checkup.

 

As Bill reached the deck he noticed that the door to his cabin was standing ajar.

His head cleared up quicker than he had thought possible, and, holding the bottle of rum like a club, he sneaked to the door as best he could.

“Cap’n.” came the gruff greeting from within.

Bill immediately relaxed and walked in, seeing his gruff first mate standing in the center of the room, while the young lookout of the ship had practically glued himself to the glass of the large fish tank containing the siren.

“Evening, Paci.”

Bill didn’t bother greeting the lookout, Amsha, having known the lad long enough to conclude that he wouldn’t answer or react anyway, even if he did greet him, the lad was too engrossed in observing the siren, who still showed no signs of stirring.

Bill popped the cork out of the bottle of rum with his thumb, taking a long swig of it, waiting for the warmth to spread, and then lowered the bottle again.

Paci looked at Bill knowingly.

The man didn’t use words too often, very rarely even, instead using body language to convey his messages.
Paci was a very hard man to read, his face had only one expression and it was a gruff, imposing look of constant annoyance, that, even though the man himself wasn’t prone to random acts of violence, still was incredibly imposing and physically heavy for some of the crew.
But Paci was very good at reading others.
It was the reason he had been appointed as first mate by Bill, even though the man wasn’t good at giving orders (the second mate of the ship took care of that part of the job with a nearly sadistic glee), he could see if a man was any good within three minutes.

Bill took another swig from the bottle.

Amsha let out a small cry when he noticed that the water in the tank had started moving in a way that couldn’t have been caused by the movements of the ship.
He started tapping on the glass insistently, hoping to wake the siren quickly so he could examine this weird creature a bit better.

Paci stalked up to the lad, grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the center of the cabin with him.
Amsha struggled a bit, trying to return to his tapping, but Paci only uttered: “Calm.” And Amsha calmed down and dropped down to sit on the floor and observe the siren.

The three men eyed the tank and the siren suspiciously.
They were all aware that the movement might have been no more than a twitch of the siren’s tail, but they were all, in their own way, very excited about this sign of life.

The siren roused rather slowly, the first sign of him being awake came when the men saw his tail make a lazy stroke, as if trying to swim, and the second sign followed right after when the siren’s fingers moved.
The siren automatically, not fully awake yet, shifted to have his tail under him while his upper body was upright, like how a man with legs would stand, confidently, balanced and very human.

Bill knew this was only predatory instinct.
This was the pose sirens assumed when they were trying to lure people into the water when they didn’t know about the sirens or when they were stupid enough to chase the pretty faces and fish-scaled bodies of the sirens.
A hunting method that required no song, only patience, some appealing movements and sweet, honeyed words.

Then, finally, the siren opened his eyes.
At first he slowly registered his surroundings, steadily increasing the tempo of his scanning until it reached a frantic, panicked speed in which he tapped the walls of the tank, looked for ways out upwards, gave up for a bit when the closed off opening proved to be too hard to open and then, with a snap, focused on the three men who were observing him like a rare animal in a menagerie.

The siren grinned.
It was a wicked smile that showed parts of razor sharp teeth akin to a shark’s.

And then the siren closed his eyes, and sang.

Or well, he TRIED to sing.

The confusion was clear on his face when he realized that, even though he was doing everything needed to produce the magically melodic song he was thinking of, he produced no sound.

The siren tried to talk, forming words and sentences with his mouth, but again, no sound.

The siren tried to sing again, at which the cloth around his neck started glowing and gave the siren a weak jolt.
It was nothing that would seriously hurt the siren, but the jolt did startle him.

For a second Bill thought the siren would fling himself into one of the walls of the tank, trying to get away from the discomfort and the things he didn’t understand.

Contrary to said assumption, the siren merely softly patted the fabric around his throat, testing if it was pressure or touch sensitive, and fiddling with the knot Bill had made in the fabric.
The cloth gave the siren another weak jolt at this attempt at dislodging it.
The siren seemed to have been prepared, but he did wince slightly as the jolt traveled through his body.

Bill would have liked to look at the siren for a while longer, out of macabre enjoyment and an overwhelming feeling of triumph, he had won over a predator that saw his species as their main prey,
but instead he walked a few paces forward, effectively drawing the eyes of the siren towards him.

When Bill was sure the siren was paying attention to him he bowed low, like one would bow to a king, and spoke in his most melodic voice:

“Welcome to the Invictus.”

Chapter Text

Dipper had thought it was easy to get out of the large fish tank he had woken up in, but the cloth had proven to be a bother.

It had been zapping him weakly for a while, but that wasn’t the scary part.
It had stolen his voice.

Panic had overtaken him quickly, but he just as quickly realized that the panic would not benefit him in any way, so he calmed down as much as he could, keeping up a cold and calculated demeanor while poking and prodding the cloth and the knot, scanning every inch of the cloth with his fingertips and using the reflection in the glass to look at the cloth intensely.

The plain, black cloth held a very powerful spell, spelled out in red, rune like symbols.

Dipper knew what some runes meant because of the items he had found on the seafloor, but the limited knowledge he had of the symbols didn’t allow him to translate the text fully.
It said something poetic, he knew that without actually translating, every spell and every magic user had a tendency of being overly poetic.
It was rare to find a magic user that wasn’t of one of the magical species, humans rarely got the gift and most of them acquired it from the magical species, and it was even rarer, if not impossible, to find a magic user, human or not, that didn’t have a penchant for theatrics.
Dipper knew from experience that a spell that was supposed to make someone mute, like the one around his neck, would be just as properly cast if the magic user had just inscribed ‘mute’ into the cloth.
But he knew just as well that that penchant for theatrics didn’t come out of nowhere, or out of a feeling of superiority to those who didn’t have magic.
If a magic user had little magic, and the user had to make a strong spell, to block the magic and voice of a siren for example, the more words were used the better.
Each symbol in a spell held a bit of the caster’s magic, and if a magic user was powerful the four symbols of ‘mute’ would more than suffice, but the caster of this spell wasn’t particularly strong so each symbol, though weak, became strong when there were many.

Not unlike the human race itself, Dipper thought, they were weak creatures, but the danger of the species lay in its number, not in how powerful each individual was.
Eventually, Dipper thought in jest, even a large group of monkeys may overtake a castle if given enough time.
That is what Dipper saw humans as.
Not particularly powerful, not particularly smart, just a large group of monkeys with enough time on their hands to procreate enough to be dangerous to creatures much more powerful than them.

Dipper attempted to undo the knot.
A weak jolt was the result.
He winced.
Not particularly because of the pain, he had anticipated that, but because the jolt broke him out of the pleasant haze of thoughts he had had.
And the jolt drew his thoughts and his gaze forward, to the small group of men standing in the center of a cabin, slightly distorted by the waves of the water and the glass.

A young man sat on the floor, cross legged, head tilted, and he met his gaze with an intense interest and a wide smile, one much like the one a kid would give his big brother.
Next to the young man stood a very tall and very tense looking adult. Dipper half feared that the big man would grab a weapon, smash the glass and let the siren choke on the floor.

A flash of yellow to the right of the tall man caught his eye as a man stepped forward, bowed and said something the siren couldn’t completely distinguish through the glass, the water’s movements and his own tumultuous thoughts.

The man he had saved stood there, the one who was like the sun.
The man he had expected nothing but gratitude from.
The man who had choked him until he fainted.
The man who had the other half of the spell around his wrist.

That man stood there, looking smug, with a wide grin, and looked at Dipper as if he was expecting an answer to the words he had spoken.

A wave of emotion rolled over Dipper.
Disgust, anger, hatred, interest and a weird sense of admiration battled for dominance.
He quickly kicked that last one out of his thoughts.
Yes, it was admirable that the man had caught him off guard, but he admitted to himself that he hadn’t been that on his guard to begin with, and that he shouldn’t admire his jailor, only loathe him.

But the fact that this was the man that held the other half of the spell held possibilities too.
He wouldn’t be easy to convince, but Dipper thought it would be doable to get the man to remove the spell if he played on the man’s obvious superiority complex and vanity.
An innocent look here, a compliment there, and the man would be at his (proverbial) feet and do whatever he wanted him to do.
He wanted to grin as this thought hit him, but he realized that this would have the opposite effect of what he wanted to accomplish, so he quickly molded it into an innocent but hesitant smile.

He dug through his memory to find a skill he had picked up a long time ago, back when he had talked with a learned human, not to eat him but to learn from him, much to the dismay of the other sirens.
He remembered, with a short pang of sorrow and something akin to loss, how some of the sirens had one day kept Dipper inside his home while the others went out and drowned and ate the whole crew of the ship the learned man was on.

Dipper didn’t know if the learned man had drowned too, but it was a realistic assumption that he had, as he had never sought out the siren again.

With the bad memory the knowhow of the skill he needed floated up too.

He moved closer to the glass with a flick of his tail, and he began ticking on the glass in short and longer taps, spelling out a sentence in the Morse code he had learned so long ago.

The men in front of the tank looked at him, all puzzled.
None of them knew Morse code.
Disappointing, but to be expected, Dipper thought.

The man who was like the sun turned to the tall man (and he almost fell over in the process), and yelled (in excitement or because he was very drunk, Dipper didn’t know): “Go get Hector!”

The tall man stormed out of the cabin and he could be heard stomping down some kind of stairs moments later.

The man alike the sun came closer to the tank and started talking to the siren, with a barely noticeable, but there, slur in his speech.
“You’re a lot smarter than I thought! I’d always thought that sirens were single minded predators who just used music because it worked on their prey, not because they found it pretty or anything!”

Someone who thinks out loud!
Dipper almost laughed.
That was the kind that was the easiest to manipulate, as they had no barrier between thought and speech and were very easy to understand because of it.

The glee of this revelation almost overtook his anger at the remark of the human, but he repressed the emotion masterfully and tapped a reply to the man, knowing that he wouldn’t understand it, but also very aware that the man did expect some kind of reaction.

The door of the cabin slammed open and the tall man walked back in, followed by a man of normal height for a human, with the muscles a sailor normally has.
The second man looked at the place on the wall where the handle had slammed into the wood, made a disapproving sound with his tongue and turned around to the man alike the sun.

“You needed me, captain?” he spoke while saluting quickly, an old habit Dipper figured, as none of the others seemed to think of it as a normal greeting.

“Yes, Hector. The siren has managed to find a way to communicate, but he’s using some kind of code, and we don’t know what it is or how to translate it.”

Hector nodded and came to stand next to the man alike the sun, the captain Dipper now knew.
He didn’t look surprised or appalled by Dipper, only very intrigued.
Dipper immediately took a liking to the man, he had the same look in his eyes as the learned man from all those years back.

So he quickly tapped a question to the man.
[Do you know Morse code?]

“Yes I do in fact! These chaps should know it too, but I doubt they paid much attention to it or ever thought of diving into it too much.”

“You know how to translate what he’s saying?” the captain spoke.

“Indeed I do captain, the siren is using simple Morse code so I shouldn’t have a problem with it!” the man answered cheerily.

[Much obliged.]
Dipper tapped to the man.

“You are very welcome, young man!” the man, Hector, answered with the same cheer as before.

“Now then! You were saying something before we called Hector here, repeat it.” the captain interrupted the pleasant conversation, with his slurred speech and rude choice of words.

[Is he always like this when he’s drunk?]

“Sadly he is also like this when he isn’t!” and Hector laughed at the joke.

The captain glared at Hector with a playful spite in his eyes. “Even if I don’t understand what he’s saying I can feel it when I’m insulted.”

Hector shrugged semi-apologetically. “As I do not fancy getting thrown overboard, would you care to repeat what you signaled to these gents earlier?”

[Only because you asked nicely.]
Dipper smiled.
[What I said was: You know my name, so why do I not know yours yet?]

“The siren asked for your name, captain, as you seem to know his already.”

The captain nodded. “Why not, it seems fair.”
He flipped his hair with an overly dramatic motion, and almost bowed again, but realized that he would bump his head into the glass if he did that.

“My name, siren, is Bill Cipher, captain of the Invictus, the finest pirate ship on the seven seas!”

Hector grumbled something under his breath that Dipper could only make out because he was reading the man’s lips.
“If you know his name, you could at least have the decency of using it.”

And Dipper laughed.

Chapter Text

The captain didn’t seem to have noticed the mockery, mostly because, right after he finished his introduction, he lifted up a bottle, set it to his lips, and drank like he wanted to drown himself.

Hector looked at the drunk captain with one eyebrow raised and then turned to the tall man, who had returned to the middle of the room.
“It doesn’t seem like we’ll be setting sail any time soon, so if you’d care to let the lads know that they have the rest of the night off to partake in whatever debauchery they feel up to, that’d be wonderful.”

The man produced a deep, growl-like sound and left the room once more.

Some of the cautious tension left the room with him, as the other occupants of the room seemed a lot less suspicious of the siren, all for their own reasons.

The drunk captain kept staring at Dipper for a few moments before turning around, walking to the door with a lot of difficulty and muttering something with ‘cards’ and ‘game’.

As soon as the door closed behind the captain the youth in the middle of the room got up, set one foot in front of the other and then, with extreme speed, was suddenly up against the glass of the siren’s tank, smiling and tapping on the glass in an imitation of Dipper’s Morse code.

Dipper recoiled and swam back a bit, hitting the back wall of the tank much sooner than he had expected, and then curled in on himself a little after the wall had done its damage to his head and back.

The youth at the other side of the glass looked stumped.

Dipper quickly changed back to his confident pose, but the youth had already picked up on the fact that the siren was hurt, he seemed a lot more empathetic than any pirate should be, and started crying, letting the tears stream down his face while shaking his head and twisting his face into an intense expression of regret.

It was Dipper’s turn to look stumped, and he felt himself slowly relaxing his confident pose and swimming up to the glass.
The youth behaved like a child maybe half his age, and his intense mood swings, empathy and apparent affection for the siren stirred a primal sense of protection in Dipper.

The youth’s hands were on the glass, and Dipper lined his finned hands up to where they were, and he smiled reassuringly at the youth.

The regret faded from the youth’s face, comforted by the non-verbal communication, and quickly made way for his signature smile, while the tears still trailed over his face.

Hector walked up behind the youth, tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a handkerchief.

The youth took it with a happy nod, dried his eyes with it and blew his nose, producing a sound like a small mist horn.

The sound made Dipper smile in joy.

Hector made eye contact with the siren and smiled too.
“I think he likes you, siren.” He said in a joyous tone. “I hope the other crew will like you at least half as much.”

Dipper tapped his reply quickly.
[Are there many of you?]

Hector shrugged.
“Depends on what you qualify ‘many’ as. This ship is of a decent size, so to keep it running you’d also need a decent amount of crew. We are, currently, ten men strong, including the captain….”
He stopped himself for a moment.
“Well, to be entirely correct, we are nine men and one woman strong. And maybe one siren, if the captain is intent on keeping you on as a crew member.”

[That reminds me, why did he capture me? It seems to be a well set up plan so it can’t have been spur-of-the-moment.]

“We set out from port to catch a siren for a wealthy bloke with too much gold to know what to do with, and the captain kept that task as his reason for coming here and capturing you, but I’ve known him way too long to let that pretext fool me. I don’t know his exact intentions, but he won’t hurt you unnecessarily, so for now, while he’s swaying around in his drunken stupor, you can relax, wait, and see.”

[Not entirely comforting.]

“Bill Cipher is a man who is full of himself, is way too easy to fool, and thinks we all follow him because he’s the best leader mankind has ever seen, but he is no way cruel or unjust.”

The door slammed open with a loud bang, disturbing the relative peace and happiness in the cabin, and the captain walked in, sat down on the ground in front of the tank and dumped a pack of cards in front of him with a look on his face like he had just found water in a desert.

Hector smiled at Dipper, winked and turned around to sit down.

The youth had already set himself back on the ground, cross-legged and head tilted, like had never moved a muscle from the position he had had a short while before.

The captain had started, or tried to start, dealing the cards.

As the card went everywhere expect for on the neat piles the man was probably envisioning, Hector took the cards from him, quickly shuffled them and made even piles for the three men.

They all took up their cards and the game began.

 

As Dipper had nothing to do but watch the card game he started picking out little behavioral tics the men had when they had good cards.

The captain seemed like an open book in his drunken state and scowled, smiled and drank from the bottle he had set at his side, so he wasn’t much of a challenge for the other two men, not even for the youth, who spent most of the game building houses with his cards and turning the cards so their backs were turned towards him.

Dipper imagined that, if the youth could sit still long enough, he would be a fearsome opponent, as he was impossible to read in any way.

Hector was quiet and concentrated, forming a stark contrast to the two others who flailed, moved cursed liberally.
He was hard to read, but occasionally the corner of his mouth twitched upwards when he had good cards, like he was amused by the imminent demise of his opponents.

 

The card game didn’t last long, as first the captain and next the youth fell asleep where they sat.

Hector smiled and proceeded to move the cards to a place where they wouldn’t be drooled on, and sat back down, cross-legged, in front of the tank and looked up at the siren.

“Normally, on this ship, when the drunk and young are asleep, we tell stories of older days, and since I seem to be the only one capable of doing so without cramping any hands I will gladly sacrifice my evening for a story. Is there anything in particular you might be interested in?”

Chapter Text

Dipper thought about this question for a while, and finally decided to ask for something that would make him understand the pirates and their lifestyles better.

[Do pirates have fairy tales?] he tapped, careful not to hit the glass too hard to make sure the sleeping ones stayed asleep.

“Not specific ones that are shared by all pirates, no, as pirates come from all backgrounds and standings in life, but I do remember one specific tale I’ve heard often. Mostly because I can actually hold my liquor.” Hector grinned while glancing at the youth and the captain.

[That will do just fine, thank you.]

“Any time, lad.” Hector grinned, took a moment to adjust so he wouldn’t have to move too much and break the immersion, and started the tale:

“A while ago, somewhere else on the salty seas, a young man, just promoted to officer in the navy, looked out over the vast blue sea and spoke of his happiness to the waves.

He told the waves that he had everything he’d ever wanted; he was respected by all on the ship, he was paid handsomely and he had friends and family, both among the crew and on shore.

The waves listened patiently to the young man’s monologue, and answered him by rushing by and breaking on the sides of the boat.

As the young man smiled and turned around to go back to his work, a soft song suddenly echoed over the waves, stirring the sky into a light breeze that caressed the young man’s face.
He turned around quickly, but there was no one to be seen, even though he could still hear the sweet female voice on the wind.

 

He lamented this at dinner that evening, to his fellow officers, and even though they all laughed about the young man’s delusion, another had heard the story.
The captain of the ship, the ‘Iam Visum’, took the young man by the arm that evening and spoke to him about the voice. He told the young man about the sea nymphs, creatures that floated above the water and sang to passing ships.

Most nymphs weren’t trying to do harm to the sailors, but sometimes a ship ran into ruin because of those sweet voices, so he warned the young man to stay away from the voice, no matter how pretty it was.

But the captain of this ship wasn’t known for being a realist, and all on board underestimated the foolishness of youth.

 

The young man stayed on deck the next night, hoping to hear the voice again, or to speak to the nymph.

But she didn’t come.

Undeterred by this, the young man stayed on deck the night after, waiting, hoping to catch a whisper.

But she didn’t come.

On the third night the young man felt desperate, for where youth flared brightly it also burned out quickly, and was about to go back inside the ship and give up on the nymph when he heard her song again.

He rushed to the side of the ship and called out to her, hoping for her to come to him and speak to him, for, even though he had everything, he felt like he had nothing if she was not there.
The irrationality of this only hit him for a second, before the song came closer and he felt a presence in front of him.

He reached out, wanting a physical affirmation that the nymph was actually there, but he nearly fell over the railing when he hit nothing but air.

A soft, clear laugh resounded, and the young man felt himself falling further into the unknown feeling of infatuation.

‘Even if I cannot see you,’ the young man spoke, ‘I love you. Stay here forever, with me!’

The laughter stopped abruptly, and a melodic voice answered: ‘How could that be, young sailor? We are not alike, you a human, me a nymph, we could never be!’

But the young man stayed persistent, and spoke again: ‘I love you. Is there really no way you can stay with me?’

A silence followed, but eventually an answer came. ‘Sail this ship to the edges of the earth, there you will find a cave, inside the cave live three old women, ask them to set me free and so it will be.’

The young man nodded enthusiastically, and turned around quickly to notify his captain of this quest, but the nymph called after him in her sweet voice.

‘Tell them to set free the nymph named Mirage.’

And with that she was gone.

 

It took the young man a long time to convince the captain of his quest, and he lied and spoke of treasure immeasurable, and recognition for each and every member of the crew, only to be able to go there and set his Mirage free.

So they went to the cave at the edge of the earth, all of them curious and happy for this chance at treasure, but as they came closer and closer to the edge of the earth, more and more of the crew grew silent, realizing the danger of the quest.

One morning, as the cave finally came into view, the words that the captain had spoken to the young man rang true, and the voice of the nymph he called his love brought them to ruin, tainting the deck red and sinking the ship to the seafloor, where it would stay forever more.

Only the young man survived, filled with rage at this betrayal, and he made it to the cave.

Once inside the young man ran into an old woman with no eyes.

‘Who goes there?’ she asked.

‘A broken man.’ he answered.

The old woman nodded at this answer, smiled broadly and gestured to the wall of the cave, where a door appeared in solid rock.

The young man walked through the door and reached a big room, with windows of stained glass, so alike a church that he nearly felt the need to kneel, if it were not for the old woman with no eyes standing in front of the tall windows.

‘Who broke him?’ she asked.

‘An illusion.’ he answered.

The old woman nodded at this answer, and with a loud pang the windows shattered, creating a beautiful play of colored light on the walls of the room.

The old woman gestured to the windows, and the young man stepped through.

The young man reached a glade, with a small cottage inside, and in front of the cottage stood another woman with no eyes.

‘And what does this man seek?’ she asked.

‘Revenge.’ He answered.

The cottage stood aflame at his answer, and suddenly all three women stood in front of the cottage.

‘What will you offer us in exchange?’ they asked.

‘Anything.’

The young man realized the foolishness of this answer quickly, as one of the women walked forward, placed a hand over his left eye, and returned to her place next to the others, leaving the young man with only blood and searing pain where his left eye had been.

But his right eye, he realized, saw more than he had ever seen. He saw the old women, but also three swans, and water.

The women grinned widely, revealing that they had only one tooth altogether, and they carefully passed along the young man’s eye.

The young man saw more than he had ever hoped to see, and more than he had probably wished for, and rushed out of the cave to find his Mirage, and kill her.

Outside she waited, sitting on a rock.

She was as gorgeous as he had imagined her, with long, flowing red hair and a bright smile, and as she saw him coming out of the cave she looked surprised.

He walked towards her, drew his sword and pointed it at her.

‘How can you see me?’ she gasped.

‘For the sake of revenge I have gained the ability to see the truth.’ he snapped at her, and swiped at her with his sword, but to no avail.

She doubled back, and quickly overtook the young man.

He had to flee for his life, for the one he had called ‘love’ in his foolishness was his reaper.

 

The young man became a man while sailing the seas, fighting those related to his Mirage wherever he could, and living on the fuel of anger and hatred.

He gained a crew of loyal sailors that loved him like brothers and uncles, but none of this warmth doused the hatred, it made it flare up higher, as he remembered those he had called family before.

 

However, one night, as they were ashore, the man heard talk of a nymph with a voice so sweet one would run his ship to ruin just to be with her.

His hatred flared, and he set out to find this nymph, hoping it was his Mirage, and kill her.

But fate would have it another way, and, one evening as the man was standing on deck he heard a sweet song, one not tainted by the dark memories of loss.

Cautious, he looked around, and soon spotted a nymph, floating above the waves.

She was even more beautiful than his Mirage, with long, blue hair that fell around her like the waves beneath her and sharp, intelligent eyes.

He called out to her, and she, surprised and curious, got closer to the man.

‘What shall I call you, pretty lady, for your looks and voice enchant me so.’

The nymph laughed, and answered the charming man. ‘Lorelei.’

The man was truly enchanted by the nymph, and felt a flame of love flaring up inside him despite his earlier hesitation.

He quickly grabbed a nearby rope and wound it around the nymph, capturing her.

He bound her to the mast, where he could visit her every day, and she would pose no threat to him.

The nymph however, was not like his Mirage, as she spoke with him with words that rang true, and he came to like her company.

Slowly but surely, the man noticed that the love he had felt for her the first time they met returned again and again, and he struggled with this knowledge.

As he stood on deck, looking out over the waves, it started to rain, first lightly, then alike a storm, and it reminded the man of a time of loss and melancholy.

The nymph, sensing his sadness, sang for him, and the man felt his love for her deepen with every note.

In the rain he spoke to her about his Mirage, his loss and the hatred he couldn’t let go, and she accepted it all graciously, comforting him as best she could, and reinforcing his love for her.

 

Time passed, and the nymph was given more and more freedom.

All who met her liked her immediately, so she was the shining star of the ship, always bright, always honest and always willing to help.

Until one day, when Mirage found the man again.

 

The weather was clear and the sun shone, the crew was doing their jobs in a sluggish pace, until someone heard the song.

The man, who had hoped to abandon his hatred in favor of a blooming love, heard it too, and rushed to the deck.

But blood had already begun to stain the wooden planks, as Mirage wasted no time in trying to kill off the crew.

They defended themselves as best they could, but soon they all lay wounded.

Lorelei tried her best to distract Mirage with her singing, but she could not fight her, so as Mirage came at her, fangs sharp and claws outstretched, the man stood in front of his true love and fought his Mirage.

But just like all those years ago he had no hopes of winning, and soon enough Mirage left the ship, leaving the crew near death, painting the planks crimson.

Lorelei cried as she reached the man, for he was nearly dead, battered and bruised, and lamented her own lack of power.

As she saw the destruction around her, she decided to sing for them, even if it was their last song, for that was all she knew how to do.

And, as she looked down upon the man she had grown so fond of, looking at his face through her tears and shaking voice, he smiled at her.

Her sorrow creeped up into her, and her voice gained new strength, and her song resounded over the sea, strong and hopeful, tinged with sorrow.

And, oh joy, the man in her arms stirred, as his wounds were no more.

She embraced him with her arms and heart, and the song was filled with joy.

So she healed all those on deck, and the crew knew they owed her her lives.

No one protested the union of the nymph and the man, and they lived happily ever after on the seven seas.”

“Lad? Lad, are you still awake? I’m going to be rather miffed if I find out I told that whole tale and no one was awake to listen!” Hector asked Dipper, but a laugh was clearly present in his voice, effectively voiding the threat he had made.

[Still awake.]

Dipper rolled his shoulders and noticed that he was sleepy, even though he had slept almost the whole afternoon away in the sunshine of the open beach.

“Barely!” and Hector laughed, a warm, deep laugh that came from deep in his throat. “I do guess it’s been a rather eventful day.”

Hector got up, shook his legs and walked towards the door, but he paused for a moment and turned around.
“Before I forget, what IS your name? Captain never bothered to use it.”

[Dipper Pines.]

“Huh, unusual and somehow fitting. I like it.”

Hector turned around again, opened the door and closed it, with a ‘Goodnight Dipper Pines’ as a goodbye to Dipper.

Dipper stretched himself as well as he could within the cramped space of the tank.
He soon noticed that the space he did have was just enough to curl up and sleep though, and he was thankful to whoever build the thing for at least making it a somewhat decent size.

Sleep overtook him quickly, for the day had felt longer than any other day had ever felt.

Chapter Text

Morning came like a gunshot to Bill as he was awoken by someone entering his cabin, stomping on the ground like they wanted to cause an earthquake, and yelling his name with the force of a cannon.

“Cypher, you useless rat of a captain! Why are we still docked at an island no one knows, in the middle of the sea, without any way to restock our stores or a decent place to sleep and drink?”

Bill answered the person with a growl. “Because we haven’t been able to leave yet.”

“And why’s that? Because you were drinking like you wanted to sink to the bottom of the ocean? Because you wanted to get acquainted with that creature you dragged on board for some accursed reason?”

“That..” Bill paused for a moment to hold his head in his hands. Through his fingers he could vaguely make out the shape of the person holding the tirade. “Is actually…pretty accurate.”

His answer was met with a loud snort. “Typical. Of course you didn’t think about anyone but yourself.”

The person grabbed Bill by his collar and lifted him to his feet.
A spike of pain shot through Bill’s head and he nearly fell over, but his opponent pushed on his chest, none too kindly, and he shot back up straight.

Only to tilt over the other way.

A loud sigh resounded through the cabin, and the other supported him by placing a hand on his back.

“Care to explain why you even brought this creature on board?”

“I have…my reasons.” Bill answered simply, his head bobbing from side to side while a weakness crept into his knees and nails were hammered into his head. He was in no condition to answer any more elaborately, as the hammering and the lightheadedness blocked all of his thoughts.

“Well, I hope those reasons are good enough of an excuse later.”

The hand at his back went back to his collar, and before he knew it he was dragged along, out of the cabin and onto the deck.

Pyronica, as he now identified her through his hangover, was dragging him along with the greatest of ease.
Not like he was surprised, he had seen her drag Paci along by his ear one time, and Bill didn’t have enough delusions to imagine himself being taller or more muscled than Paci.

“Do you really think zoning out here is the best idea?” she asked him, sneeringly.

“As good a place.. as any.” Bill growled through a headache spike.

“Happy to hear that your ego isn’t hungover.”

With a grunt she lifted him up by the collar, dragged him onto the railing, and pushed him overboard.

 

Bill met the water with a splash and a hard hit to his chest.

“At least we now have the perfect person to fish you up if you drown because of your drinking.” Pyronica yelled at him from up on the ship.
She was half hanging over the railing, waving happily when Bill looked up at her.

Pyronica was a fierce woman, both in body and in temper, and this wasn’t the first time she had done something like this.
She had the right and the power to do something like this, being the second mate of the ship in name, and the captain in behavior, moving and behaving like a hurricane, only stopping to sleep or yell at the men of the ship like the harshest gunnery sergeant.

She was the one who normally ordered the men around when needed, as Paci disliked talking, and especially yelling, but Pyronica was well-liked and, when she wasn’t in earshot, the men joked about her behavior and appearance, elbowing each other in the side while making lewd, but respectful jokes about Pyronica’s orientation.

As Bill floated in the water, staring up at the sky while only rarely moving his limbs to stay afloat, Keyhole appeared from the shadows next to Bill's cabin, and leaned on the railing, looking down at Bill with one eyebrow raised.

“Captain overboard.” He spoke loudly, sounding more exasperated than alarmed, and he turned around and walked away.

Bill heard someone walking up the stairs from the lower decks, and he looked on, almost bored, as Xanthar’s head came into view.

“Again, captain?” he said, grinning, and turned around just in time to catch the rope someone outside of Bill’s view, probably Keyhole, threw at him. “Well it IS my turn so I might as well get this over with quick.”

He went out of view for a few moments to bind the rope to the mast, and the next thing Bill saw was the rope being thrown over the side of the ship and landing just a few feet away from him.

Pyronica, who hadn’t left the place where she had shoved Bill overboard, called out to Xanthar as he was about to pull on the rope to tighten it.

“Are you really going to help that drink-drowned captain of ours out?”

Xanthar shrugged. “Unless you want to do it” he glanced at Pyronica’s face and quickly added “ma’am.”

“I don’t think so.” she said, shaking her head dismissively. “You know what I DO think though? I think that you might have come up here so quickly that you left that mouse’s cage open.”

“PARTYHAT? WHAT? WHERE IS HE? DID I CLOSE HIS CAGE?” Xanthar yelled, suddenly panicking. “PARTYHAT, DADDY DIDN’T MEAN IIIIITTTTT!” and he stormed off to the stairs to the lower decks, leaving Pyronica to look down at Bill with a happy, albeit cruel grin on her face.

“Low blow.” Bill muttered.

Her grin widened, even though Bill was fairly sure that she couldn’t have heard what he was saying.

Bill grumbled some more, kicked his legs under him and swam to the rope.

Without someone to hold the other end steady the climb across the water soaked side of the ship was hard, and he slipped more than once, grumbling while Pyronica grinned from above.

The second half, which was above the water most of the time, was a lot easier to climb, and Bill scaled the last bit quickly, clambering aboard the deck, dripping water everywhere, but still his own, haughty self.

He straightened his wet clothes, adjusted his ponytail, most of his hair had escaped from the small strip of leather tied around it during his restless night of sleep in his chair and his fall into the ocean, and shot a scornful look at Pyronica.

As he walked back to his cabin, he heard Pyronica shuffle a bit, and he almost missed the motion that had caused the sound.

Pyronica stepping off of the rope tied to the mast.

Bill grinned and went inside to change and to prepare to leave the shore for the open sea.

Chapter Text

Bill glanced around the cabin, quickly spotting that the siren was still asleep, or pretended to be, who knew, and walked to the closet attached to the wall next to his (rarely used) bed.

He sifted through the clothes, mostly coats, shirts, a few spare boots and pants, and took one of the coats out of the lineup.

The coat, very familiar to him, was worn down at the elbows and patched up with needle and thread, courtesy of Xanthar, multiple times.

He ran his hand over the faded bronze buttons, quickly, fleetingly, but somehow lovingly, and put the coat on.

Luckily it fit him better now, when he had acquired it it was at least two sizes too big and it would slip off of his shoulders whenever he moved.

Bill shook his head wildly, closed the closet with a loud thud and moved to stand in front of the siren’s tank.

He had no idea why people found sirens alluring.

The creature was objectively pretty, bar his face, that was split nearly in half by a wide grin, shiny with razor sharp teeth.

He remembered that the creature had golden brown eyes, split in the middle by reptilian pupils.

He knew that it wasn’t the face the others saw, and he almost wanted to try dissipating the magic in his right eye to see it, see why it was so enchanting, but he quickly decided not to.

Wasn’t this the creature’s true face after all?

Hector had asked him to call the creature by its name, but he only dared voice its name when he was completing the spell that kept it mute.

Bill was in no state to risk becoming familiar with the creature, he had only learned its name because, for some reason, most spells need someone’s name to work.

He mulled over the name the creature had replied with, and almost laughed loudly, for the name had so little similarity to the creature’s appearance and apparent personality that it nearly became hilarious.

For a moment he thought of why the creature would have such a name, but he caught himself before his thoughts went too far away, and stepped away from the tank.

Still somewhat pensive, he looked at the creature and thought about what had actually made him take it on board.

For now it seemed too vigilant to be persuaded to work for their cause, but Bill was determined, his plan was so perfect that he’d soon be out of rivals, but the siren was an essential part of the plan, and he needed it to work with him willingly if the plan were to be executed correctly.

He stared at it intensely for a few moments, thinking about what would be able to persuade the creature to help out with the plan, until it suddenly opened one eye and smiled at Bill impishly.

Or well, Bill guessed it was supposed to look impish on its human face, on the bestial face Bill saw it just looked like his face was split even further in half, and Bill recoiled somewhat, before regaining his composure and smiling back, a smile that had very little sincerity in it, if any.

The creature blinked a few times, seemingly trying to wake up fully, and then waved at Bill, head tilted, eyes somehow shifting to a kinder expression.
Bill didn’t answer the friendly gesture, he just stood still, staring at the creature.

The creature stared back, and Bill noticed that the creature’s earfins slowly started to drop, and the creature stared at Bill with an increasing melancholy in its eyes.

When its earfins had dropped all the way and its eyes looked glazed over like it was about to cry, a shadow quickly moved over its face.

For a quick second, Bill saw the gorgeous face the others saw when they looked at the siren, half-pouting, earfins drooping, looking lonely and disappointed. Bill was shocked by this short image, and he quickly backed away and nearly ran out of the door of his cabin, hoping and praying that this wasn’t him getting empathetic towards a creature that would’ve eaten him if they had met under different circumstances.

He leaned against the wall next to the cabin door for a few seconds before, needlessly, brushing off his clothes and checking if the leather that bound his hair together was still in place and doing its job.

Bill took a deep breath, pushed himself off of the wall, and marched towards the stairs with long strides.

He kept the same authoritative mannerism while he marched down the stairs and yelled into the room below: "We’re leaving this shore right now, get ready!”

Only a few of the crewmembers were in earshot however, at least visibly so, who knew where Keyhole was, and he yelled at them to go get the others.

While he walked back up the stairs in a relatively slow pace crewmembers jogged past him to get to their stations, quickly and efficiently readying the ship to sail to the open sea again.

The crew was fluttering back and forth, working like a well-oiled machine, as Bill walked over to the elevated deck and the steering wheel.

8-ball was already in his place behind the wheel, and Paci stood near the railing, overlooking the franticly paced work the rest of the crew was doing, while Pyronica was walking around inside the bees nest, yelling orders or helping out wherever and whenever it was needed.

Soon the gangplank was gone, the sails were all raised and the ropes secured, and the chaos slowed down and set itself back into a normal pace of checking ropes, climbing the nets on the side of the ship or lounging around on a barrel, attentive but inactive, when nothing else needed to be done.

Bill looked towards Paci and nodded, and the big man quickly yelled, his voice reaching to the deepest reaches of the ship and probably beyond: “To the open sea!”

And as the crew cheered the ship slowly started moving, guided by 8-ball, towards the marine blue of the wide, open sea.

Chapter Text

Dipper had been quite amused by the sound of the haughty pirate captain being dumped into the sea, so the smile he showed the man when he had stood before the tank was a genuine one.

The man seemed to have less of a response to Dipper than other humans normally had, even his disappointed look, half genuine and half faked to see how it would affect the sun captain, had elicited not the sympathy most showed, but a quick and hasty retreat.

There was promise in that reaction though, Dipper mused, as, even though the reactions weren’t run-of-the-mill, the man seemed to react strongly to Dipper.

Mere moments after the hasty, maybe even scared, retreat, noises started to fill the air from outside. The shoving of barrels, moving of ropes, straightening of sails, yelling of orders and the grunting of men performing various tasks drifted into the room on the newly picked up wind.

The ship started to move subtly, stuttering like a shy young man, and jolted itself loose from the sand it had partially anchored itself in.
After some more yelling from the deck, the ship transitioned smoothly into a bobbing but straightforward pace, presumably headed towards the open sea.

A short moment of panic hit Dipper.

He knew from the start that convincing the captain of his harmlessness quickly was impossible, so he had carried little hope to be released immediately, especially as the captain seemed to have plans for him, but he had hoped that at least the drunken stupor of the man would have stalled the departure.

Sadly, like any professional pirate, the captain seemed to have a high tolerance for hangovers, or at least some people who knew how to deal with his hangovers FOR him.

As the ship sailed for open waters it occurred to Dipper that, even though he would miss the sunny bay, there would be very little for him to miss amongst his kin.

He’d been cast out very long ago, and even though his small family had followed him in this banishment, Dipper had actively tried to distance himself from them, trying to indirectly persuade them to rejoin the others.

He had never found himself worthy of the care and attention they gave him, and in recent years his distancing had seemed to pay off.

He was left alone more often to his expeditions, and his uncles had started hanging around the other sirens more so than their small cave house, which gave him hope, but the one person who refused to leave him completely alone was his twin sister Mabel.
Even though they were twins she was very different from him, being bubbly, kind to all and naïve in more than one way.
She only left him alone if he truly told her to leave him alone, and even then he had caught her following him several times.

He assumed it was out of worry, but a subconscious interest could have been part of it too, for an unhealthy dose of curiosity seemed to run in the family as thick as their blood.

After the attack on the learned man’s ship he had managed to somewhat emotionally distance himself from Mabel too, so he hoped that she would not look for him too long and would move on with her life.

In fact, there was a certain upside to this whole abduction, as his family would be able to reconnect with the others more intensely. Maybe, if he stayed away long enough, they wouldn’t miss him or think of him anymore.

He solemnly rubbed his forehead under his long bangs, unconsciously tracing the mark that was there, the source of his banishment and the start of his problems.
What it was about the mark that scared the others puzzled Dipper deeply, but even his considerable curiosity had never brought him further towards the answer to the riddle.

All this, so he thought, meant that this abduction wasn’t even such a bad thing.

His curiosity quickly took over his train of thought, as he speculated about what he could learn while away from the bay.

Provided he would stay alive long enough to see any of it.

The somber thought halted his train of thought quickly, and he removed his hand from his forehead.

The cloth around his neck buzzed lightly, like it seemed to do constantly, and Dipper gave the cloth a light tug.
The small jolt that coursed through him seemed a lot less intense than the last time he got shocked by the cloth.

Maybe, just maybe, there was a limit to this spell.

Many spells ran out of charge, or had a time or space limit, and Dipper hoped that this was the case.
Perhaps he could convince the captain and his crew of his good nature, he hoped for this scenario most of all, but if that were to fail he could always test the boundaries of the spell, see how he could break it.

He was actively tugging on it, ignoring the shocks, when the door of the cabin opened once more.

“Leave that be!” the affronted voice of the captain half shouted.

Dipper looked up, careful not to let his annoyance of the interruption shine through, and tilted his head while a soft smile spread over his face.

The captain seemed to physically shiver at the sight.

What? Why?

Dipper sighed internally, he didn’t understand the human in front of him on so many levels.

He thought once more about the fairy tale Hector had told him the night before, and recalled the ability of the lead character to see the ‘truth’ with his right eye.
Dipper quite doubted the extend of this ability, and how much of it applied to the sun captain, but he had heard enough similarities between the story and the captain to more than assume that parts of it were true, if hidden behind heavy metaphors.

Would that mean that the captain would be able to see someone’s ‘true nature’? The story had told of the lead seeing the true colors of Mirage, but Dipper was puzzled on whether to take this theory in a literal or figurative way.

A true nature could mean a lot of things.

The captain stomped towards the aquarium and slammed his fist onto it so hard that the glass shook. “Leave. That. Alone.”

Unable to stand the annoyance built up inside him anymore, Dipper straight up snarled at the captain, actively showing his feral form to bare rows upon rows of teeth at the man.

Only when he returned to a normal state did Dipper realize that tugging on the cloth had been something he’d been doing while thinking, so the captain must have thought he was actively ignoring his orders.

Oh gods, does that mean another step backwards on the like scale? Dipper pondered quickly, while he molded his face back into a smile.

If the man didn’t like him anyway, why wouldn’t he keep tugging the cloth?

The annoyance the captain had shown must’ve come from somewhere, so maybe the cloth wasn’t as resistant as it seemed.
To test this theory Dipper tugged on the cloth once on the front. Hard. While looking the captain in the eye.
A soft crackling like building lightning could be heard, and with a pang that zapped Dipper into almost an unconscious state, a rune from the long incantation burst.

Weak mage. Long spell. Complicated magic.

Bingo.

Dipper’s thoughts rapidly connected while he slowly recovered from the shock.

Being a creature of the water didn’t help much with the electric shocks, so for the time being he took his hands off of the cloth.

His vision was still somewhat blurry from the quick moving water and the shock, so he couldn’t really see the captain raise his fist once again.

The aquarium shook again, and Dipper nearly smiled at how easily influenced the sun captain was, but opted instead for a scared look and backing up into the back wall of the tank in feigned fright.
The loud sounds had frightened him to be fair, but any fright or pain was trumped by the warm rush of discovery.

The discovery of a way to weaken and potentially even break the spell, and a way to quickly annoy the captain into action and reaction.

The water had settled enough for Dipper to look at the captain’s face, which was distorted into a snarl.

“And I still wanted to be able to sell that intact too.” The captain seemed to say more to himself than to Dipper, having accepted that the siren had a sharp mind of his own the captain could hardly read.
“No matter. It will hold long enough.”

And the captain took one more moment to look at Dipper like he was a giant, slimy octopus who had found his way into his bottle of rum.

Even through the feeling of triumph Dipper realized that he had dropped on the captain’s like scale to ‘below human’.

Not that he couldn’t use that, but he didn’t like the feeling of being looked at like he had no intelligence of his own.

Gawking was one of those things Dipper couldn’t stand at all.

The captain walked to the door of the cabin, yelled for Hector and sat in his chair to wait, arms crossed and nearly pouting like a small child.

When the door creaked Dipper saw the captain actively changing his outward attitude, adjusting his arms to give off more of a masculine certainty and his facial expression more of a gruff manliness.
Dipper silently laughed about the tonal shift the captain seemed to undergo when his crewmembers came near.

Hector entered the cabin, nodded at Dipper and did a half salute to Bill.

“What did you require me for, captain?” he simply spoke, choosing to ignore the atmosphere of controlled anger and silent amusement that hung in the cabin.

“That….thing it uses to communicate, do you have any books on it?” Bill asked gruffly.

“Most certainly, captain. Though I am quite astonished by the fact that you have remembered nothing of it. We should have received the same education?” the last sentence managed to come forth as both a question and a fact.

“Many things fall to the bottom of the sea over time.” The captain just answered with a nearly evil glint in his eye.

Hector only grinned in reply, knowing that the captain would never act on it. “I’ll go fetch it then, just a moment.”

The captain nodded and Hector walked away in a relaxed pace.

Bill returned to staring at Dipper.

Dipper stared back.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking and I don’t like it.” The captain simply stated, after which he turned his attention to one of the naval maps on his desks. While he scanned the charts he, presumably unconsciously, started to mumble about how stupid magic was and how expensive, and why he wouldn’t start a small hoax with the whole business, plenty of people to fool with too much coin.

Mere moments later, so it seemed, Hector came back with an ochre yellow book under his arm.

He handed it to the captain with a flourish, bowing in a way Dipper imagined only Hector could pull off on this entire ship. It had an elegance and natural grandeur Bill clearly missed. It made Dipper wonder for a spell why Hector wasn’t the captain of the ship.
But, knowing that he would probably never figure out the exact workings of the human mind, he dropped the query quickly, as he realized that if he found out, he’d find out, and if he did not it changed nothing in the current situation.

The captain slowly flipped through the book. Too fast to learn anything yet too slow to seem disinterested.

Dipper raised his finger to the glass to start tapping to Hector.
[Hello again Hector, thanks again for the story yesterday, it was very enjoyable.]

Hector turned a little bit so he faced both Bill and Dipper, and merely bowed a little bit, not wanting to break the concentration the captain had found.

[Would it help him, perchance, if he learned through practice? He doesn’t seem like the book sort.]

“That may work indeed!” Hector replied, instantly breaking the captain’s concentration. “Captain, Dipper proclaims it may benefit your studying if you had some practice along with the theory.”

Bill looked up, mildly interested. “Hm.”

Hector motioned to Dipper.

Dipper quickly picked up on the hint and tapped ‘A’ a few times.

The captain moved his head to look at Dipper, almost seeming annoyed at the tapping.

As he started to understand the purpose of the tapping his face brightened slightly and he nodded.

“This might very well help a lot.” He simply stated, and waved for Hector to leave the room so he could study.

Right before Hector would’ve left the room the captain called to him one more time. “Oh and one last thing, don’t call it by its name, we don’t want to humanize the creature.”

A quick shadow of disgust moved across Hector’s face, but he quickly nodded and closed the door behind him with a bit more force than he normally would have.

Chapter Text

His plans had to move faster.

Bill hadn’t taken into account that not singing might mean not talking, he knew planning ahead wasn’t one of his biggest talents, he liked to live by the opportunities life gave him, but he did admit to himself that having a different form of communication hadn’t completely occurred to him.

As he figured, he and the siren could’ve just communicated through simple head shakes, gestures or maybe scratched pictures.

Sadly this simple plan had run itself ashore as soon as he noticed that the siren he’d captured possessed an extraordinary intelligence, and that same intelligence made him into the inferior party of the group in the captain’s cabin.

Well no more!
Bill thought as he slammed his fist on the table next to the morse code book.

He would outsmart the siren and make it work with him in his beautiful plans!

Plans that were drafted as soon as he heard of a way to catch a siren, which was fairly recent, he thought, and stood frozen for a moment as he considered the possibility that his genius plan might not be so genius after all.

He quickly shook his head.

If he didn’t have any confidence in his own plans no one else would feel confident about them, and the biggest and hardest part of being a captain was to always look sure of yourself.

That much he had learned long ago, when the confidence of another captain had twisted itself into arrogance and jealousy, snuffing the flame of another captain much closer to Bill’s heart.

He had learned much over the years.

He hoped.

As he walked to the tank with the morse code book in hand he consciously changed his posture and stride to match those of a man long dead.
It made him feel better. Stronger and more confident, ready to take on tasks that seemed way too daunting at first.

The siren would work with him.

He had time and opportunity at his side, and the siren’s intelligence would not be able to stand the loneliness of prolonged solitude.

For a few seconds he stood in front of the tank, frozen in a stance of easy superiority.

The siren didn’t seem fazed.

In fact, it may have been the exact opposite of fazed, as it reached its hand up to cover its mouth before Bill could spot the obvious smirk forming on its face.

Bill raised an eyebrow at the siren, which only caused it to burst out laughing, a sound conveyed only through motion, as no sound passed its lips.

Lips?

Again the monstrous face Bill’s eye showed him shifted into the face of a beautiful young man, painted with a look of joy like a warm fire, infectious and heartwarming.

He almost smiled himself, but quickly froze the motion as he realized what he was doing.

It was an it, not a he, not a human, not something with emotions or feelings, not something one could understand and truly trust.
It’s an it, it will kill you whenever it gets the chance. If he gave it even half an ounce of sympathy it would tear out his throat.

He bit his lip until the taste of copper laced his mouth, and as the thoughts overwrote the human characteristics of the siren once again, the face of the monster replaced the human one again.

The lapses of thought became too frequent, Bill thought to himself, he couldn’t afford a bond with the siren, no matter how often it seemed near human.

It would only end badly.

He knew from experience.

Learn from past mistakes.

Move forward.

He shook his head, lifted up the book and pointed at it.

The siren seemed to understand his intentions immediately and nodded.

As Bill dragged his chair to the front of the tank the siren started tapping a certain pattern repeatedly.
Bill quickly picked out the pattern as being ‘A’, the letter the siren had started tapping a short while before.

He nodded, half annoyed, and waved his hand to signify an adequate understanding of the letter.
The siren contorted its face in what Bill assumed to be a smile, and moved on.

Bill had never been much of a studying person, preferring intuition over actual knowledge, but he was very capable of picking up skills he deemed useful quickly.

The morse code lesson with the siren was already halfway through the alphabet when a spark flashed through the tank.

Bill got up immediately, throwing the book aside and slamming his hand on the glass while peering at the siren’s neck.

The spell had gotten a little bit shorter.

Bill had memorized the symbols on the cloth because of the many times he had stared at it on the journey to the siren’s bay.

The symbols had been a grey, almost black shade then, blending into the cloth in all light but the moonlight, but the color shift had made the symbols clearly visible, and Bill quickly concluded that two symbols in the long, winding spell were missing.

He turned fully towards the siren angrily.

He gritted his teeth and hissed through them, like an angry cat, not fully knowing what else to do.

The spark of anger remained in his eye for a while, as the slightly dazed siren shook its head and stared back, holding up its hands in faked innocence.

“Don’t you dare do that again. I may have condoned that once but I won’t be as nice again.”

Bill’s mind whirled, trying to find an appropriate punishment for the siren that wouldn’t hurt it too much but would let it know once and for all who the boss was on this ship.

As the spark dimmed slightly towards a simmering, pensive state, Bill moved slightly to sit back down and pick up the book again.

As he did so, the siren moved up to the glass behind him, and lifted its finger with a mocking smirk on its face, apparent even for Bill who could see naught but the permanent toothy grin of the siren’s feral form.

[-h I a- -l-gi-e, did -he ca- -ai- - - ill -eed –hi-?]

Bill nearly growled at the double mockery of the siren’s words.

It knew that he didn’t know all of the morse code yet, so paired with the message the siren was rubbing his inadequacy in his face.

Blinded by a flash of rage Bill punched the glass of the tank full force, causing a loud echo and a sharp cracking sound to course through the captain’s cabin.

As his eyes readjusted to see more than his quarry he noticed how a slow trickle of water seeped through a crack in the tank.

A quick moment of panic crossed his mind as the door to his cabin swung open and crashed into the wall with an ominous breaking sound.

Pyronica, Teeth and Xanthar stormed through the open door and quickly took in the scene.

Without a word Teeth turned around and jogged towards the crew quarters and the supply room, as Pyronica and Xanthar slowly approached Bill, still seething with anger, fist planted on the glass of the tank, water trickling past the small cuts the glass had made in his hand, coloring the seeping water a light rose pink.

With a growl and a movement like he still wanted to fight, Bill turned towards the two and snarled with fists at the ready, until he finally realized that there were no more enemies.

The glass behind him was cracked, but not broken far enough to cause real problems, but the water would soon push the cracks to a hole and the hole to a breach, and that they couldn’t afford.

Luckily the siren seemed too dazed by the short shockwave the force of the punch had caused in the small tank to really react to its surroundings, and as it shook its head, trying to regain a sense of mental presence again, Bill waved his hand toward it in a sweeping motion.

Pyronica quickly opened the hatch on top of the tank as Xanthar ran out of the room to get something to fix the glass with.

The siren was out of it enough to not protest or struggle when Pyronica lifted it out of the tank.

The large woman held the siren easily, only seeming slightly disgusted as its tail hit her leg through her skirt.

She walked out with the siren in her arms, out of Bill’s view, and he knew that his crew had understood what needed to be done without a word.

There was a plan B in place for the tank, in fact it had been plan A until the rich creature collector had installed the glass tank.
It was cruder, and perhaps even painful to the siren, but Bill couldn’t care less at the moment.

Reason had returned to him, but the anger still coursed through his veins, making him want to fight something, someone, anything.

He quickly reached for the sword strung across the back of his chair and pulled it free of its scabbard.

Now, where could he find a target.

For a few moments he entertained the thought of taking his anger out further on the siren, but he quickly realized that that would cause a rift that he couldn’t cross anymore, causing the creature to be useless to his plans.

He strode out of his cabin and past the bustle of activity on deck, caused by half of the crew dragging an overgrown bathtub into place between two chains, anchored to the deck by large metal rings.

As soon as the chains were attached Pyronica dropped the siren into the filled bathtub none too kindly, and lifted up its tail to attach a large shackle to the end of it, just in front of the delicate fins.

Bill didn’t doubt that the bathtub and the shackle would be uncomfortable, but he had made doubly sure that the shackle wouldn’t actively hurt the siren, padding the inside of it with spare cloth.

The chain on the shackle, attached to the bottom of the tub, should give the siren enough space to maneuver, but not enough to actually get out of the confines of the metal giant.

He spotted Teeth overseeing the activity on the other side of the deck and he quickly rushed over to him, pointing the sword towards him in a high and mighty gesture of defiance and superiority.

His strides quickly brought him close to the man and he gestured upward with the point of his sword.

Teeth quickly got the hint, pulled his own sword free and walked towards the back of the ship, currently free of all but ropes and woodwork.

Bill followed him, keeping up a frantic stride to keep up with the lithe man, who seemed not at all fazed by the quick walk.

As they reached the deck the color of the sky started to redden.

The day was almost over, and at least Bill was happy to be rid of the presence in his cabin, especially because this night promised actual sleep over the blackout of a drunken stupor.

As he thought of the siren the anger flared again.

Partially because of its actions but also, and this was hard to admit for Bill, partially because of how helpless he felt when pitted against the siren.

The creature was his superior in intelligence and subterfuge, he knew that, but he couldn’t blame it entirely for his own lapses in thought, actually thinking it was human at times.

Had he not moments ago thought about the comfort of the outdoors prison the siren had now found itself in?

As he quickly glanced over at the tub the human face had appeared over the monstrous visage again.

Too often.

Way too often.

With the red setting sun at his back he turned towards Teeth, who had taken the time to check his blade for chips.

Satisfied at the results he turned the blade towards Bill, dropping himself into a lowered stance, body as compact as possible and knees bent to run in any possible direction at a moment’s notice.

His back arm seemed to grasp at the air, wanting to punch or tear whatever came in reach.

Teeth preferred to have a weapon in both hands and normally held a sword in each hand, but his skill with these weapons was so great that he normally only used one sword for sparring sessions.

His belt was littered with smaller weapons too, some throwing knifes, some long daggers, and occasionally a shield and hammer hung from his back if he came prepared for war.

Teeth waited for Bill to charge, and as he struck the first time to test the ex-gladiator’s defenses the dance started.

Both fighters circled each other, very careful not to find the railings of the ship at their backs, poking left, right, swinging down, up, testing and poking at defenses, trying to find where the other’s weakness lay.

They had sparred long enough to know the dance well, knew where to poke and to strike to tire the other out, never bringing the blade close enough to bring actual harm but always showing the other where openings lay.

Bill had started the mock battle with a whirling anger in his steps, but he soon found that the anger only left more openings, and as the sparring continued he slowly calmed down, putting all of his mind into the steps and the strikes.

Soon his body was working before his mind did and the slow and steady acrobatics of a swordfighter sped up more and more until the two blades became a quick flurry.

Only after Bill noticed that the sky got darker and would soon be too dark to be of much assistance to the fighters did he falter for a moment.

Teeth, almost pulled back into old habits, didn’t stop immediately but held the point of his sword to Bill’s throat.

Bill showed the man a savage grin, one that was quickly returned by the mostly toothless man, showing off the red scarring around his mouth and face as he did so.

With a quick flurry Bill gave Teeth a sword salute, putting the pommel on his chest with the blade sticking up towards the sky along his body.

“Thanks.” Bill only said as he turned away.

Teeth had kept up the grin all this time and lightly inclined his head towards Bill’s back, as the captain walked back to his cabin.

Chapter Text

Bill hadn’t been alone in his cabin for a bit now, and the silence seemed to actually bother him as he closed the door behind him, having successfully avoided even looking at the siren.

He slid down against the door, tired beyond belief, dropping his sword next to him carelessly.

He eyed his room lazily, noting that Xanthar had found something dubious at best to patch the glass of the tank with.

A strip of sail linen lay over the crack, black with the tar Xanthar seemed to have used to close the crack up, and sticking tightly against the glass, made wet to keep the glass in place to make sure the improvised fix stayed there longer.

Bill knew it wouldn’t hold long, tar was never friends with water and the fact that it was surrounded by it would soon dilute the stuff and make the water in the tank useless for the siren, even deadly.

He sighed.

He’d have to think of a way to fix it later, but the tank was out for the count for a good while, the water would need to be refreshed and the glass fixed, and that would require many hands and a day without any major events, two things hard to come by in life.

He dragged himself up slowly, using the door as support, and leaned against it, his mind muddled by an intense desire to sleep.
He managed to shake the feeling off long enough to pick up his sword, almost falling over in the process, and placing it back in its scabbard.

He made his way near drunkenly to his bed, decorated by those spoils of plunder that weren’t valuable enough to sell but comfortable enough.

The entire thing was mismatched, Bill contemplated as he flopped down on it.

It held little to no color harmony, it consisting of multiple objects stolen on multiple occasions.

It had both the burgundy of dried blood and the royal blue of the navy’s flag, even an obnoxious yellow pillow was mixed in, its comfort being prioritized higher than its color.

Bill was happy for once that he wasn’t drunk, a thought that only rarely hit him as normally he was more than happy with it.

But tonight he needed nothing more than sleep, and he lazily shrugged off his slightly worn coat, throwing it wherever.

At least he wouldn’t wake up with a hangover for once.

 

“Of course I love you!” the blurry faced figure stated.
A younger Bill, starry eyed and more than happy to accept the man’s word walked up to the figure to hug him, but was quickly denied as he moved away.
Disappointed and hurt, but hopeful, young Bill walked after the figure, hoping to get to talk to the figure more.

The figure, face blurred out apart from a cruel grin, stood in front of the younger, but slightly older Bill, blood on his hands and dripping off his sword.
“You should’ve know better….” The figure spoke with Bill’s voice, reaching back with the sword slowly before swiping it forward in a quick, dramatic motion, the sound of skin ripping open accompanied by a red haze falling over his vision.

 

Bill awoke with a start, only an hourglass or so after he had gone to bed, lamenting the fact that he hadn’t drunk the night before, at least he would’ve slept through the nightmares.

He shook his head wildly, feeling his left eye throb violently, signaling the start of a migraine.

Bill closed his eyes again, hoping to fall back into the blackness, but his eye stung heavily, making it clear to Bill that he wasn’t going to get any decent sleep any time soon.

He sighed, rolling himself off of the bed and onto his feet, realizing he still wore his boots and sneering at the sight of mud, sand and other grime, spread over his sheets.

He found his coat after a bit of rummaging around, the thing had fallen behind a small cupboard, and eyed the thing like it was a poisonous snake.

Deciding that the coat, heavy with memories, would do no good in relieving his nightmare stressed mind, he put it over the back of a chair and walked outside.

 

Darkness had set in fully, and the only light on deck stemmed from a few lanterns, swaying lightly in the wind.

As Bill looked up groggily to the steering wheel, noting that 8-ball stood behind it like always, using his memory of the naval charts and his hit or miss intuition to steer them further into open waters, rain started to trickle down from the clouds.

As if he needed that.

The cold of the rain, together with the sting already in his left eye, made the pain spread through the whole scar over his eye, giving him a horrible headache.

He half stumbled towards the stairs to the upper decks, pressing his hand against the eyepatch covering his eye, and he somehow, miraculously, made it to the steps without falling and lowered himself onto them.

With the potential for a nasty fall gone, he relaxed somewhat.

A slow ticking sound broke his short peace, drilling into his head like pins and needles, and he looked up, finally realizing that he had sat down right in front of the siren, sitting in the metal bathtub awkwardly, tail slightly crooked but still looking every bit as dangerous.

He sighed, rubbing his forehead with both hands, and lifted himself up to lean against the railing, adopting his cocky pose and look again.

“What do you want, don’t you think you’ve done enough for the day.”

Tapping.

“Look without the goddamn book I can’t keep track if you tap that fast.”

Slower tapping.

Bill could make out about half of what the siren said, and that half made him laugh bitterly.

“I’d almost think you were worried about me! Now what a wonderful thought that would be!”

Slow tapping.

Bill raised an eyebrow at the siren.

“You are seriously asking if I’m okay?”

Tapping.

Bill snarled.

“How about none of your business!”

Bill sighed, feeling the anger go away as fast as it had come.

He realized all too well that he had stepped out of character, that he looked nothing like the overconfident, selfish, cocky person that he was, or tried hard to be, at any other point in time.

He closed his eyes for a moment.

“Look, there’s a reason why you’re here. Of course there is.”

Bill lowered himself down on the steps again and stared at the siren, who had its, or who was he kidding, his head cocked to the side, no trace of the monstrous visage Bill was supposed to be seeing remaining.

Bill patted his left eye, still throbbing and stinging and hurting, wishing that it still worked.

Seeing ‘the truth’ as the mage who sold him this had said it was all good and well, but if ‘the truth’ was something out of his hands he might as well have never squandered half of his money on the annoyingly picky right eye he now sported.

Tapping, sounding hesitant.

“Of course I was going to tell you soon but you haven’t exactly been the easiest person to deal with.”

Fast tapping.

“Curiosity. I betcha you do are curious aren’t you. Okay how about this. I tell you the plan, and you at least consider it.”

Bill flinched as his left eye stung particularly strongly, but he managed to sit back and regain some of his confident demeanor.

“We’re pirates. We don’t have the best prospects in the world but we make some money. Now that money could be earned much easier if we took care of the crew before they even came in range for shooting at our heads.”

The siren nodded.

“Now the plan is, you work for us, for me, and you sing the crew of a ship we want to plunder off board.”

Slow tapping.

“Eh the sharks will take them.”

An almost appalled look.

“That’s the plan. And I should’ve realized sooner that I couldn’t force you into it, you’ve already proven your smarts.”

Bill cringed as the pain stabbed sharply into his brain.

Tapping.

“Like I said, I’m fine, just think about the plan.”

The siren lifted a finned hand, starting to make a movement to his throat as if to ask about the cloth, but moving his hand on to point at his left eye and form a wave pattern.

“What? Shite!”

Bill touched his left eye, and felt that the eyepatch was soaked, not only from the rain but from a steady trickle of blood that seemed to originate from his eye.

He reached back over his head and hurriedly detached the eyepatch.

As the eyepatch came loose and the rain reached his eye, he let out a sigh of slight relief.

Even though the pain was still there the cold rain on his blind eye soothed it a bit.

He turned his gaze towards the siren.

To Bill’s surprise, the siren looked at him in a mix of interest and horror, focusing his gaze on Bill’s blind left eye, still actively dripping blood.

The eyeball was fully glazed over and white, the sight in it lost a long time ago when the wound that left a long scar over his face was made.

The scar throbbed, the ends at Bill’s cheek and forehead pulling like it was still healing.

Looking at the look on the siren’s face, Bill couldn’t help but smirk.
“Glad to see that I can scare a creature that hunts us humans.”

Bill relived the moment the wound was made for a split second, the pain of the sword across his skin, the wound made to torture, not to kill, the scream he had produced while the blood and other liquid flowed out of his ruptured eyeball, making the sting of it all the worse.

He had blacked out soon after the wound was inflicted, mercifully spared the writhing of some of his crewmates as they died slowly.

His eye kept bleeding, showing no sign of stopping, and Bill knew that he had enough of talking to the siren, to anyone.

He stood up, drenched by the rain, and looked at his eyepatch, bloody and wet.

He’d have to clean it.

He did his best to slip back into his captain persona, and walked towards the stairs to below decks.

Loud taps followed him.

Bill only waved in answer and descended the stairs.

Chapter Text

Haunted by bad memories and a stinging headache, Bill made his way to the belly of the ship.

He knew that Kryptos had some clean cloth stashed in the kitchen, and even if he couldn’t find that he could always pour rum on his eyepatch to disinfect it.

Now his bleeding eye was another problem he’d have to fix.

He was pretty sure that there was no real open wound, this had happened before and had resolved itself a day later, but he couldn’t go around looking like he was crying blood.

Even if he liked looking fierce and confident, crying blood was a step too far.

He tiptoed as best he could past the hammocks and rickety bunks of the crew to reach the kitchen.

He placed his hand on the cabinet that held the rum, feeling his way around the dark kitchen until he found the small oil lamp that Kryptos had positioned on top of the barrels of dried fish, meat and whatever else could be kept edible long enough to last them until they could reach another harbor.

He could feel the blood and rainwater trickle down his cheek while he searched his pockets for a piece of flint and his dagger.

The dagger was easily found, It being positioned where it always was, hanging from his belt.

The thing was more a utility knife than a decorative one, and thus the scabbard had only a hint of decoration in the form of small stitches of gold thread winding their way around themselves to form a queer pattern.

With his right hand clasped around the dagger, Bill rummaged around his pockets looking for the piece of flint.

Slowly cursing while he heard the soft patter of drops hitting the wooden floor, if it was blood he might have to apologize to Kryptos later, he finally found the piece of flint.

Luckily it wasn’t too wet, so making a spark took only a few calculated seconds.

As the flame in the oil lamp flickered to life he started his search for clean cloth.

There were only a few small cabinets present in the kitchen, most of them stocked with spices and alcohol, so finding the odd one out was something easily done.

The searched for cabinet held two separate shelves, one filled with cloth and one filled with knifes (Bill preferred not to dwell on this combination), and he quickly pulled out a relatively white looking cloth.

He wound the piece of fabric around his head, positioning it so it fell snugly against his eye and put pressure on the phantom wound.

He rose as he felt a small wet spot form on the clean cloth and quickly marched to the rum cabinet to pull one of the worse bottles from its shelves.

He had to pause a moment and hold steady against the walls of the kitchen, as a spike of pain hit his head again.

The phantom wound didn’t open often, and mostly only when he recalled bad memories too vividly, so his experience with the phenomenon was limited.

All he ever did with it was to clean up after it, not pursue the reasoning as to why or how it happened.

He supposed it was something that could happen if one was foolish enough to let a mage tamper with their vision while they still had an open wound.

It was a mystery to him, but he could easily imagine that the magic had a resonance which triggered the state in which it was cast in certain circumstances.

He just hoped it wasn’t too often.
He could barely function when his brain was this overloaded with thoughts and pain.

He quickly poured the rum over his eyepatch over the empty water basin.

The blood, not being too old, came out quickly, a small blessing to Bill.

The piece of cloth, black to be able to compensate for blood and light regulation, stank of rum afterwards, but so did half of his other clothes so for now he wouldn’t mind it too much, the white cloth, or at places pink now he guessed, would have to stay in place for a while anyway.

He would have to ask either Xanthar, Hector or Pyronica about cleaning it, the three of them being the only ones who had experienced a relatively peaceful domestic life before signing up on the Invictus.

Probably Hector, Bill concluded quickly. Xanthar would never let him hear the end of it and there was good reason to believe that Pyronica could glare at him like she wanted him dead if he dared ask her about it.

He squished the eyepatch between his fingers, trying to get as much of the mixed moisture out of the stiff cloth, and quickly made his way out of the kitchen, leaving the half empty bottle of mediocre rum on a barrel for whoever found it to empty.

He managed to pass by the hammocks and bunks again without waking anyone up, and he climbed the stairs with an easier confidence than he held when he descended them.

As he walked up the stairs he heard footsteps above him descending unto the deck.

There were only two options for who it could be at this time of the night and neither of the men would be a bother to Bill, one being easily distracted and the other preferring his silence over all else.

His guess was correct when he almost bumped into Paci, who was standing at the top of the stairs, facing the siren.

Paci didn’t even bother to turn around, knowing exactly who was near him.

Sometimes Keyhole tried to sneak up on him, trying to keep both his own skills and the large man’s sharp, and these attempts concluded with differing results depending on small factors like the time of day, or night, the direction of the light and if there was any other activity going on around the two.

Generally, the two were equally matched, something Keyhole seemed to quite enjoy, as the thief was too silent for most of them to hear him coming.

He was only ever surprised by Kryptos, the huge cook could move a lot more silently than one of his stature should be able to, but the cook had never snuck up on Keyhole on purpose, and he refused to play the grown up version of hide and seek with the smaller, lankier man, saying that he needed no help from him with polishing his skills unless the man could teach him new ways to prepare pickled meat.

Paci seemed to be occupied with having a staring contest with the siren, something that would look ridiculous to anyone else but looked like a tense discussion to Bill, both of the men’s expressions flitting from one non-verbal cue to the other, acting and reacting like they were having a normal conversation.

Paci turned away from the staring after a few minutes, his face showing a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes, and he greeted Bill shortly before climbing back up the short stairs towards the wheel again.

The bulky first mate spent most of his nights overlooking the sea, occasionally adjusting the course of the ship subtly by tugging on 8-ball’s sleeve, thus saving them all from the potential strandings and jagged rocks the cocksure 8-ball was very sure his intuition made him avoid.

Paci spent most of his days below decks, keeping an eye on the inventory of the vessel.

For some reason the first mate could hardly stand too much sunlight, and the company that came with it, so his time was spent elsewhere while Pyronica took over the commandeering and overseeing.
Bill turned his head towards the siren.

The siren seemed to be lost in thought, something Bill had seen him do often.

The siren looked like he possessed an overly pensive streak and Bill highly doubted if any decision made by the siren wasn’t first thought through for several hours.

It was something he couldn’t imagine doing, if he got caught in his own headspace too much memories dragged themselves to the surface, so he preferred his decision making to be impulsive, quick, and sometimes life threatening, something he didn’t see as a hurdle but a challenge.

Besides, it was really rare for Bill to actually think on what he said, so most of his decisions were spoken as quickly as they were thought up, and his being the captain of the ship made the half formed things into orders to anyone who was within earshot.

He was satisfied enough that this way of decision making hadn’t killed anyone yet.

He waved at the siren in a gruff manner, startling the siren out of his thoughts.

The siren waved back, a lot happier than the stiff gesture Bill had offered, and tapped against the side of the tub once again to initiate a conversation.

“Hm? Yes yes slow down.”

The tapping got slower and more drawn out, some words or letters even being repeated multiple times.

At this point it wasn’t even an insulting gesture to Bill anymore, he knew he could not keep up well with anything faster.

“My eye is doing fine. I just changed my eyepatch to something cleaner, at least it was cleaner before it hit my face.”

Tapping, slow and hesitant, almost worried.

“It’ll be over in a day, two at most, it’s not a fresh wound that should still be bleeding, it’s just a phantom effect of the magic cast on my eyes. At least I think it is.”

The siren smiled at him widely, the gesture even reaching his eyes, making the friendly gesture seem genuine and warm.

And infectious.

Bill could only smirk.

Warm smiles had escaped him long ago and getting them back was not something he prioritized at all.

Bill walked off to his cabin for a bit, grabbed a few blankets off of the bed and settled himself below one of the upwards staircases.

He knew from experience that this spot was hard to find unless you knew the ship very well and knew where to look.

The rain, pattering only softly on the deck next to him, provided something like a lullaby, but still Bill wasn’t sure if he would be able to sleep tonight.

Not in his own bed at least, where the nightmares could attack him quickly and sharply, and where he could not just stick his head out to get a cold splash of rain in his face to bring him back to reality.

While Bill was settling underneath the blankets, wrapping himself up and using a few of them as a pillow and ways to anchor his contraption in the spot so he wouldn’t start sliding overboard if he did manage to fall asleep, a hard tapping occurred.

Bill had almost forgotten about the siren, something he nearly cursed himself for, he had walked off from the conversation rather quickly, thinking back on it.

He slowly finished making a solid contraption before he poked his head out to hear what the siren had to tap.

When he finally managed to distinguish it, it was almost endearing.

“Ah, thanks. Good night to you too.”

Bill quickly spoke before he retreated into his hideout to tangle himself up in the blanket contraption.

Listening to the soft falling of the rain, sleep overtook him rather quickly, a strange and rare occurrence for sure, but one he welcomed with open arms.

 

Dipper had been quite sure that the captain of the Invictus was nothing more than a bratty idiot, and he was reassured in this believe several times, but this…..new? person was a lot more fun to talk to.

Whereas the cocky behavior he had seen in the captain before had made Dipper want to tease, taunt and provoke him, this rain drenched personality made him nearly pity the man.

He looked….haunted this evening.

Dipper wished he could talk, his interest in the captain, in Bill Cipher, was piqued well beyond the interest in the wit of his captor.

He wanted to find out what was weighing on the man, what made him be so confident and brattish at one point and broody and melancholic at the other, and above all he wanted to find out the depths of the man’s knowledge and wit.

Even though he far outmatched the captain in subterfuge and general skill in talking he couldn’t deny that there was an intriguing edge to the man’s actions, sometimes not thought out at all and sometimes well calculated to the point that they seemed to have been thought up way before, though he admitted that that was a rare occurrence, and that most of this confidence was based on luck and belief in his own worth.

The man had proven to be a drunk with a short fuse and a rude way of talking, but there were hints to his underlying personality that just now appeared to Dipper.

The way the man had caught him, something that could’ve ended very badly but was thought out well, played out like a perfect performance, the way he seemed to gaze at the horizon with a certain longing in his eye and the way he seemed to take everything that happened in an easy stride, adapting to situations as they came and getting along with everyone he met that he seemed to deem useful or, dare he say, precious.

There was a reckless tinge to the way the captain lived, a certain disregard for his own life that should have appalled Dipper, but the fact that it was mixed in with the mystery the man posed with his different faces made him all the more intriguing.

Luckily, the way to actually being able to talk to the captain had been revealed.

If he had been brought unto the ship to sing sailors overboard, the cloth around his neck would have to be removed.

So all he really had to do to get to know more about the world and the strange captain was to go along with the plan and help the pirates get through battles or merchant ship raids.

It seemed like an easy order to fill, he betted that any other siren could have done this, but he very highly doubted if any other siren would be willing to.

He briefly pondered on what the captain would do to a siren that wouldn’t comply, but he quickly realized that there was no use to the hypothesis and broke free from it with a shake of his head.

He had observed quietly as the captain had settled on the deck instead of in his cabin, taking this as another one of the captain’s quirks he found intriguing.

The soft pitter patter of the rain was calming to him, not as calming as the sound of waves breaking on rocks and a lot rarer, and even though his tail had been bent awkwardly to make him fit into the tub sleep was appealing to him.

 

As morning broke and Dipper stretched his tail slowly, careful not to hit anything or rip a fin, a sudden shape on the horizon and rush of activity confused his mind, filled with sleep sludge.

The shape was a very familiar one, very definitely a boat.

Dipper had no clue If this was a friendly vessel or not though, he assumed not as pirates had few friends, but he knew next to nothing about human hierarchy and interactions, so who knew.

The activity around him stemmed from at least six of the ten crewmembers running around, pulling on robes, checking things and strapping weapons to their belts.

They managed to not hit his tub at any point during this activity, a feat that was surely praiseworthy, but the frantic looks on their faces dissuaded Dipper from trying for a relaxed conversation.

The sun had just exited the orange red glow of its rise, and the blankets the golden captain had used the night before lay tangled off next to the entrance to his cabin.

As Dipper studied the door it was slammed open in a hurried manner, the captain striding out with a sword, a dagger and a flintlock strapped to his belt.

The new, improvised, eyepatch Dipper had seen the other night was now clearer to him, it was streaked with thin, long stripes of a dark wine red and brown and was wound tightly around the captain’s head.

The sight of the other’s dead eye had been startling, but it had brought up more pity than disgust in the siren, he had met an anglerfish or two during his explorations and compared to those glassy, nearly crazed eyes the calm sight of the milky white eyeball of the captain wasn’t upsetting at all.

In fact it just added another layer to the captain he knew very little about.

When he tuned into the hurried words and shouts of the humans he could quickly deduce that the ship on the horizon wasn’t a friendly one, in fact it seemed like it was a grave and unexpected danger.

As the ship slowly neared the bustling came to an unexpected calm. All crewmembers looked at the ship, expressions ranging from near snarling to something Dipper guessed was praying or pleading.

Only the captain moved around still, the man didn’t seem like the type who could easily settle down when something exciting was about to happen, and as the ships started circling in wide ovals, trying to line up so the cannons could shoot, the captain even walked up to Dipper’s tub and smiled at him.

“This might end up with all of us dead.” The man said quickly and decisively.

After he said these few words, the captain laid a hand on the shackle around the end of Dipper’s tail, a thing Dipper had surely felt the weight of but which wasn’t uncomfortable enough to keep him from moving or sleeping.

“And I’ll be damned if I let someone uninvolved get caught up in it.” He growled under his breath.

With a soft click the shackle around his tail was undone.

Dipper looked up at the captain, head tilted and confused, but the man had already turned around and walked away to stand at the railing.

The ships were almost within cannon’s reach of each other and the orders had to be ready on the tip of the captain’s tongue.

Another piece of a very confusing puzzle was laid on the table.

The captain had given him a means of escape, if a bit of a tricky one as he would still have to drag himself over the railing, and he would be muted by the cloth still, but a means of mercy or pity he had not expected from the gruff man.

Apparently his suicidal streak extended only to his own life, not those of others.

Dipper was grateful, if a bit miffed, he had been put up to a dilemma, escape and find a way to break the spell symbol per symbol, something that would hurt, or wait here and be potentially killed or captured by others, but with the chance to get to know more about humans and the captain.

His decision, a tough one and one Dipper would’ve thought long and hard on, was interrupted by the loud bang of the cannons shooting, the sweeping wind and the impacts of cannonballs on their own ship drowning out all noise and thought.

Bill was looking off towards the ship, hanging from a rope wrapped around his arm, halfway off the railing and aiming his flintlock at whatever he thought would come into his range soon.

As Dipper finally took the time to look at the attacking ship, he knew why the shackle had been released.

The vessel wasn’t much bigger than the Invictus, but it had significantly more crew, Dipper counted around twenty men, armed with flintlocks and swords and clad in blue and white uniforms.

Dipper vaguely recognized them as a military force, the navy he figured, though from which country they hailed was beyond his knowledge.

Soon even these thoughts were drowned out, as the ships neared each other more and the quick and barking fire of the flintlocks filled the air.

Several hooks were thrown onto the railing of the Invictus, digging into the woodwork and pulling taut where they weren’t immediately removed.

Dipper glanced around the fighting forces for a spell.

A man or five on the military ship had been incapacitated, blood pooling from bullet wounds in the shoulders, neck, legs, chest or forehead, ugly wounds with pieces of bones or gray matter spilling out of the frayed edges.

The fighting force of the Invictus, six men and one woman strong, stood tall.

He saw that some had been wounded in the firefight, long gashes running along biceps and upper legs, and one of them, a man he did recognize but knew not the name of, bit his bottom lip as a slow trickle of blood descended from his ear, the lobe cut deeply by a bullet.

The one woman held twin flintlocks in her hands, the short weapons fuming at the tips.

It was very likely that most of the takedowns had been on her part, as most others held hand to hand weapons and only the captain’s flintlock was fuming, a clear sign that only three flintlocks had gone up against nearly fourteen.

The six men of the navy who had managed to get the hooks to grip on the Invictus slowly but surely pulled the ships closer together, drawing the Invictus in like a fat fish.

As soon as the railings bumped into each other, the navy men jumped aboard the Invictus with a triumphant yell, the collective war cries uniting into a roar of primal power.

But the crew was ready for them.

Slashes and bangs resounded and Dipper was honestly fearing for his life, but his fascination at seeing the fight had frozen him in place, cursed to watch till the end of the fight or his own end.

Swords slashed through flesh and bone, creating large splatters of gore on the deck, almost immediately made into a widening puddle by the seawater that slipped through the railings on occasion.

Pieces of people slipped by his tub.

A sick fascination made him almost want to reach out and touch the pieces, but an eyeball floating by, the bright green iris looking up at the sky as the eye white was tinted a bright red, made him change his mind, making his body flinch heavily as he retracted the hand he hadn’t realized he had reached out.

The roar of battle crashed in around him.

Dipper ducked as far into his tub as he could, making himself as small as possible as the occasional sword hit his tub with a resounding clank.

As the tumult moved a bit further away Dipper managed to pull himself upwards a bit, curiosity getting the better of him.

The first thing he spotted was a navy man laying against his tub, breathing labored and shallow as a wide gash in his abdomen had effectively gutted him, innards hanging out haphazardly, sliding down the man’s body slowly as he made no effort to keep them inside.

Dipper backed up as much as he could, shocked, horrified and nauseous, but he quickly concluded that he could do nothing for the man and that his death would be drawn out and painful.

He moved towards the man slowly.

The man only barely acknowledged his presence as Dipper loomed over him, his eyes holding only a spark of recognition and a plea.

Quickly, sure of his movements as if he was practiced in it, Dipper placed his hands on either side of the man’s face, took a deep breath and twisted. Hard.

The man immediately stopped breathing, sliding down onto the floor slowly, joining the dark puddles of gore on the deck.

Dipper’s eyes lingered on the man a bit too long while he slid out of few, probably over the railing or so Dipper hoped.

The clanging and banging of the battle was still ongoing, but seemed less frantic than it was before.

He glanced around, noticing that the numbers on the Invictus had dwindled on both sides.

The navy men stood tall with only a man or six left, their numbers thinned considerably with the odds in their favor.

Out of all those of the Invictus’ crew who had started fighting, only three were still standing tall.

None of the fighters were unhurt, slashes and gun wounds littering their bodies, and they all seemed on their last legs, tired beyond believe and nearly breaking under the constant stress.

The captain stood in the front of the small triangle he and his standing crew formed, Hector at his one side, hands and forearms covered with metal gloves splashed with darkening spots of blood, and a man Dipper didn’t recognize on his other side.

The man had a sword in his hand and as he shortly grimaced, Dipper saw that the man was missing most of his teeth despite his young age.

The captain looked around at his crew, seemingly relieved when he saw that none were dead, hurt badly and crawled away to safety, but no dead.

A large smile divided his face in half as he met the siren’s eyes, a glint of desperation in his eye as he turned slightly away to talk to the other men.

Both men nodded, turning to stand flush next to the captain quickly, and before anyone could react the two men attacked, pushing the circle that had formed around them outwards so the captain could dash through.

Confused, Dipper looked on as the slashed up captain ran towards him at full speed, reckless determination glinting in his eye like mischief.

His breath hitched in his throat as the captain clasped his free hand around his throat.

Was he going to kill him?

But the thought quickly perished as the sword slashed by.

Severing the knot on the spell cloth around his neck.

Dipper looked up at the captain, utterly confused, but all the captain did was mouth one word.

Sing.

Dipper didn’t hesitate for long, caught up in the moment and entirely dragged into the pace of the golden captain.

He sang.

He’d almost forgotten what his own voice sounded like, he was glad it hadn’t gone hoarse or off key from disuse, the haunting melody still resonating over the deck as easily as breathing.

All those on their feet stopped in their tracks.

With pained expressions the man with few teeth and Hector struggled to put their hands over their ears, their own determination the only reason they didn’t get dragged into the hypnotic noise.

A grunt resounded next to Dipper, almost making him pause his singing.

The captain was still there.

Had he been fast enough to cover his ears?

Strangely concerned Dipper shifted a bit, still singing.

The captain was hanging against the side of his tub, his right eye almost glazed over as he was dragged into the song and a steady stream of blood trickling from under the cloth, the once white fabric saturated with an intensely vivid red.

Dipper’s eyes widened.

Quickly, without interrupting his own singing for fear of accidentally releasing the navy men, he clasped his own finned hands over the captain’s ears.

The haze in his right eye faded gradually, and he threw the siren a watery, if slightly wry smile as the navy men marched themselves towards the railing.

With a loud splash the navy men threw themselves overboard, plummeting like bricks, doing nothing to cushion or break their fall.

Dipper kept singing for a few more minutes, making sure that the men would’ve drowned, and then stopped abruptly.

The silence deafening in the aftermath.

Chapter Text

The song still reverberated in Bill’s head, calling to him in a shrill and pleading voice.

He would probably never admit it, but the song had mesmerized him in more than one way.

Not only the song itself, its words and melody, had made him want to listen, but the gorgeous siren that sang them compelled him.

To do what he’d never know, as the siren had clasped finned hands over his ears before he could truly act.

 

As the song slowly faded from his mind, Bill looked up towards Dipper.

But he knew that he couldn’t dwell on the siren for long as a sense of urgency stung to life in the back of his head, forcing his weary body to move.

He threw the siren a smile and removed the hands from his head, getting up quickly, but very careful not to stumble.

He made his way slowly but surely through the sludge of gore and water that covered most of the deck in a thin, slippery layer.

“Teeth! Hec! Help me check the wounded!” he yelled without truly looking at them.

He scanned the deck quickly.

8-ball sat leaned against the steering wheel, clearly out for the count but not dead, as the man moved his mouth as if playing a whispered card game.

Pyronica, next to the stairs, was already sitting up, cursing and looking around with her eyes aflame.

Up in the crow’s nest he spotted Amsha’s feet dangling down, moving steadily as a calm tune drifted down.
That boy still bounced back way too quickly.

That left…. Kryptos, Xanthar, Keyhole and Paci.

He wasn’t too worried about Keyhole or Kryptos, the two were a force to be reckoned with on their bad days, and a veritable hurricane on their good ones.

Sure as can be, he spotted Kryptos dragging bodies overboard on the other side of the ship, going about his work with a macabre grin on his face.

A shadow moved in the corner of Bill’s eye and he spared Keyhole only a glance, ascertaining that the man was okay enough to drag himself to the kitchen to get to the rum.

His search grew frantic when he spotted neither of his last missing crew.

His eyes flitted from one side to the other, his pace quickening to a very dangerous jog.

A groan from behind a mast made him stop in his tracks, almost making him slip and fall.

He turned to the side and found Paci and Xanthar, lying not too far away from each other.

The side of Xanthar’s head was covered in a thick layer of blood, and the man seemed out cold.

Paci lay close, he had probably been protecting the unconscious Xanthar knowing him, and he was riddled with slashes, some deep some shallow.

If he’s alive he’ll be proud of those new scars.
Bill thought with a small smirk.

He slipped and ran towards the two, checking them both for a pulse.

It took him a bit to find any major arteries with the both of them being bloody, but he soon breathed out an immensely relieved sigh.

They lived.

He checked Xanthar’s head quickly, looking for the cause of the bleeding, and soon found that the man’s earlobe had been shot clean off.

Bill reached around his own head to undo the knot on his makeshift eyepatch, flinching a bit at the reddish color and smell of the cloth, but he quickly bound the thing tightly around Xanthar’s wounded ear.

Other than that there seemed to be no major wounds on Xanthar, and Bill stumbled closer to Paci.

He checked the gashes closely, and some seemed deep to him, but those seemed to be in his arms and legs and never deep enough to risk severing tendons.

As he looked the wounds over, Paci let out a snarl-groan and sat up like a puppet on a suddenly taut string.

“Welcome back to the world of the semi-conscious.” Bill grinned.

Paci looked at him.

At first his eyes looked through Bill, seeing nothing but a shape or maybe an enemy, but as his eyes slowly came into focus he spotted the fact that Bill’s eyepatch was gone and recoiled a bit at the sight of his blind eye, still bleeding like it was its job.

Bill could only laugh loudly at this.

Paci was covered in wounds and was no stranger to bashing people’s heads in, yet the sight of Bill’s blind eye always made the tall man flinch.

Next to them, Xanthar stirred and slowly opened his eyes, only to close them immediately as some of the blood that had trickled down his face freely while he was out dripped into his eyes.

A low growl escaped him.

“Some help?” he asked with an incredibly indignant tone in his voice.

Bill moved quickly, still snickering, and used a piece of his shirt, one of the very few pieces that were not blood stained at this point, to smudge most of the blood around Xanthar’s eyes away.

At that Xanthar opened his eyes again, saw Bill sitting right in front of him, and screamed.

It was largely unintelligible, but Bill thought he heard the words ‘sea witch’ ‘possession’ and maybe a vague ‘god help me’ somewhere in there.

Bill waited patiently for the screaming to stop.

As it did, Hector and Teeth joined the group, pulled there by the shouting.

“Are you done?” Bill spoke, smiling more crookedly than most people were comfortable looking at.

“Captain?” Xanthar finally recognized him then. “Your….eye?”

“I was gracious enough to use my eyepatch to stop your ear from bleeding you dry and you wake up to call me a sea witch? Talk about gratitude.”

Xanthar looked baffled.

Which made Bill bark out a short laugh.

“Are you two fit to walk or shall we help you up?” Bill asked with no humor in his voice.

Paci was already to his feet before he could finish the sentence.

Xanthar seemed a bit slower in getting up, he must’ve been dizzy from the blood loss Bill argued, but he did get to his feet while only swaying lightly, an accomplishment sure enough.

Teeth wordlessly took one of Xanthar’s arms and draped it over his shoulder, half dragging the man towards the stairs below decks so they could assess the damage better.

Paci wandered after them, not at all seeming like a man with more cuts on him than someone had fingers and toes.

Hector however, paused.

“Captain?”

Bill turned to him.

“Are you okay?”

Bill squinted a bit upon hearing that, not quite sure why Hector had asked him that until he felt his left knee buckle under him, making him fall to the deck in an entirely ungraceful manner.

“Shite, now what!” Bill cursed, twisting to see what the problem was.

He spotted the end and start of the offending wound on his upper leg and calf, the gash ran over the back of his leg a bit too far and too deep for his liking.

The depletion of desperation driven adrenaline must’ve caused his wounds to catch up to him.

He cursed softly under his breath while he tested the mobility of the leg, feeling the sting of multiple shallower and more harmlessly placed wounds torment the rest of his body.

A bullet wound in his shoulder bothered him with a vague stinging, but other than that nothing seemed problematic.

He didn’t manage to pay any attention to Hector until the man bent down a bit and poked at the bullet wound.

Bill had to fight the urge to squeal.

“What in the blue frozen hell did you do that for?” he growled.

But Hector ignored the question and just held a perfectly round flintlock bullet out to him. Apparently the shot had gone clean through, or at least clean enough so that the bullet was easily visible and removable.

Bill gritted his teeth, worried his shoulder for a bit, nodded at Hector and tried to stand up.

Only to flop down to the deck again when his left leg refused to support any of his weight.

Hector wordlessly offered Bill an arm.

He took it without protest and let Hector help him to the back end of the ship.

Pyronica was already going around the deck like a dervish, sweeping the sludge towards the holes in the railing and picking up remains that were too heavy to sweep away, slinging them overboard like a professional discus thrower.

Teeth, 8-ball and Keyhole, wounds taken care of and already up and about, were using the rope on the grappling hooks to drag themselves over to the other, now empty, ship.

Bill was glad for their enthusiasm, but doubted that they would find anything.

Then again, if anyone knew how to get anything shiny into their pockets it was Keyhole.

He turned a bit to face Hector.

“Call them back if they’ve not returned within half an hourglass, we need to get away from here before the….sharks….smell the blood.”

“I’d also quite fancy being far away by the time that occurs.” Hector simply stated.

He glanced down at Bill’s leg.

“I don’t suppose you’d be fit for perusing any stairs at the moment I'd imagine.”

Without waiting for an answer to his, very clearly rhetorical, question, Hector set Bill down and descended into the bowels of the ship.

To get semi-clean cloth and rum, Bill hoped.

A soft splash of water made him notice where he had been dumped.

He sighed softly.

Not something he wanted to deal with at the moment.

“Hey, are you okay?”

The voice above him was singsong and a lot more gender neutral than Bill remembered.

He only grunted in answer.

“I will take that as meaning a wholehearted ‘no’ in pirate.” Dipper spoke above him, a grin in his voice.

“…..Thanks. I think you saved us all.” Bill brought forth, not talking to the siren above him but rather to the sky and railing in front of him.

“Was no problem! It is kind of what we do best.” Dipper just said jovially.

Bill looked to the side slowly and noticed a rather large bloodstain on the deck right next to where he sat. He just hissed through his teeth and ignored it as much as possible.

The renewed possibility of awkward silence between the two of them was hard on Bill, he’d never been good at carrying conversations, and especially ones where the other party was half fish.

“Say what’s with your eye?” Dipper asked as if to ignore the bloodstains and gore around them.

“Which one of ‘em?” Bill asked, willing to indulge the siren. Maybe out of thankfulness, or out of a severe lack of anything else to do, with him not being able to stand on his own.

“Both preferably! Though I have my theories on your left eye, it’s quite obvious that it has been slashed by something.”

Bill softly touched the long scar running down his face. “You must be a genius.”

But no answer came, and when Bill looked up to see if the siren had lost interest, he found himself staring directly into the siren’s face, his eyes sparkling with an inquisitive happiness he’d only seen on Keyhole before when he found a chest or door with a particularly hard lock on it.

Bill sighed and started rubbing the gash on his leg before he continued.

“Since you already have a solid theory about my left eye, I think my right eye is more interesting.”

Bill quieted for a bit, considering what he was comfortable with telling Dipper about.

“Long story short, after I lost my left eye to ‘something that slashed’” or someone, he muttered, “I was quite angry, and I decided to go find a wizard to help me…. see things clearly.”

A soft chuckle resounded above him and Bill realized too late that he had unwittingly made a joke.

“The pirate fairy tale mentioned… the truth?”

“I’d sadly just been slashed and wizards like vague descriptions more than you think. Well, it turned out to function well enough, if not entirely as intended.”

The siren only let out a questioning noise.

Bill explained, sounding tired and slightly exasperated even to himself. “The truth, as I had so stupidly defined it, is too broad and too subjective to really be useful at times. I don’t have the ability to see if someone is lying, mind you, it’s not that two dimensional, it’s a bit more…complicated.”

He turned himself around with a grimace, feeling the wood scrape against his leg wound, and looked up to look Dipper in the eyes to look for any reaction.

But the siren’s expression only held genuine interest.

“For example. I can….” ,he paused for a second there, “could see your feral form all the time, even when you switched it off, because I saw you as a monster and a human eater. Since that was what I perceived as the truth at that moment that is what I saw. But if I see you as a more human creature with emotions and feelings I can exclusively see your human features.” Bill growled low. “It’s picky enough to see my ‘truth’ as the truth to see most of the time, but in many cases the ability has saved me. I’ve been able to pick out monsters from a crowd of humans, spot a traitor before he could betray me or track someone by transferring their ‘truth’ onto a map.”

“Yes.” He spoke as he glanced away for a moment, looking at his crew busying themselves. “The truth does not only apply to creatures, but to humans as well. Once I see someone as trustworthy my ‘truth’ of that person changes and their presence becomes a source of light.
It’s almost poetic, don’t you think? Not like I’ve ever been someone on the literary side of things, but seeing the truth is an incredibly unspecific specific way of seeing things. This eye” and Bill tapped a finger under his right eye “Can see everything and nothing, it’s an incredibly hard thing to deal with, but it keeps life surprising.”

The siren said nothing for a few moments, a look of deep thought etched into his face. When he opened his mouth all he said was: “Curious.” Before he went silent again and merely stared through Bill, lost in his own mind.

Footsteps then closed in on the two, quick and busy, and Bill didn’t even bother to look up.

He felt dizzy and tired, and was more than ever thankful for the fact that his first and second mate were very much up to the task of leading the ship when he couldn’t.

He smiled up at Pyronica as she reached him a bottle of the decent rum.

A short moment later, just as he went to uncork it, he had only a moment to see it coming before she threw half a bottle of rum over his hurt leg.

He couldn’t repress the yelp that escaped his lips.

Chapter Text

As the sting of the alcohol on his leg wound faded a bit Bill took a swig from the bottle of rum in his hand, partially to drown the pain that wracked his body and partially to cover his shame over his…yelp.
If anyone had heard that he didn’t think he’d live it down.

He slowly rolled his right shoulder, checking the bullet wound, only grimacing and taking another swig as the wound stung and produced a thicker stream of blood.

He’d have to disinfect that too, though he wasn’t sure if he could do so himself, and he had to bandage his leg and shoulder to keep out splinters and sickness.

Then again Pyronica had only splashed rum over the top of his leg maybe he should administer some more to the actual gash instead of letting the wound drown in a small puddle of rum, seawater and probably more than a little bit of blood.

What a mess.

He looked at the bottle in his hand.

This was good rum, better not waste it on disinfection, he’d need it to keep the pain at bay a bit. And he might as well start right now.

As he took swig after swig of the rum he saw Hector come up to the deck, arms filled with clean-ish cloth and cheap-ish rum.

He didn’t quite stop by Bill, but he did place three strips of cloth and three bottles of rum, one good two less so, next to Bill, the strips of cloth safely dangling over the gore on the edge of Dipper’s bathtub.

Bill nodded to him, took another swig for courage and turned to the siren above him.

As he had expected Dipper was still very much lost in his thoughts, unable to really notice anything but whatever his mind was racing about.

“Hey. Dipper.” the name felt weird in Bill’s mouth, like he wasn’t meant to speak it, but he kept talking.
“Mind helping me out for a bit?”

The siren turned his head to him violently, and Bill could almost hear the muscles in his neck pull at this sudden movement.

The siren gasped and slowly massaged the pulled muscle while he looked at Bill with a mix of surprise and pain on his face.
“So you DO remember my name! That took way too long!”

He smiled through the pain like he genuinely appreciated the gesture that was more common courtesy than any real exertion.

Bill let out an undignified snort, amused by the genuine enthusiasm Dipper displayed now.

Not really wanting to explain the situation again, he gestured to his leg.
“Care to help out a bit with this?”

“Oh with that! Yeah sure, if I can! Do you have a needle and some thread closeby?”

Bill took a moment to process that. Normally only doctors used thread to stitch a wound closed, he wasn’t sure if he believed that the siren was capable of doing such a thing without messing up majorly.
“Not that. Got wounds on my leg and shoulder and I need to disinfect them. Don’t think I can hold my hand steady enough to do my shoulder myself.”

A small smile bloomed on Dipper’s face. “Sure, I can do that no problem. Though it is a better idea to stitch large gashes up anyway, it helps with healing by closing the gap the new tissue needs to fill and minimizes the areas through which filth can enter the wound. I don’t think you’d want wound rot out on the open sea.”

“Probably not.” Bill grumbled “But I’d have to excuse myself on that, I don’t think we have a single piece of thread on this whole damned boat that isn’t soaked in filth already.”

Without another word he handed the siren one of the cheap bottles of rum and shuffled forward a bit so the siren had better access to the bullet wound in his shoulder.

Bill bit his lip in anticipation of the pain, but the sharp sting of the alcohol still startled him into biting down harder, drawing blood and hissing through his teeth.

“Thanks.” Bill merely said, and got ready to take care of his leg when the siren stopped him with a hand on his wounded shoulder, which drew a growl from Bill.

“Stay still for a moment.”

Not thinking that the pain could get very much worse Bill held still.

He heard a ripping sound and turned his head a little bit and barely made out Dipper ripping through his shirt with sharp claws.

“What in the flaming hell are you up to?”

“Treating you properly.” The siren merely spoke as he reached for something slightly out of Bill’s field of view.

The siren pulled the ripped off sleeve from Bill’s shoulder and folded back the fabric clinging to the bullet wound. He put the end of a piece of cloth at Bill’s upper arm and started winding it tightly and carefully around his wounded shoulder, upper arm and a few times around his chest.

“There! That should hold up!” Dipper spoke while he eyed his work. “I would’ve let the bandages run under your clothes on your chest too but I didn’t want it to seem like I was attacking you at this wonderful opportunity.”

As Bill angled his head to look at his bandaged shoulder and Dipper he didn’t miss the wink the siren threw him, and for a few agonizing seconds Bill wondered which kind of ‘attacking’ the siren had meant.
But luckily another thought chased it away as he looked at the professional piece of bandaging the siren had given him. He looked up at Dipper and just raised his eyebrows.

“Hm. Let’s just say I’ve known all sorts of people over the years, some shorter than others.” at this the siren smirked so widely that his teeth, pointy and feral, were easily visible, but he quickly erased the threat as he continued “But most of them were kind enough to offer me some knowledge.”

Bill only offered a small noise of understanding, took a swig of rum and turned to his leg.

Angling it so he could reach the wound properly was agonizing in and of itself, and using one of the pieces of cloth the siren handed him to dab the rum into the wound made his vision swim, but he managed to stay conscious enough to complete his work.

One piece of cloth drenched in rum straight on the gash and the other piece wound tightly around it so it stayed put, Bill took a few shallow breaths and long swigs to calm down.

He eyed his work, quickly concluded that it was in no way up to the quality of the bandaging the siren had done, averted his eyes and tried his best to ignore his inadequacy.

He put the empty bottle of good rum to the side and picked up the second one, but didn’t open it yet.

“Isn’t it funny how you’ve known me about as much drunk as sober?” he murmured loud enough for the siren to hear.

All he heard was a movement of the water, something he guessed was the siren shrugging, and he quickly uncorked the bottle and drank from it.

A pleasant buzz calmed his thoughts as he kept drinking.

“Hey Bill, I think your men are returning.” Dipper said matter-of-factly.

Bill set down the bottle, clasped the edge of the bathtub and dragged himself up enough to look at the other ship, something that earned him a sailor’s curse from the siren as the bathtub tilted a bit.

“Who would’ve thought, I think they found something.”

Bill tested his hurt leg but quickly concluded that he was unfit to walk anywhere for a bit and just looked at the happenings.

Each of the three man on the other ship’s deck held something, a small chest, a few bottles and a small chest enriching their arms.

With much growling, grumbling and trouble the three managed to get themselves and the loot back onto the Invictus. Hector and Pyronica walked up to them quickly and looked through their loot, making both appreciative and disapproving noises.

The three hauled most of their loot downstairs to store it in the hold, and Hector walked towards Bill with a smile and a piece of loot in his hand.

He handed the finely decorated walking cane to Bill.

“The boys thought you could use this for a tad.”

Bill nodded at Hector with a smile. “I’ll have to thank them later.”

“They said there’s no other treasure to be found on the vessel. Should we cut it loose and take to the open sea before the vultures arrive?”

“We should.” Bill merely said.

Hector looked the situation over once, looking at both the siren, hanging over the edge of the bathtub to wave at him, and Bill, his shirt ripped and a very well wrapped bandage on his shoulder.

Then he smirked broadly and turned away to relay the orders.

Bill worriedly raised an eyebrow. What could that have been about?

He heard the water slosh behind him and the siren tugged at his shirt.

When Bill turned Dipper shoved the new bottle of good rum into his hands, and Bill smiled at the siren and sat down again.

He heard the order to dislodge the enemy ship and felt the turn towards open sea more than he saw it as he drowned his pain in his bottle.

When the bottle was about half empty and the buzz had morphed into a warm feeling that had spread throughout his whole body and made him giddy, the siren suddenly reached down and took the bottle from him.

Bill looked up, offended by the sudden theft, only to see the siren down the bottle in long gulps, emptying it in record time.

Amused by the sight Bill handed him the leftover not so good rum too, and that disappeared quickly too.

The siren could drink like a fish.

As soon as the thought manifested Bill started laughing like a maniac.

The siren looked down at him and Bill couldn’t help but voice the thought, and the siren started laughing too.

“Like I said” Dipper said as he let the last drop of rum lazily drip into the bathtub “I’ve known all sorts of people over the years.”

He handed the empty bottles to Bill who set them to the side.

“More than a few of them were rum loving pirates.” The siren added with a smirk in his voice.

He didn’t seem even remotely buzzed.

Not like that thought truly bothered Bill, he had his fun and others had theirs.

He stared at the sky for a few moments before he realized that the warm feeling would soon drag him into a deep sleep.

“I hope my blankets survived relatively unscathed.” He merely said as he dragged himself up and tested the mettle of the walking stick.

The thing was sturdy enough to support an elephant, the drunk thoughts of Bill figured, but it was surely sturdy enough to support him.

“Night.” The siren spoke.

But Bill only turned to him slightly and smiled. “I’ll be right back, save it.”

He hobbled towards his cabin, checked the blankets and pillows outside, pulled a few free and quickly went inside to take the incredibly comfortable but incredibly ugly yellow pillow from his bed.

He managed to hobble back to the bathtub without falling over, a feat that wasn’t helped by his slightly swaying walk.

Bill dumped the blankets on the ground unceremoniously and reached out to hand Dipper the yellow pillow.

The siren took it and Bill immediately sat back down against the tub, burying into the blankets and positioning pillows until the wooden deck was as comfortable as his cabin bed.

He was gone quickly, but he vaguely managed to register a hand on his head and a whispered ‘thanks’ coming from above him as he drifted off.

Chapter Text

The stars started to appear in the sky as the sea parted before the moving vessel.
Slowly all of the crewmembers except for the man at the wheel disappeared below decks, having finished their tasks for the day, until only Dipper and Bill were on the deck, under the night sky.

Dipper enjoyed the peace and quiet of the moment, and merely stared at the stars while he tried to find as many constellations as he could remember.

As he started to drift off, footsteps came up the stairs that lead below decks.
The large statured man who had been logging bodies overboard earlier that day walked towards the tub, spared a glance for the fast asleep captain and the empty bottles of rum, and turned to Dipper.
“Glad to see he’s warming up to you, the duality of his feelings really seemed to eat away at him.”
Dipper, not having expected such a calm demeanor and voice from the practically giant man, tilted his head in curiosity.
“Ah sorry for the late introduction. I’m Kryptos, I’m kind of the cook on this ship. Not like that means much, I’m just the only one who can cook without setting fire to the ship.” He shifted his weight. “I came up here to handle the captain’s wounds a bit.” He held up a length of what seemed like dried guts, bound to a clean looking needle. “Hector said this should work, though I’ve never been any good with sewing.”
“I can do it, if you’d let me.” Dipper answered quickly, not wanting the man to do the stitching wrong, probably hurting Bill even more in the process.
“I don’t see why not. You could’ve killed us all today but you didn’t, so you have my trust for now.”
Kryptos handed Dipper the needle and thread and sauntered off downstairs again to get back to whatever business he had been up to before.

Dipper secretly hoped more people shared that sentiment, but realized quickly that it was probably too optimistic to think that most of the crew had warmed up to him. Kryptos had given him trust, not friendship, and friendship seemed a lot harder to earn on the ship than, probably a bit shaky, trust.
All of the crewmembers, Bill included, seemed haunted by something. Maybe that was how Bill chose his crew, but Dipper doubted that Bill had chosen many of the crewmembers. The ship seemed to be like a haven for lost souls looking for a way to escape their pain and roam the far horizons looking for happiness.

Deeming it inappropriate to fall into poetic musings after the day he’d had, Dipper quickly tapped the dozing captain on the shoulder to wake him up. As much as he thought it would be better if Bill could sleep through the ministrations, he didn’t think the sun captain would appreciate being woken up by a needle poking through his skin.

The man roused slowly, half drowsy with sleep and half buzzed.

Slightly impatient to start the stitching, Dipper splashed a handful of water from his tub over Bill, careful not to splash the needle and thread in case the water was contaminated.

Bill sputtered to wakefulness.
“Is it morning already, Dipper?”
“Technically yes, captain, I estimate it to be an hour or two after midnight.”
Bill groaned.
“Then you better have a good reason to wake me up from my beauty sleep.”

Dipper felt himself tempted to make a joke about that sentence but held back at the last moment, feeling like it wouldn’t fit the direction the conversation was supposed to go in.
“Your crew found some thread and a needle, so now I can stitch you up!”

“Don’t sound so excited about that.” Bill shifted, sat up in his blanket cocoon and slowly tested the mobility of his limbs. Noticing the walking cane that was still lying next to him, he took it up with his good arm and examined it. “It would make me look more grizzled and captain like if I used this permanently….” He narrowed his eyes at the cane like he seriously considered the possibility of having a limp a good thing. Or maybe he just considered it something better than being stitched up by a siren.

“I think it would only look good if you gained some years, for now you look fine like this.” Dipper smiled warmly at the captain. “Though I do admit that it is rather sweet of your crew to actually think of you while looting.”

“Sometimes I think they’re more than I deserve. God knows I’ve been trying to keep them at a distance, in case history repeats itself, but some of them have proven to know me too well.”

Dipper nodded.
Then realized something.
“I do hope you’re not trying to steer this conversation away from the necessity of stitching your wounds?”

“Not at all.”

Yes. Like anyone would believe that.
“Stay still then.” Dipper said as he started to undo the bandages on Bill’s shoulder.
The bandages didn’t look the cleanest anymore, the open wounds had been freely dripping blood for a while now, but they’d have to do for a bit.
The bullet wound seemed relatively easy to deal with.
Dipper checked the exit and entry wound for grime, cleaned the edges thoroughly with the tip of the bandage, and set to sewing.

As soon as the captain felt the needle touch his skin, he froze, causing his muscles to bundle up and the wound to bleed more.
“Would you stop that. You’re inebriated enough not to feel much, or at least to not remember this in the morning.”

“I’m drunk alright, but I’m never drunk enough for needles.” Bill flinched hard as the needle pierced skin, but he seemed to put in effort to relax his muscles right after.

The rest of the stitches in Bill’s shoulder went by relatively quickly, even though Dipper could both hear and feel Bill contain growls of pain at multiple points during the in and out motions of the needle.

“Well done. Now your leg.”

“There goes my awesome limp.”

“Be happy about it. You’ll most probably be able to walk naturally again when I’m done with these stitches.”

Bill grumbled, but kept still and stared at the shadows near his cabin.
One of the shadows moved, dislodging itself from the wall, and sauntered down the stairs like it was a natural thing to do.

“Keyhole. Of course it’s Keyhole.” Bill sighed, defeated. He’d probably be mocked good naturedly for the small display of childishness at the needlework.

Dipper filed the name away. The man named Keyhole seemed a force to be reckoned with, it seemed like he could only be noticed if he wanted to be noticed.
Apparently Kryptos hadn’t trusted Dipper enough to actually leave him alone with the captain, a fact that Dipper accepted quickly as simple cautiousness and not as a sign that he was seen as a threat. Even if he was seen as a threat though, the guard just abandoned his post, so apparently he had seen enough to trust Dipper with the captain, or he at least trusted him enough to leave the two be, knowing that the man at the wheel could come running if something bad happened.

“Lift your leg up here, I can’t reach down there.”

“Ugh of course. You want to give me a headache on top of my other pain.”

“I think the booze will see to that plenty without my help. Now lay back and lift your leg up here.”

After some half-meant grumbling Bill rearranged the blankets and pillows so he could lay back comfortably, and he put his bad leg up unto the edge of the bathtub.
Dipper had to twist and turn a bit to find a good angle, but managed it quickly enough.
“I’ve always found toes interesting.” He started to distract the captain. “I’ve never seen the use of individual ones over just a block of them.”

“It’s supposedly to make a human able to keep their balance no matter the angle. Never seen the use of half of my toes either though.”

Both were quiet for half a second before Bill picked up on the idea of distracting himself and kept the conversation going.
“Speaking of humans, why’d you decide not to sing us all overboard after the battle? Not like I’m not grateful and all.”
Dipper thought about this for a moment, but the answer was fairly obvious to him. The only problem was relaying it to Bill while making it decently understandable for this human. As he started on the stitches for the captain’s leg wound, he started to explain it as best he could anyway.

“I see it as having three parts. Part of it is curiosity, I haven’t been able to observe a larger group of humans in their natural habitat for a long time. Without them running away or trying to kill me that is.”

“Way to sketch us as zoo animals.” Bill interrupted through gritted teeth.

“We are as similar as we are different, I guess. We’re all piles of flesh, bones and blood arranged in different ways to do different things, but you can’t tell me you haven’t found enjoyment in staring at the behavior of creatures very close to yourself.”

“Hm. Fair.”

“Another part is” Dipper continued as he started another stitch “the fact that I don’t, or can’t, miss my original bay all that much. It never really felt like home to me. I felt like I was a burden to the few family members I have, they went into a sort of banishment for me. Maybe without me there they can reconcile with the rest of the sirens there and live a happier life.”

“Or they could come looking for you in a frantic daze and endanger themselves in the process.”

“I sure hope they don’t. I know they love me but I’m pretty sure they know that I’m happy enough being somewhere I can gain more knowledge. And it’ll take them awhile before they realize I’m gone, I’ve taken off on random trips before.”

“It almost sounds like you were born to be a pirate.”

“A fun thought to be sure.” Dipper went quiet for a bit as he finished up the last stitch. Bill had relaxed a lot more while they were talking, and Dipper quickly started to wrap the bandages around the wound again, removing the rum soaked rag from the wound and putting a clean spare strip of bandage over the wound so it could heal better.

“…And the last reason?” Bill asked as he pulled back his leg, cautiously tested the mobility, grimaced and simply turned his shoulder towards Dipper.

“Hmm.” Dipper hummed and let his hands slow in his ministrations. “I guess I just find you intriguing.” He said with a wide smile.

A shiver went through Bill at that point. “I don’t know how to take that and it frightens me.”

Dipper laughed wholeheartedly at that.
“I’d be lying if I said that it isn’t frightening to me! But it sure is interesting, and I never let go of something interesting.”
“I’m beginning to suspect that it’s bad to be seen as interesting by you.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Dipper said dubiously and finished the bandaging with a light tap on the captain’s good shoulder. “There. This should heal fine now.”

“Good to hear.”
Bill promptly flopped down into his pile of blankets, buried himself in the warmth and comfort and closed his eyes.

Dipper looked at him for a few minutes until the captain’s breathing started to grow slow and steady, and then turned his attention back to the stars and the ugly but comfortable yellow pillow he’d gotten from Bill.
Surely, the man was an enigma in some ways, but see-through in others, which only multiplied Dipper’s interest.

He fluffed the pillow, stared at the constellations and thought about the fact that Bill’s wounds and head would probably hurt in the morning.
Dipper was already looking forward to the interactions that particular scenario would bring.