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Pirate in The Serpent's Sea

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Smock had gotten drunk.

Too drunk.

Drunk as in, he'd passed out at the wheel whilst trying to steer the galleon.

 

It had started with Axel figuring out who he was: an Archangel - specifically the Archangel Azrael - and then he decided 'wow, you know what would make coping with this ten times better? a good drink', and so he drank. He absolutely had to forget that this name had power over him, and that uttering a command alongside it meant he had no other choice but to obey. Nobody deserved that kind of power over him and no way would he willingly give it away. The only person who knew that was dead. At least, that's how it should have been.

So he'd tried to drown his past in liquor, avoiding the memory of who he used to be, and who deep down a part of him still was.

Then he'd collapsed, alcohol flooding his systems, and poor Ophelia had to come and take over, trying desperately to wrench away the assortment of gins and whiskeys from him before he 'damaged his liver or died.' Smock didn't fear death, actually, but he didn't have to worry about it in the first place. It was one thing that reminded him he wasn't exactly a man. Men were united by their humanity, and that meant their ability to die. But that was aside the point, and he couldn't exactly tell that to Ophelia; one person knowing was already bad enough. Wrestling with Ophelia was fine, it was just when he appeared that Smock wanted to launch himself into the ocean.

 

"Oh dear." That STUPID voice laced with STUPID CREEP slithered from the Changeling's mouth, and he crouched beside Smock, looking down at him with an expression that reeked of disappointment, though considering it was just his usual grin and slightly squinted eye, it was hard to tell. "Smock, dear, you're going to drink yourself to death."

"We both know," he drawled with another swig of whatever was left of the drink in his hand, "that I can't do that."

"But you shouldn't. You're going to damage your liver." Axel sighed, reaching for the bottle (though Smock quickly fought off that hand with a vicious swat.) Considering Ophelia had told him the same thing, over. And. Over. And. OVER, he didn't really like being told it by that weird fuck.

"Ehh fuck off." The pirate groaned, rolling onto his other side and definitely not noticing the way Ophelia and Axel shared a small smile with each other. I am going to dESTROY his bLOODLINE and HERS. But first, I want, clam. He glared up at Axel, and with the meanest tone he could muster despite his intoxication, he let out his crucial demand. "I want fucking... clams."

Smock wouldn't admit it but the face the others made filled him with fucking joy because their utter disgust was amusing. Nevertheless, it seemed Axel was kind of giving up at this point, seeing that nothing would get between this pirate and his wonderful, juicy, deliciously sexy clams. With a sigh of defeat, the Changeling lifted his hands. "Fine. I'll go get your fucking clams."

Suspiciously casting his gaze towards his new waiter, Smock took a sip of a new bottle of alcohol. "Yeah, that's what I thought."

With a roll of his eye, Axel's form began to shift as he approached the side of the ship, into the most detestable thing Smock had ever seen. It wasn't because he hated them, it was just that they all reminded him too much of her, and that was enough to warrant more and more drinking for sure. How else could he forget? With a Sea Elf standing in front of him and memories coursing through his mind, he felt that there was no other option.

But at least within the next few moments, he was gone, into the ocean hopefully to find some good fucking clams. Or to die, which was arguably much better.

 

In the meantime, Ophelia, yet another Sea Elf, was still being a horribly sweet reminder of his wife.

She hummed gently as she came away from the wheel, kneeling at Smock's side and cleaning up the empty bottles so they were at least gathered together. "Smock, I-I really think you should stop drinking now..."

"Ellamiaaa." He grumbled, covering his face with one arm and giving in to his wishful memories of his beloved. "I don't wanna."

"I'm... Ophelia, not Ellamia." With a sigh of what sounded like sorrow, the blue-haired woman tried to pry the bottle from his hands.

"Ellamia, let me drink." Smock whined in a drunken manner, rolling onto his other side again.

"I'm not Ellamia." Ophelia insisted, though at least now she had backed away from his drink. Ain't takin' my booze, bitch.

"Mmgh, whatever, Ellamia. Just... just let me... yeah. Mm... Clams." He splayed out his arms, looking up at the sky and fitting the clouds into clam shapes, because he was hungry and the clouds looked like wonderful food up there. What if I just... fly. Up into the clouds... and eat them. And for a second, he wanted to do it, but he remembered that his wings had no feathers and he'd burn up or something if he went too far, and that hurt. It was a strange hurt - empty, like his clamless belly, but weird. Now he wasn't sure if he even had the energy to lift his arm and drink.

On second thoughts, he always had enough energy to drink.

And with that, he decided 'bottoms up' and chugged the entire bottle before it right next to him, shattering it into tiny pieces of glass. A few of them must have cut his fingers and palm, but he didn't really care, and letting them bleed seemed to be his favourite option in that moment so he just laid his hand back down and continued staring.

 

Ophelia seemed to surprised and worried to say much so she just came over and tried to clean the wounds. He couldn't be bothered to fight back.

Some time passed with them both in silence, until finally a soaking wet Axel climbed up the side of the ship, smoothing out his hair as it fell over his shoulders and for once letting down his cocky grin.

"I swear to God you did that just to piss me the fuck off." He groaned, then he pulled a bag out with him.

"Hahaaa," Smock turned lazily to face the other man, though his laugh certainly wasn't genuine, "maybe I did - I just want my fuckin' clams."

"I figured." He sighed, then once again shifted form - back into that strangely tall, twinkish bastard he loved to hate. Or hated fullstop, really.

"You know what, Axel. You're just... a tall, twinkish bastard. That... can go suck his own dick." The pirate pointed his hand vaguely in Axel's direction, before dropping it and whining once more. "I want my CLAMS."

"Oh, only if you watch." The Changeling found the pure disgust that washed across Smock's face highly amusing, and he pulled the bag over. "Anywho, Ophelia, would you be a dear and cook these?"

After some absolutely horrifying display (to the others, at least. Smock thought it was rather normal, and kind of charming) of clam-slurping, he decided that it was about time he laid back and went to sleep. Ophelia and Axel were still there, but he didn't really give two fucks, because he was tired and nobody was getting in the way of his sleep.

 

Except himself, apparently, because after announcing that he was sleeping and curling up on the floor, he was wide awake. "...Fuck."

Axel let out a laugh that made the pirate want to punch him very hard in the face, and knelt down to his level. "Smock, you should really go to sleep."

"Fuckin' make me." He defiantly murmured, squeezing his eyes shut for he had no doubt that opening them would leave him face-to-face with this creepy fucker.

"Mm, I wonder..." that was a terrible, horrible sound, the sound of Axel thinking and figuring something out. The tone his voice took on was dripping with venom but iced with curiosity and nothing good could possibly come of it. And, when the next word came, Smock felt his life flash before his eyes because this was the start of something awful. "Oh Azrael, go to sleep."

 

And he blacked out.

And that was what lead to this.

'This' being laying in bed in the dress he'd forgotten he was wearing.

'This' being that he now had a Changeling in the room who could control his every move and was grinning because he knew it.

That was alarming. Axel was in the room with him. Just Axel. Being alone with him is a fucking BAD sign, I need to get away from here or some shit, this is recipe for disaster I am going to fucking DIE.

 

"Hello there. You're awake."

There was that DETESTABLE voice all over again, and he wanted to choke the life out of the lungs it came from. "Why am I here? How did I get here?"

"I carried you. After figuring out all I had to do to control you was speak your true name, that is." He chuckled, turning to face Smock properly. His eye, though completely white, seemed to glint with something that wasn't so far from malice but still not quite there. It was a deeply threatening look, though in a way he didn't exactly want to delve deeper into.

"You fucking what?" the pirate yelled, sitting up immediately despite his pounding headache and the nausea that arose from the sudden movement. He gripped the bedsheets, wanting to disappear and never come back.

"No need for shouting, dear. I think you'll find I have the power to change that anyway." Turning back to the desk he was seated at, Axel picked up a pen - Smock's pen, which made him angrier than it should - and started to write something down on the papers in front of him.

That was it. Smock needed a drink. He fished for one of the flasks in the overcoat he'd left on the bed, and popped off the lid.

Before he was able to take a swig, that stupid voice interrupted. "I think not - Azrael, don't drink any more of that."

Immediately he placed the flask down, putting the lid back on. Now he was seething. "Get out of my room, fucking Changeling."

"I don't think I will, angel~" Axel purred, resting his head on a hand and casting a devious look back at the fallen angel.

Smock clenched his fists harder, and took a deep breath. "Now listen here, you fuckin' spoiled little brat-"

 

"What did you just say?"

Now the Changeling had turned to fully face the pirate, even twisting the chair so he could sit comfortably as he glared.

"Was that a command? Want me to repeat myself?" Smock snarled, leaning forwards just a little in some attempt to intimidate the other. If he had a proper heart, he would have felt it quicken, adrenaline coursing through his veins. "I said. You fuckin'. Spoiled. Little. Brat."

He'd done it now. Axel's face changed swift as the weather out at sea, and his eye clouded over. He leaned back in his chair, looking far more relaxed than he was, and tilted his head slightly to the side. "Come here, Azrael."

With no option other than to oblige, he pulled himself up, still in the dress that was slightly too small for him (he cursed Dionysia for being so fucking small) and shakily made his way towards the other. Show no weakness. Don't let him think he's won. Put on a smile. "What do you fuckin' want, Changeling?"

"I want you to take that back." His smirk widened into a grin, his sharp teeth bared.

"Hah! Make me. Even if you did," he spat, "it wouldn't be sincere since you're controlling me."

"Oh I'll make you take it back another way." The taller male hummed, reaching forwards to gently touch the pirate's hips. He was faced immediately with resistance and Smock's hands swiftly grasped those trying to touch him, using his superior strength to hold them back.

 

"Don't you dare." Tempted to will forth his skeletal wings and summon the strength of his patron, he flexed his fingers tight around the wrists under them. "Leave, Axel."

An acerbic laugh broke out from the other's lips and he rest his elbows against the armrests, gyrating his wrists as he pulled them free. "Well, I suppose there's no other way to go about this yet. Why don't you come sit in my lap, Azrael?"

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck-

His thoughts were a mess of profanities and there was nothing else he could even muster to push back against that command. A small part inside of him wondered if he even wanted to, but he swiftly exterminated it, snuffing it out as though it had injured him. Smock's legs moved on their own, approaching the Changeling, though he didn't really need to move much more because he was pulled into position, sitting with his heels hooked around the other's back. Heat flushed his face and he couldn't help but let down his smile, going so red that he wasn't sure he could handle it. His cheeks were burning, not only due to the heat beneath them but also thanks to the feeling of an eye upon his skin, taking in every little detail from his head all the way down and back up again. He gulped and pushed his face into Axel's shoulder. It might not have been the best choice but all he knew was no way could he just keep his face out in the open like this.

"How sweet." Axel chuckled, raising a hand to gently touch the back of Smock's head. His long salt and pepper hair cascaded over his shoulders, flowing loosely around the clawed fingers that touched it. It felt kind of nice, but he didn't want it to, and certainly wouldn't say it out loud. "Mm, perhaps I'll just stay here like this."

"Look." Smock sighed finally, letting out a warm breath against Axel's shoulder, which was met with a gentle shudder as though the feeling was completely new and strange. He buried his head more into the black fabric of Axel's clothing, pushing his nose gently against his neck. "I'm not innocent enough to think that... this... isn't sexual. So... whatever you want to do, just get it over with."

It must have surprised the Changeling because he hesitated, hand stopping where it was. He seemed to be taken aback, and for a second Smock wondered whether Axel had intended for any of this to be sexual at all. Well, it would be weird if not, but that was a strange reaction.

"Or the alternative route," he continued, "is that you get the fuck outta my room, which is much desired."

 

The continued silence from Axel was kind of unnerving now. He was seething, that was for sure, but there was something else about the look on his face and the way he seemed to be thinking very hard about something. It was giving Smock too much time to get tense and to think about what was happening. For one, he didn't actually think Axel wanted anything like this. Sure, he was weird and kept flirting and saying suggestive things but he'd figured it must have been his way of fucking around and being a general menace. Smock pushed away the thoughts, piping up and pulling his face from the warmth of the shoulder.

"Answer me you cunt." He half-shouted out the words, reaching forwards and grasping Axel's collar in his hands. "I would get off, but you commanded me to be here. I don't have much of a choice."

"Hm." Was the only sound that came from the other, and Smock had never wanted to strangle someone more in his life. He pulled Axel closer, getting in his face.

"Oi, spoiled brat." Smock hissed, hoping that it would do the trick and that this uncomfortable silence would be over, but even that didn't seem to be phasing the Changeling. "Geez, you having some sort of flashback or some shit you epileptic fuck?"

A few moments of silence passed until suddenly the world spun around Smock and then he was on the floor. It hurt to be thrown so suddenly down, but he couldn't really complain. It wasn't the worst thing Axel could have done. He looked up after his head cleared, staring at the man towering above him. The two spent a minute just glaring before Axel made his way towards the mirror, commanding for Smock to stay on the floor. He examined himself, then unbuttoned his topcoat, throwing it to the side. He undid his ascot tie, discarding it too, and adjusted the pale red shirt that he was wearing underneath.

"So, I'm guessing you're leaving?" the pirate watched the ripples in the shirt as Axel moved, his voice hopeful. He was certain that this would be the outcome, because surely this man had better things to do and he was adjusting his clothes so maybe he intended to go out. It was a warm day and technically the captain's quarters could also qualify as Axel's hence the clothes being dumped. Something felt off, though, a small inkling that he shouldn't be so hopeful.

No, he shouldn't have been hopeful at all. A bitter chuckle arose from Axel's throat. "I have things I want to do to you, so no. Not yet."

Wait, what the fuck is that-

Oh.

Oh no.

 

Smock could only watch helplessly as the Changeling approached, looking down scornfully at him though his smile still remained. Trying everything possible to at least find out what he was about to be subjected to, he let out a short burst of nervous laughter and he bit his lip gently before he spoke. "Uh, things? Like... more than one?"

"No shit." Axel jeered before crouching down, seemingly judging something before moving to straddle the pirate. The weight on Smock's hips was uncomfortable but strange, and the heat was... having an interesting effect. It only took a moment or two for his hands to be pinned above his head, where his hair was splayed out in all directions. Breathing much faster than he was before, he felt the grasp of a submissive mindset - or what he called the 'servitude attitude' - starting to take hold. He had been created to serve, so it was natural for him, and it felt kind of good to obey but he refused to give in to Axel. He didn't want this bastard to win, even if being pinned made Smock's eyes widen just a little and shimmer with both bewilderment and desire, and even if it made him feel a little weak in his legs and knees, making him almost want to kneel. He knew he wasn't made for sexual purposes, but this was as close as he could get to his life as an Archangel made to serve. It seemed to be a reaction that enticed Axel, because he leaned in just a little closer and closed his fingers a little tighter.

"You know what, I take back what I said about the 'just get it over with' thing." Smock gulped, curling his toes and shifting uncomfortably in the dress, remembering that he wasn't wearing anything underneath. Well this is going to be interesting. And terrible, probably. Mostly terrible.

"Oh? And what does that mean?" Axel cooed, getting far too close to the other's face. Their chests were almost touching now and the pirate swore he could feel the gentle scrape of teeth on his jaw.

"Fuck off." Smock grumbled, turning his head to the side in some feeble attempt to get away. Of course, it only brought the man closer to his ear, an arguably better place for biting since it protruded. And that was exactly what Axel did. The soft burn of teeth breaking the skin on his ear caused him to squirm just a little, trying to pull away to free himself of the pain. Don't enjoy it don't enjoy it don't enjoy it.

"What was that, angel?" Axel's tongue caressed the tiny wounds, picking up the little droplets of black blood that had gathered there.

"Oh, fuck off. And don't call me that." Smock wrestled one hand free, punching the other straight in the face. The look of both surprise and pain was oddly satisfying to Smock, and with this new advantage he pulled himself away. He couldn't really stand thanks to his command, so he crawled under the bed, taking cover beneath it and letting out a small huff of victory.

 

"You." Axel leered, licking his lips and digging his fingernails into the wooden floor. "Azrael, come back here right now and get on your knees."

You fucking asshole I swear to God the second I get the chance-

All the insults in the world couldn't stop him from crawling out from under the bed again and finding his way back in front of Axel, where he knelt, looking up with bitter eyes. A hand reached up to run along Smock's jugular, which immediately caused his heart to race because having his throat slit certainly wouldn't be pleasant, and then along his windpipe just the same.

"Now I must apologise," that tone was corrosive and it burned into Smock like the multiple brands on his body. It felt as though acid was crawling along his golden sand-coloured skin, "but this," his fingernails tore through the dress, "has to go."

The dress fell back, resting on the pirate's heels. It took him mere milliseconds to try and cover himself up, crossing his legs together and pushing his hands down to cover the space between his legs. "Oi you Changeling pervert."

Axel was silent for a few seconds, white eye examining the sight before him. Though he had no pupils, Smock felt the gaze wandering down his chest to his covered wrists to his hips to his legs, and then back up again. "Mm, turn around, Azrael."

With no choice but to obey, he turned, and the same feeling of an eye tracing the markings on his back tingled throughout his entire body. It was only moments before there were fingertips running along each Celestial letter down his spine, then along the skeletal wing brandings on his shoulders. "Yeah, fuckin' enjoying that, asshole?"

"Oh certainly." The response was immediate, dripping with a mix of lust and pure and unadulterated loathing. Hands encroached on skin they had formerly avoided, drifting downwards and coming to rest on Smock's ass. He tried to stay silent, not wanting the Changeling to hear anything come from his mouth, but he couldn't help but let out a small breath of surprise. He arched his back inwards and upwards, trying to get away though to no avail. This bastard is fuckin' relentless, he squeezed his fists tighter, turning his head to try get a better look at Axel and what he was doing.

He wished he hadn't, because the look on Axel's face distracted him enough to miss hands shooting forwards to the cloth on his wrists. Smock couldn't pull away in time and the cloth was undone easily, revealing the Raven Queen's symbol imprinted on both wrists. Once more, Axel hesitated, looking inquisitively at his new discovery as though Smock were some sort of exotic creature, though that comparison wasn't that far from the truth.

"Well whoop de do, you've figured me out. Congrats, good job. Want a fuckin' medal for revealing that or would you prefer a boot up your ass?" he snarled, though at this point there was likely little reason to be acting like this. It wouldn't make a difference what he did or didn't say (with the exception of 'spoiled brat', it seemed) in the end.

"As entertaining as it would be to see you try, I'm not too keen on the latter." Axel continued his little tracing game, following each little line with his fingertips until he'd covered the whole symbol. "It's such a shame that the only markings you have are from them, and such a shame you likely won't be rid of them anytime soon."

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" alarmed, Smock pulled his arms back to cover himself up, trying to stop his mind from racing at the possible meanings of that remark.

"It means," Axel dragged his nails down Smock's spine, eliciting a sharp gasp, "I think my brand would look far better than theirs."

"I- what?" the pirate stammered, trying to completely erase that entire sentence from his brain. I am NOT into branding and I am NOT liking the idea of having someone own me again DEFINITELY NOT. FUCK. "Don't- don't be ridiculous."

"It's really not that ridiculous, dear." He chuckled, tracing lines along Smock's shoulders, no doubt planning out what exactly would go there. "In fact, I think it's a wonderful idea~ And I dedicated a little research to that whole bonding process that your kind go through."

 

Oh shit. "You did WHAT?" Smock snapped, wrenching around as much as he could without turning completely, and he stared resentfully at the other. This is bullshit, the little fucking bastard.

"Hm, that's right. It's really not as difficult as I thought." Axel once again raked his nails across the other's bare skin, drawing blood without any effort.

"You can't possibly be thinking this, it's-" he fumbled for a word, anything to express how absurd and absolutely unnerving the idea of being bonded to and 'owned' by Axel was. "It's permanent, you know. It's not just a one-time fuckin' gig, this is for life. You don't understand the meaning and impact of this shit. You're just a spoiled brat looking for a new toy."

Seeing the way Axel reacted every single time was kind of entertaining but also kind of scary, because every time his smile just got wider. His eye was burning with rage, though, and Smock could almost feel the way the other's blood boiled beneath his skin. It was a sensation so strong that he was certain Axel wouldn't be able to stay still for long, and that assumption was correct. He really was just a spoiled brat; a kid who wanted everything and who got very, very mad when he didn't get his own way. Still, the way that his head was suddenly pushed into the floor was unpleasant, and he silently thanked himself for not speaking his thoughts aloud lest it lead to an even worse punishment of sorts. He tried to get as comfortable as he could with his head being pinned, ignoring - or at least trying to ignore - the ever-tightening grip of Axel's fingers in his hair.

"I know exactly what I am getting into." The Changeling snarled, grabbing hard at the other's shoulder with his free hand.

Smock, unable to stop himself from saying something this time, let out a soft murmur of, "It sure doesn't seem like it."

"I'm not just looking for a toy, I'm looking for someone who will serve me unconditionally, and this, my dear, is the perfect opportunity. It's permanent and I am fine with this, and you better fucking believe I know what I'm doing, even if I'm doing it in my own fun little way. So shut the fuck up and do what you're made for." Axel tightened his grip on Smock's shoulder, then ran down the hand once more to his ass, grabbing very hard.

"Well good luck with step one." Smock retorted, though a tiny part of him figured that it was inevitable. Axel really wasn't one to give up (as annoying as that is) and in some cases that might be seen as something good, but not this time. Now, it was more terrifying than anything. The notion of being owned by Axel was disastrous and a path he wasn't keen on going down.

One hand wrapped around Smock's throat and the other continued to squeeze and scratch and punish, drawing small sounds from Smock every now and then as the initial shock of the sensations hit him.

"Azrael, won't you be a dear and stand up?" Axel pulled away for a moment, getting to his feet and watching as the pirate did the same. It was a short-lasted moment, however, as Smock immediately made a run for the door only to be slammed against it instead.

Breathless, he struggled. "Ugh."

"You should really stop trying to get away from me." Now that free hand was wandering somewhere completely different and Smock had absolutely no idea how to react to it. Was it wrong of him to not say no after all of this fighting? Was it wrong of him to kind of like the way it felt to have fingers travelling along his hips and inner thighs? Was it wrong that he wasn't going to try to stop it?

He had no idea, but at least when all else was lost he had his witty remarks, and an ingenious idea that surely couldn't backfire. He tilted his head back just a little and, averting his gaze (because how was he meant to say this whilst making eye contact?) he let out the absolute best "Oh, daddy~" he could muster.

And it failed.

Completely.

Because Axel's next response was, "Well, if that's what you want to call me, angel~"

And that was not good.

And oh dear.

And now things were worse.

Fine, time to resort to his next phase.

"Actually, I don't want you to be my father. Y'know, since all your kids are away from you." He shrugged nonchalantly, now returning his gaze to the other's.

And it fucking failed again.

Cos his response was, "Mm wrong choice, the only thing that turns me on the most is the idea of murdering those who took them from me."

And what the everliving fuck this man was fucking gone.

"Well can you leave me the fuck alone? I find that really sexy." Smock bit back, pushing his strength against Axel in an unfortunately unsuccessful attempt to escape.

"Come on dear, I think we both know that you want this." Axel smirked dangerously. "Come on, don't you just want to obey? Come do what you do best, captain, what you know you're made for."

There was a moment of silence and Smock's brain decided to completely malfunction, leaving him speechless. Maybe he did want to, but he wasn't going to because fuck Axel and fuck everything about him and fuck his stupid way of talking and trying to convince him that this was great and maybe it was but NO WAY would he admit it.

Really, this whole defiant thing was tiring, but still not tiring enough.

 

"Piss off you wanky-looking bastard, I ain't gonna be owned by some fucker with a scar so deep you can fuck it." He argued. "I'd rather be with someone like Ellamia than you, or at least a God. You're just a pissy spoiled brat who daddy didn't love."

"Oh, now you're just being an asshole." Axel growled, pushing right against Smock, pinning him harder with his full body weight. The cold steel of a blade was pressed up to the back of his neck, pushing until it stung but not enough to draw blood. "You've really pissed me off now. I'm not even going to hide it anymore. I hate you."

"Feeling's mutual. Exactly why you don't want me." Smock would've winked but it wasn't quite the right moment for that, and it wasn't like the other would see it anyway. He was desperate, now.

"Oh no, that's one of the reasons I do. It's rather refreshing." He laughed softly, dragging the blade along Smock's skin, pressing harder and harder until finally he drew blood. The pirate let out a pained groan, trying to grab at the wall. "And I love that you provide a challenge. Odogaron is far too easy to dominate, far too simple to fuck. You, my dear, are quite a change."

 

"Are you-" the pirate blinked, flinching as he felt the dagger pushing harder, "you want to fuck me?"

"No, I just want to touch you up. Are you fucking kidding me? What do you think I'm building up to? I'm not going to just go without satisfying myself. And you, of course." Axel answered with a sneer, leaning in to bite the other's shoulder. What was it that ran through Smock's body? Was it arousal? Fear? Anger? Or a combination of all three? Was he really going to just let this happen? Not without a fight, of course, but that was his style and he didn't know what he wanted at this point.

Well, he knew he had one more option.

It only took a second for the wings to emerge, manifesting and erasing the wing marks on his back. He flexed them outwards, pushing Axel away hard and keeping a distance between them.

"Don't do that, dear. I think we both know who's in control here, isn't that right Azrael?" the Changeling, brushing himself off, fiddled with his cuffs and stared at the wings with something akin to curiosity.

"Yeah, you keep fuckin' thinking that, you soulless prick. Get a fucking hint already." Smock had turned around at this point, facing the other with aggression radiating from his entire body. He was in a battle stance, prepared to get into a fight if need be, and he covered his crotch with the wings when he saw Axel's eye drifting.

"God, you are a fucking prude." Axel laughed, hopping onto the bed and resting his head upon his hand. He examined Smock for a few more moments before patting the bed in front of him. "Come here, Azrael."

"You fuckin'..." Smock grumbled, very bothered by the fact his name was being used so freely, and he decided that he was just going to stand there, next to the bed. Sure, sitting would have been more comfortable, but Axel was sitting and he didn't like it so instead he was going to stand here.

"Azrael, lay on your back on the bed." He commanded, his smirk completely gone at this point. He was just angry, and that was certainly showing.

Smock wished he could stop himself from moving and crawling into place, rolling onto his wounded back and wincing in discomfort and pain as he laid there, on his wings. He wanted to get up and hit Axel again and force him to the ground to see how he liked it, but it didn't seem that he'd be doing that anytime soon. "You sure like that fuckin' name a lot."

Axel couldn't help but let out a dry laugh before moving to once again straddle smock, the dagger still in his hand, tracing lines across the lower membrane of one wing very, very gently. "Oh, I really do. It's rather pretty." The other hand moved to pin both of Smock's, holding him down securely. The Changeling seemed fascinated by the jittery movements of the wing under his blade, watching the twitches carefully as though he were calculating something. Smock didn't like it one bit.

"Yeah, pretty fuckin' annoying coming from your mouth." Smock retorted, not giving in even with a blade to his wing and his hands pinned above his head.

 

"Won't you just shut the fuck up?" Axel's tone had smoothed now, too much to be a natural calmness, and he was tightening his grip on the other's wrists.

"I think we both know you don't want me to, considering that wasn't a command, bitch." Smock snapped back, struggling enough that he made a slight mistake and felt the tip of the blade press into his wing. He clenched his fists and let out a loud whine of pain, trying desperately to get the wing away. Seeing this reaction, however, Axel was not so keen to let that happen. He instead pressed the blade further up into the wing, tilting it so it'd cut just a little deeper. Another whine, louder this time, was released and clearly Axel was quite proud of himself. Smock was holding them as still as possible, keeping them pressed against the bed, not wanting any more pain to come to them. And none did. Instead, Axel had put down the dagger and reached to run his fingertips along the membrane, tracing each little curve and detail that composed them.

Okay, that was it. He was turning very, intensely red, and that felt very good.

Don't make a fuckin' noise, not a single one. It was easier said than done for sure, and one small gasp found its way out of his lips when a certain sensitive spot was caught in just the right way. His eyes were wide open and he froze up, feeling his heart jump when Axel victoriously smiled down at him.

"Well well well. What's this, angel?" the Changeling hummed softly, drumming his fingers on the bony wings and running them up and down each individual bone. Smock was completely silent, unable to even make a witty remark. It just felt good. He hadn't felt this kind of pleasure in a while, and of all people why did it have to be Axel who reminded him of it? This is fine. Everything is fine.

Axel freed Smock's other hand at that point, deciding to fully dedicate his movements to caressing the wings. With his limbs regained, the pirate covered his face, pressing his palms against his lips and trying very hard to stay as quiet as possible, as hard as that was. Every touch seemed to be feeling nicer and nicer, and Axel didn't appear to be stopping at all.

The pirate released a soft sigh, taking a deep breath and summoning up his courage. "Hey um, fuckwit. You're kinda making this uncomfortable and crushing my wings, so how about you uh, let me turn over or something." He tried to sound as demanding as possible but it was hard to when someone was touching his wings. Very quietly, he couldn't help but add, disguised as a cough, a small, "I- uh, please?"

The change in behaviour must have surprised Axel, because he froze. He looked at Smock, perplexed, before lifting himself off and staring at him. "Of course, dear, since you asked so nicely."

Well, doesn't mean I have to be submissive about this. It's an angel thing. This is fine. I'm fuckin' peachy. He turned over, thanking whatever deity that was up there for Axel's mercy, and got much more comfortable than he was before. Axel returned to sitting on top of him, but now with full sight over his wings, which he immediately began to stroke once more. His touch was strangely delicate and deliberate, running up and down and across every single nook. Smock brought his wings in to rest against his back, kind of comfortable now. He wasn't going to complain about this; it was the nicest Axel had been since the start of this whole mess, and honestly? Smock was genuinely enjoying the sensation, though his adrenaline was still pumping and his wings twitched from time to time, still calming from the aggressive situation they'd been summoned from. The Changeling touched each joint individually, rolling the tips of his fingers around them and watching Smock's reactions with fascination. He'd progressed from whining to letting out occasional moans now, still covering his face but clearly becoming more and more submissive.

Axel decided to try his luck with moving one hand now, and hopefully things would go at least semi-decently.

He snaked a hand along the crook of Smock's back, following it downwards and then out, following an imaginary line to the back of his thigh and then the inside. He wasn't sure if Smock could even feel it behind the greater pleasure of his wing being touched, but he still continued, pressing his hand forth until he rolled his palm over the base of Smock's dick. The pirate must have felt that, because he let out a surprised sound and shivered, curling in on himself just a bit. It was a satisfying reaction, one that Axel certainly could enjoy, and so he continued, gently moving his hand up and rolling his thumb over the tip. There were a few moments of gentle touches before the man on top started to jerk the other off, dragging out small moans and gasps of pleasure. Feeling deeply accomplished, Axel hummed in satisfaction. "It wasn't so hard to just do this from the start, now was it?"

Smock grumbled, pressing his red face into a pillow and grasping at the sheets beneath him when the other picked up the pace. "Mmgh."

"What, no witty remark, angel?" Axel sneered, bringing his face closer to the small of Smock's back and pressing his nose to it. "I must say, you sound much better moaning than you do chatting shit."

"Nnmh." Smock whined, pushing himself back gently to try get more friction going on. He didn't want to want this, but there was nothing he could do about the way heat flooded his lower body and face. "Mmg, fuck you."

"I'm sure you'll be doing that soon." Axel hummed, quickening the movement of his hand.

"Wait, then-" Smock forced back a moan, his breath hitching in his throat for a moment, "who's gonna be on top?"

With a venomous laugh, Axel dug one of his nails into the soft skin of the other's shaft, causing him to gasp in pain. "I think that's pretty obvious, unless you need a reminder of who's in control."

He would've whimpered at that but he held it back, instead settling for a more subtle gulp. He did, however, let out a very soft laugh. "I still hate you."

Though it wasn't certain, Smock had a feeling the Changeling rolled his eye at the remark. "Yeah, whatever, angel." He pushed himself close against the pirate's back, listening to his small sounds and moans. The two stayed like that for a few moments before Axel let out a tiny grumble and sat up. The feeling of an eye on his back brought him a great deal of suspicion, so Smock watched the man skeptically, confused about his intentions at this point.

Axel ran his hands over his face for a moment before reaching for his dagger and splitting the skin on Smock's lower back very suddenly. He jolted in pain, knocking the dagger free of its grasp once more, but couldn't help but let out a small gasp of pleasure, which he immediately regretted. Oh shit oh fuck you've given it away you fucking idiot-

"Oh? You're enjoying it?" the noxious chuckle that followed those words made Smock curl in on himself even more. He glared (quite pathetically, mind you) at the other, figuring his gaze would do the speaking for him, but Axel wasn't satisfied. He shot forwards, grabbing Smock's face with the hand that had been caressing the wing and digging in his nails. "Answer me."

The pirate wanted very badly to defy, his usual nature still lingering in traces, but the overwhelming desire to obey was starting to completely take over. He hesitated, torn between the two choices; of course, not doing it would result in punishment, but no way could he say yes to that. He continued to stare, now wide-eyed, at the man, silent.

"God, all that bark but you have no bite. Not yet." Axel snickered, running his teeth along the back of Smock's neck before biting down hard. Blood was easily drawn, trickling down onto the sheets. It drew out yet another sound of pained pleasure, which seemed to deeply satisfy the man.

"That was terrible." Smock let out a soft laugh, accompanied by a small smile. He couldn't help it; even after everything he still found this man childish, and deeply amusing.

"Mm, I'm sure it was." He chuckled in response, moving his hand from Smock's face to his hair, grabbing it. "But you should really answer my question, dear."

He's really not gonna give this shit up is he? For fuck's sake I fuckin- his thoughts cut off as he felt a rough yank on his hair, pulling his head up and pulling a gasp from his lips. Axel's other hand started to pick up speed again, drawing out more and more pleasure with every gyration of his wrist and squeeze of his fingers. Smock knew he couldn't win, and when he was struck with a particularly strong pang of gratification he let out a cry. "Yes! I am, happy?"

Another dry laugh, and Axel forced the pirate's head back down into the pillow. He pushed his hips against Smock's ass, warmth spreading slowly and satisfyingly across the skin. "Very. Now, won't you let me cut you some more?"

 

It was less of a question and more of a demand, because he picked up the dagger all over again and started pushing the blade into Smock's back. He couldn't make out what was happening exactly through all the pain, but it felt like some sort of word was being etched into his skin, followed by a longer marking. He tried to stay still but naturally he squirmed just a little, involuntarily reacting to the pain. Axel made a sound of satisfaction when he was done, then he plunged the dagger straight into Smock's shoulder.

He let out a yell in pure agony, the pulsating pain overwhelming him. He pushed Axel away, sitting up and fighting back his immediate fight-or-flight response. The pain was almost unbearable. How long had it been since he'd been full on fucking stabbed? He sat for a moment, breathing heavily, before turning around quick as death and pinning Axel with his full weight. He knew full well that all it would take for him to get off was a command, but he wasn't sure he even cared.

"What the FUCK was that?!" he shouted straight into the man's face, doing everything he could to try nullify the pain. His wings were stretched out fully, making himself look much bigger and threatening, anger radiating from his entire body. "Did you just fucking stab me?"

"Hm, seems I did." Axel was far too calm, his eye still in that half-lidded state and his smile still the exact same.

"What were you fucking thinking?" Smock demanded, squeezing his fingers tight as he could around the other's wrists. He could feel blood seeping from the wound and dripping down his back and side, falling onto Axel's shirt.

Unimpressed, the Changeling shrugged. "I was punishing you."

"I was playing nice!" Smock insisted, his eyes widening a little. Sure, he'd been trying to fight back earlier, but wasn't winning his submission enough? There was no reason to go ahead and stab him to get the idea through. A simple 'don't do that again, Azrael' would have sufficed but this man was clearly fucking off his rocker.

"You weren't playing nice earlier." He responded, tone caustic but oddly nonchalant.

"Well don't you think stabbing me was a bit fucking much, child?" Smock furrowed his brows, finally getting used to the horrible burn in his shoulder. The white of his eye was starting to drain, becoming a thick, inky black.

"There's no need for name-calling, now is there? If you're good and you take your punishment, maybe there'll be something nice awaiting you." Axel's voice was growing colder, though it seemed to be getting just a bit quieter when he noticed the echo Smock's voice took on.

Instead of responding, he began to laugh. It wasn't the soft laugh like earlier, or a bitter laugh or anything like that, it was purely manic. He could barely control it, and all he could do was lift one hand to hold his own head. "You have no idea of what punishment is."

"Mm, I'm sure that's an argument neither of us would be winning, dear." Axel was clearly trying to hide something behind the ice in his voice, and Smock wanted to drag whatever it was out and show what was really inside of this pretentious spoiled asshole with some sort of superiority complex that he thought put him above everyone else. He imagined all those rotten pieces of his soul, and how satisfying it would be to have it exposed and show how ugly it was. He wanted to take it and put it back inside of Axel so he could feel all the pain of having such a broken soul, and have it eat away at him and rot him to the core until he couldn't take it anymore. It wouldn't be hard at all to do it; all he had to do was get the pieces from the Gods, who he was sure would oblige with a good enough bargain or reason, and bind them right back to their owner. That would be beautiful.

Pure resentment dripped from Smock's entire body, and he glared at Axel for a moment before laying down on his back. "Well go on and fucking punish me, if you think you know how it really feels to be punished."

He immediately crawled on top of the pirate, plunging the blade into the other shoulder and watching with rage as it poured with black blood. Smock was silent, not reacting at all to it this time, his smile still upon his face. His expression was completely cold and unwavering, watching the man. Axel saw this and let out a small growl, wrapping a hand around Smock's throat and tightening it until he could feel the pipes beneath his skin, searching for a pulse that he never found. He hesitated when he figured this out, but didn't stop to enquire just yet, moving his other hand in preparation to stab him again.

Smock was laying on his wings, and seeing as he didn't need them out anymore, he began to summon them back in, but the moment Axel saw this he grabbed the wings and tugged them into place, pinning them against the bed. "Keep these out, got it?"

The pirate laughed, staring at him with a cold, amused gaze. "Or what, Axel?"

The Changeling didn't hesitate at all, pushing the blade against the lower membrane of one of the wings and pressing down enough to cause Smock pain. He got no reaction, however, which made him very, very angry. The hand holding the other wing down was starting to burn and he saw it turning a little black, but he didn't seem to give a damn what was happening to it.

Axel took a deep breath, then he decided it was time for some magic.

He uttered something quietly in a language Smock didn't know and then lifted his free hand. Nothing seemed to be happening with it, but all of a sudden his own hand started to hurt with the same necrotic burn Axel had been inflicted with.

Hold the fuck up.

Why am I feeling his pain?

What the fuck is-

Oh.

The curse.

Oh no.

He looked Axel in the eye and decided that this man was officially the greatest fucking dumbass known to Aldelis, but before he could continue this thought a sudden pain shot across his entire body and he felt his veins tingling, then they began to pulse with pure agony. It felt as though they were being twisted and wrenched in all sorts of directions, and then he saw small splotches of red flaring up on his skin before the pores there began to leak blood.

It wasn't the worst thing he'd been subjected to, but it hurt and it was kind of fucking alarming.

He looked to the Changeling and saw that he too had started to bleed. His eye, his nose, his mouth, even his palms - there were few parts of his body that Smock could see that weren't bleeding.

"What did you fucking do?" he demanded, his voice mingling with a laugh, trying to move only to be met with a searing pain that made him freeze.

"I split our veins." Axel chuckled, then he laughed, then it became hysterical, and then he started coughing and hacking up splatters of blood - Smock figured it was thanks to his jugular - which he too began to feel rising in his throat. "Doesn't it feel wonderful?"

"You couldn't win so you decided to do this to both of us?" the pirate retorted, trying to wipe his eyes free of the liquid that was dripping from them.

"Precisely!" Axel managed to cough out the word before his hands began to shake, and he looked Smock in the eyes. It hurt like Hell. Even with the power of his patron, he was starting to think that this pain might be too much and he feared for how it would feel if he were to return to his normal state. His skin was crawling and his arteries were screaming and, come to think of it, his head was starting to feel a little cloudy.

He closed his eyes, and running himself through everything he knew and had used to calm himself in bad situations, he started to focus on just breathing.

He was starting to feel a little cold but it didn't matter. It could be worse. He'd be fine. If anybody was in danger right then, it would be Axel, surely. He was only a Changeling, but Smock was something else completely. He wasn't quite mortal - he couldn't die. But surely Axel could? If he sat and waited long enough, wouldn't Axel just bleed out and die like this?

It didn't seem like the other was stopping just yet, though, because he tightened his free hand around Smock's throat, making the whole 'breathing' thing a little harder. He thought about it, and then he tilted back his head, trying to make way for more air by stretching it, letting out an angry hiss. He sounded very disappointed as he spoke. "Fine. You win. Happy now?"

As soon as he said it, the pain vanished (all but the aftershocks) and the blood seeped back into his skin. It felt as though his veins had sewn themselves back together, the pierced arteries repairing themselves and starting to feel far better. Thank fuckin' God for that.

"V-very." For the first time in... well, ever since Smock met him, Axel stuttered. He was breathing heavily and looked as though he were ready to pass out and was fighting for the last strings of consciousness.

"I don't want you to pass out on me." He shrugged, taking a deep breath - a pause just long enough to make Axel believe that was the end of the sentence and that he cared that much - before continuing. "I will be literally unable to move because of the command."

The look of disappointment that washed over Axel was pitiful, and he hung his head, clearly not having the energy to lift it any longer.

Smock stared for a moment before lifting a hand and touching the Changeling's head, channelling his healing hands to bring back some life to the idiot. He saw the other's skin get a little less grey and his pulse seemed to quicken a bit, then he lifted himself back up and just sat on the end of the bed, looking at the other. Smock rolled his eyes. "Don't do that again."

Axel gave a soft smile. "Yeah, no I don't think that was a very good idea."

He stood up at the side of the bed, walking to examine himself in the mirror. Smock took the opportunity to pull his wings back in, not wanting to risk them at all, and he watched the Changeling adjust his clothing once more, then crouch down for his overcoat and tie.

Smock squinted, confused. Why was he grabbing those?

"So... ya leavin'?" he enquired, resting his hands on his chest. Axel put on the coat and did up the tie, making himself look a little less fucked up. "Does that mean I can move now?"

The most defeated, exhausted and genuinely deflated voice came from the formerly confident Changeling. It was kind of sad, actually, but that didn't mean that Smock was at all saddened by it. "Yeah, whatever."

Well that was awfully out-of-character. Smock stared harder at Axel. Maybe if he stared hard enough he might at least get a smarter or more charismatic version of that response, something at least a little less... dull. Smock grabbed his own coat, wrapping it around his body for at least some cover.

Axel hummed a small tune to himself, staring at the mirror until he forced his signature grin back onto his face. That half-lidded eye returned, though it didn't shine with anything in particular like before, and he blinked at his own reflection with something akin to disappointment. "Well, Azrael, you may do as you wish."

Smock grabbed the drink from the bedside table, the flask that he'd tried to drink from earlier, and took a swig. It felt fucking good to have alcohol back on his tongue. He let out a sigh, stood up, walked over to Axel, slung his arm over the other's shoulders and handed him the drink before making his way to the bathroom.

Axel just stood there for a minute, looking at the flask, before he went back to the bed and sat with his back on the headboard, downing the rest of the drink and shaking the flask as if expecting there to be something else there.

Smock returned, cleaned up of whatever blood remained on his body (alongside any sweat, of course), and threw himself down on the bed next to the Changeling - keeping his distance, obviously. "See. I'm one fuckin' tough nut to crack. And step one really wasn't much of a success."

"You don't say." Axel huffed, tossing the empty flask back to the pirate. "And it would have gone so much better if I hadn't have taken out my anger. Fucking Hell Smock, I was pissed."

"Yeah, stabbing me in the shoulder is definitely an indication of that." He chuckled, then he rolled his shoulders. "So, what did you carve into my back?"

"Why don't you look for yourself?" the Changeling eyed him bitterly, watching as Smock once again discarded his overcoat and tried to twist around to look at the marks before ultimately giving up and striding over to the mirror.

There was a serpent, bearing great resemblance to Anjanox, whose tail started beneath the word and whose nose ended at the top of Smock's ass. The word made him want to choke the Changeling. After every time he'd told him not to call him that, he went and fucking carved it into his back?

"Angel. Real fuckin' funny." The pirate snapped, turning back to look at the Changeling. He didn't get much of a reaction; Axel was too defeated to show any expression other than emptiness, it appeared.

"I think it looks rather pretty on you, dear." He answered, though there was no flirtatious tone behind it this time. It seemed more indifferent, actually.

"Well I don't." Smock would not take his eyes off the other, glaring at him and whispering under his breath, "At least you put some brand on me. Be happy with that, fuckin' brat."

Axel raised his brow, clearly noticing Smock had spoken but not confronting him on it.

"Well that was a bonding experience." The pirate smirked, enjoying the way Axel got just a bit pissed again.

"Would've been a bondage one too, if I hadn't have fucking stabbed you." The Changeling sighed, averting his gaze.

"Oh." Smock blinked, his face going red (even though he tried his best to STOP IT) and his mind wandering to what could have possibly happened if things went a little smoother.

The lack of much of a reaction surprised Axel, who turned and gave the other a very confused and intrigued look. "What, did you want that? I-I mean, there's always the future a-and all."

Stuttering really sounded strange on the otherwise confident and smooth Changeling, and it showed a lot about how he seemed to be feeling.

Smock gave Axel a very concerned look, and thought for a moment before getting up and walking past the bed. He headed for the closet, grabbing his coat on the way, swung open the door and loaded as much booze as he could into his arms. He held tight to it all as if it were a newborn baby (actually, that was inaccurate 'cos he'd probably drop it anyway - more like booze. Oh wait, it was) and headed back over. He dumped it all on the bed, crossing his arms and nodding at it. "Drink up."

"Wh- Smock, what are you doing?" Axel squinted, picking up a bottle and examining it very suspiciously.

"I think we both need a drink after that disaster." He shrugged, grabbing one of the drinks and completely downing it, not bothering to check what it was until after it had gone down his throat. He did the same to the next, watching as Axel searched for some sort of wine - his taste wasn't exactly a secret - before getting started.

 

Drinking with Axel wasn't even that bad. It was much better than whatever had gone down.

Both of them held their drink well, so for a while they just had sound conversation about the others, and about life, and then they started to get tipsy and then they got drunk and then the two of them were on the verge of passing out on the bed.

"Smock- A-Azrael, Haley, whaTEVER, bud... I think... I... yeah." Axel murmured before closing his eye and taking a deep breath. "I think..."

He didn't finish his sentence, either forgetting what he intended to say or falling asleep. Probably both.

"Yeah. Me too, buddy." Smock belched, then he too went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Smock and Axel had slept all day.

Smock hoped to GOD that Ophelia had been at the wheel, because if not they could have crashed or been attacked or sailed in the completely wrong direction and he absolutely did not trust any of the others to steer the ship if she couldn't.

He sat up, rubbing his head. Everything was kind of cloudy and he didn't really know what happened last night but whatever it was had completely vanished from his memory. He rubbed his head, feeling his hair falling over his shoulders. He was in his overcoat, which was strange considering he always slept naked, and he turned to the side, trying to look for the rest of his clothes. His hand fell on top of Axel's shoulder, and he swiftly moved it, annoyed that he was in his way. Smock continued to look for his clothes, and then he froze.

Wait a second.

I-

Axel is in my bed?

He turned around, staring at the sleeping Changeling. He was fully-clothed, it seemed, which was at least slightly relieving.

Axel is in my bed.

What the fuck.

Smock grabbed a bottle from beside him (he guessed by the obscene amount of bottles that they had drank together and passed out) and threw it directly at Axel's head. It bounced off, immediately causing the man to shoot up and swing his elbow around, hitting Smock in the face.

When he realized what he'd done, Axel stared, his eye wide. "Holy- Smock, I am. So sorry, holy shit."

Smock responded with a groan, rubbing his face, half-tempted to punch the man. "What the fuck happened last night?"

Axel's expression completely changed. He looked down and let out a dry laugh. "I uh... came onto you and you insulted me a whole bunch, then I started to jerk you off and then I stabbed you and you got mad and I almost killed us both with blood magic."

"I-" the pirate blinked, hesitating and deeply alarmed, "You fucking what?"

"I... uh, yeah. That happened." Axel rubbed the back of his neck. "Though I'm sure it would have gone much better if I hadn't stabbed you."

"Don't be so certain of that." Smock remarked, looking down at himself and having an alarming realization that he hadn't slept under any sheets.

He swiftly grabbed the blanket and buried himself beneath it, sighing in relief when he was covered but flinching in pain when his back started to burn.

"Oh. I uh... kind of marked you too." The Changeling gave a half-smile, turning and looking at the look of pure horror that washed across Smock's face.

He jumped up, throwing himself in the direction of the mirror and taking off the coat, starting at the cuts with pure terror. "YOU FUCKING WHAT?"

Axel nodded, watching the pirate fume. "Y-yes dear, I wouldn't worry though - it looks rather nice-"

"NICE MY FUCKIN' ASS, THERE IS A FUCKING-" Smock had to remind himself to breathe, he was that angry, "A FUCKING SNAKE ON MY BACK."

"My symbol, of course." The Changeling purred, crossing his arms and shrugging off his topcoat, finding his way beneath the covers.

"WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" he roared, flailing his arms and clenching his fists in pure rage. "And WHAT FUCKING HAPPENED last night?" when the other opened his mouth, Smock shook his head swiftly, "ACTUALLY I don't think I want to know."

 

But then he remembered.

First he remembered pleasure. A lot of it, actually. Coming from his wings and his groin, which matched up with what Axel had told him. Next, he remembered struggling. There was more than one instance of that for sure, all throughout the experience it seemed. Finally, he remembered pain, in one of his shoulders (he could feel it throbbing) but after that everything went dark. He strained his mind to remember what went on past that point but couldn't seem to summon any recollection of the events. Had Axel messed with his brain and made him forget about it, or had he gotten so angry he couldn't remember? Either way, he wished that the whole realisation had never happened. It was overwhelming, and alarming to think that he'd almost allowed Axel to bed him.

There must have been a certain look on his face because the Changeling smiled and let out a chuckle. "I take it your brain didn't exactly comply."

"You know my name." Smock turned to the other, staring down at him suspiciously.

"Why, of course I do, dear-"

"My real name."

Silence grasped the two and Smock approached Axel, getting as close as he could and leaning over him intimidatingly. The Changeling looked as though he wasn't ready for this at all, snuggling more into the sheets. "What?"

"You have too much power over me." Smock snarled, digging his nails into his own fists. Not only was he angry, but deep down he was a little afraid. The notion of being under Axel's control was terrifying. It'd been a long time since he'd been 'owned', and being unable to have free will really did scare him. It was something he'd come to love and appreciate, and he didn't want to have it ripped so suddenly from him.

"Oh come on, angel. I'm not that cruel." Axel sighed, clutching the blanket.

"My ENTIRE BACK is fucked up, and you tried to BRAND me." Smock argued. The two stared at each other for a moment, and the pirate knew his old crewmate didn't have anything that he could say in response to that.

"Listen, you were enjoying it. I'm certain I'm not just imagining the way you were moaning when I hurt you like that." The other finally spoke, pulling himself from the blanket and sitting up in the bed.

Smock was reddening in the face, and he searched for something to say that might make things better, but he couldn't come up with anything other than "Shut the fuck up, no I wasn't."

Wrong move, apparently, because then Axel's grin returned and he got a little closer to Smock's face. "What, are you afraid to admit how good it felt? If I recall correctly, you were also moaning when I decided to touch you, weren't you?"

Smock wanted very badly to curl up and stop existing right then and there, but he also wanted to punch Axel but he also wanted to just leave and not answer. The last two were definitely not going to work out well, and the first was near enough impossible, so once again he found himself staring and trying not to blush and grasping at words. "How about we forget this entire thing happened, and we can go back to hating each other."

The suggestion really wasn't that bad, if you asked Smock, but Axel seemed to have different thoughts about it. "Come on, don't just ignore what a good time you had," He smiled, and then added very quietly, "until I fucking stabbed you," before continuing, "because I am certain I could repeat it. With a much... better outcome."

"You-" he fumed even more than when he had been in front of the mirror, "You forced me to like it!"

"I didn't force you to moan or gasp at any of the things I did, dear. That was very much of your own free will. In fact, at one point I'm sure you pushed back against me, didn't y-"

"NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE." Smock threw his hands over Axel's mouth, trying to shut him up, but his lips were still moving.

"Mmf, how about when I started touching your wings, you s-"

"NOPE I DID NOT DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT NOPE." He interrupted again, trying to squeeze the Changeling's mouth shut. With a groan, Axel grabbed Smock by the hips and pulled him on top of his lap.

"Don't be such a prude, angel." He sighed, caressing the pirate's hips and sides.

"Don't call me that. Only Ellamia could call me that." Smock shook his head, wishing Axel would just stop using that word.

"It's what you are, dear." Axel mumbled, running his hands along the wing markings on Smock's back. He then ran his fingers through the pirate's hair, caressing his scalp gently, his other hand wandering down to the dip of his back where it stayed. Smock felt warmth spread along his spine and into his cheeks, his face going red once more.

"I'm an Archangel actually, so fuck off-" he hissed, trying to squirm away but the second he tried to move he was met with an,

"Azrael, dear, stay in place." 

He let out an angry growl, "Oh no you don't, you fucker. Not THIS TIME, not NOW not EVER."

And he wrenched away.

And Axel's eye widened.

And he flipped them both over, pinning Smock down to the bed.

Axel leaned down and bit the side of Smock's neck, drawing blood without effort and then moving to the other side, leaving wounds all over. The pirate kicked him in the stomach as hard as he could, and the weaker male toppled over onto his back.

"Can't you take a fucking hint?" Smock yelled, pulling himself back up and yanking his overcoat onto his body, wrapping himself up in it before making his way off the bed to search for his other clothes.

Axel was silent for a moment before laughing and shrugging, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I can, I just felt like biting your neck, dear."

"I'm not interested." The other turned to face Axel, deadpan, and the Changeling just chuckled to himself and adjusted his clothes once more, getting up and walking towards the door.

"It's your loss~" he smirked, then he made his way out of the door and left Smock all alone.

 

"Yeah, that's what I fuckin' thought." He muttered to himself, getting dressed to go upstairs. He figured Ophelia deserved a break, considering she had likely been sailing the whole day. He also figured that Axel might leave him alone if he was up top, since it seemed to be an unspoken rule that they didn't intentionally cross paths at night.

Buttoning up his shirt, Smock tried to ignore the stab wounds that had already started to heal on his shoulders, and the bite marks on his ear and neck. He rebandaged his wrists, not wanting to even risk someone seeing the symbols, and when he was fully dressed he checked himself over just in case anything had been missed. After a deep breath, he put on his smile, reminded himself to act like the drunken pirate they knew him as, and quickly made up a story in his head to explain away anything that could possibly be asked.

 

He found his way upstairs, perhaps being a little too paranoid about Axel reappearing, and he took yet another deep breath as he made his way up the steps to the hull, where Ophelia was standing. The poor girl looked tired out of her mind, her webbed ears drooping and her eyes half-lidded. When she saw Smock, her eyes glinted and she let her limbs loosen, throwing her arms around him. He swore she looked all too much like Ellamia.

"I was worried about you! Where have you been all day? I've been up here steering the ship wondering whether something bad had happened to you! Jüdischer didn't help either, she kept on telling me you were probably dead or lost out at sea!" the Elf sounded as if she were on the verge of crying, and it was very weird to have someone showing so much affection towards him.

Smock had to be completely honest with himself, he felt really bad about it. "Look, I'm gonna- I'm gonna admit, you're right. I did have too much to drink. And I had alcohol poisoning. And I was throwing up all morning."

Ophelia's eyes widened and she put on the most motherly, concerned expression Smock had seen in a very long time. "You should listen when I tell you to stop drinking! You irresponsible pirate, I don't want you to get so sick all the time! What if it ends up killing you?"

"Yeah, yeah-" Smock sighed, then he froze. "...How do you know I'm a pirate?"

She seemed very confused by that question, and hesitated for a moment. "It's in the way you dress, a-and Axel may have told me a thing or two... but you make it kind of obvious. All the drinking and the accent and well... i-it isn't like you hide it very well."

Smock looked at himself. Oh. Yeah, she's probably right. I don't have any other clothes anyway, so I can't do much about it. "Ehh whatever, go to bed."

Ophelia hummed defiantly and looked up at him, plopping her hands on the side of his face and examining him very closely. "Smock-"

"Look, I'm fine." He grabbed her wrists and pushed them away from him, which didn't earn the greatest reaction because she looked a little hurt and kind of ashamed. "Go to bed."

"O-okay... but please take care of those bite marks..." she started to walk away, and Smock froze up all over again.

"I-I-" he stammered. He hadn't thought about this part in his whole story thing. "I fell off the ship and... got bitten by an... uh, eel. Embarrassing, I know."

"If you'd have fallen off the ship, I would've heard or seen it." Ophelia sighed, offering him a small smile. "And eels are found towards the reefs, dear. We're nowhere near their territory."

"WELL THIS ONE WAS-" he started to argue, but she was gone before he could say much more.

Never argue with a fuckin' Sea Elf about the ocean, he reminded himself bitterly.

 

Steering the ship was nice. But only for a while.

The damn Changeling was in his mind again, over and over again. The feeling of those clawed fingers on his skin kept interrupting his thoughts, and so did the feeling of when he blacked out, and when he got stabbed. He couldn't stop it from running through his mind and it was giving him all sorts of strange feelings. He wanted to just clear his mind for a moment and forget that any of it happened but he couldn't.

He was really stuck with Axel, even when they weren't in the same room. Or general vicinity.

In fact, Smock was starting to wonder where Axel was. The bastard hadn't shown up since he left, and there was no way that the Changeling was asleep. Not only was he an insomniac, but he'd woken up less than an hour ago, and it would be extremely absurd for him to go back to sleep.

Smock decided to prop up the steering wheel with an empty bottle that Ophelia must have forgotten to get rid of (or perhaps she'd been drinking, either way it didn't matter) and though it definitely wasn't the safest way to man a ship, he really needed to check that the creep wasn't in the storage room.

He approached the side of the ship and peered over the rails, holding onto his hat and dangling from them. I am seriously going this far in order to avoid this fucker.

Smock was kind of hoping he'd spot the Changeling, because at least then he'd know where he was, but he couldn't see him anywhere. It meant that Smock was fine to get some food, but it meant that the bastard could pop out from anywhere.

Well, time to brave it.

He took a breath, pushed himself away from the ship, and then used the momentum of his swing back to kick one of the cannons further into the storage room, giving him enough space to climb through. He did it in one smooth motion, having refined this method in his many years at sea.

The storage room was, as expected, completely empty. He checked behind all the boxes that could possibly hide someone from view, and checked inside of them too, then let out a heavy sigh of relief and just let himself relax for a moment. He searched for a crate he'd picked up on their last stop at Acon bay. They were selling the most wonderful-looking salted jerky and he couldn't help but get a supply of it, for the crew of course.

Well, mainly himself, but nobody needed to know that.

He got a couple of bags from the crate then latched the top back on, and he turned around and made his way back over to the makeshift window. He climbed through, got a hold of the railing above and swung himself around until he stood on the hull once more.

Smooth, he silently congratulated himself, and opened his victory jerky, returning to the wheel and continuing on his way.

 

It was quiet up here.

Smock had finished eating, and he didn't really know what to do with himself. It was so calm, so serene. The ocean was gentle tonight, and it reminded him of those soft nights he spent dancing with her.

Memories like that made him a little sad, but a little happy. His smile was somber and he leaned against the wheel, starting to hum a song. Ellamia used to sing it, and there was no way Smock would forget such a beautiful sound.

A hum turned into a tap of feet, and eventually Smock couldn't hold himself back. He stepped away from the wheel, and though he was alone up here, all alone with nobody to accompany him, he started to dance. He extended his arms, almost as though she were in them all over again, and swayed softly in time to the humming, closing his eyes.

It wouldn't have been the first time Smock slow danced alone in the dark. It wouldn't be the last, either. He'd always enjoyed the delicate and precise footwork that dancing involved. It reminded him of his training, back when he was an Archangel, though it was far softer down here. It didn't hold such a crucial purpose, it was solely for pleasure, and to share a bond for a moment or two whilst moving in each others grasp.

He was moving outwards now, towards the railing, which he hopped up onto. He was confident enough now to not miss a step, to place each foot carefully in place and not slip, though he had never slipped before. It came like nature to him, and he waltzed towards the very back of the ship, the lantern hanging on the back illuminating his features, a beautiful backdrop to a far more beautiful performance.

Smock continued to hum, remembering each tiny part of the song to the octave, until finally it was over, and he stood in silence on the railing. Though there was no audience, he took a bow, smiling and hopping down from where he stood. Then he started another song, and did it all over again, blissfully unaware of the eye watching him from the ship's bow.

 

Axel was standing, his face free of the bandages he wore most of the time, and his heart was beating with jealousy. He'd seen Smock dance with Ellamia like that, more times than one, and he thought that maybe with her gone he'd be able to finally be free of her, but somehow her presence continued to work itself into his life.

He wanted to kill it. He wanted to grab it and drown it and watch it suffer. He hated it with his whole heart and with everything in his body.

Axel looked away from Smock, then he pushed through the hatred and made his way down into the captain's quarters so he could spend some time working, and at least then if he cried Smock would not see it.

Chapter Text

It had been a good few hours since Axel had retired to the captain's quarters, and as hard as he'd tried to fight back his tears, he couldn't help but let them spill. It hurt. No matter what he did, Smock was always thinking about Ellamia. He knew he couldn't confront Smock about that, and he didn't think he could even if he wanted to, so he kept on trying to pull out that submissive side of the pirate, figuring it was the closest he'd get to being something more than an enemy.

Axel covered his missing eye with a hand, trying to stop it from bleeding all over the desk as he cried, and he clenched his fist. Soft petals crumpled beneath his hand and he dug his fingernails into the base of the flower, which had blossomed in the corner of his eye. He pulled, and it hurt, but he kept on pulling. Agony pulsed through his face, dragging tears from his other eye, and he tried to get it over with.

And that he did, for a blood-covered rose was sitting in his palm.

Desire. Passion.

He held his breath, staring at it, unsure what to think.

I should have been more careful.

They're coming back again.

I should have left them back on that ship.

I should have left them when I...

Ellamia's face flashed in his memory, and he angrily slammed his fist against the desk, letting out a cry of both pain and anguish. He was reliving it all over again. The blossoming of passion, the blooming of jealousy, the hatred, burning like a rose aflame. It tore him up, thorns of envy and shame and desire piercing his skin.

Not only metaphorically, it seemed.

He rolled up his sleeves, turning his wrist to the ceiling, and he took a deep breath, wrenching a light pink rose from the base of his palm.

If anybody sees these...

Axel channelled his necrotic magic into his hands, wilting and killing the rose without effort. He did the same to the one that had come from his missing eye.

I wonder how many more of these there are.

They've been blooming since the poisoning.

Blood dripped from his chin, splattering across one of his papers. He glared at it, then panicked. I need to bandage this up.

I need to stop crying.

I can't do this.

He took a breath, standing and hurrying over to the bedside table. He'd brought spare bandages, right?

It took some rummaging through drawers but he found what he was looking for, and he stood in the mirror, binding them to his face and then his wrist. The pain was burning, as though someone had thrown him into hellfire, and he had to remind himself to breathe properly, calming his heart.

"You're okay." He told himself, wiping away his tears. "You're going to go out there and forget any of this ever happened."

And then that was when Smock burst through the door, and he started crying again.

 

"Get out!" Axel demanded, lifting a hand to try cover his face, not wanting to show how vulnerable he was.

"My back started bleeding - what are you-" the pirate started, raising his voice and staring down the other, trying to figure out what was going on. "...Uh, where's the first aid... stuff? I need spare clothes."

"Third drawer down o-over there." Axel sniffed, trying to regain his usual tone, though it broke as he tried to speak, giving away all too much.

Smock gave him a look, and continued watching him for a moment before heading over to the bedside table. "There's uh, drinks in the closet."

"I figured." The Changeling pointed to an empty whiskey bottle sitting on the desk. "Look, just- Ophelia... don't... don't say anything."

"She's gone to bed, so I can't anyway." Smock seemed to be thinking for a second as he fished out some unused rolls of bandages. Fuck. Smock knows too much, he wasn't supposed to see this. I'm so stupid.

"Just... get out, please. I'll put some clothes outside, just go." He pleaded, a very rare sight.

"I just need a shirt." The other blinked, backing away once he'd gathered enough, and he headed over to the closet, trying not to knock over anything as he pulled out a spare shirt. Axel had turned around at this point, so he didn't really notice that it was one of his, and he was staring out of the window at the dark ocean outside.

Smock didn't know what to make of this whole thing, but he continued acting normal. But there was one thing he could do, at least. "Listen. You seem to like touching me a whole fuckin' lot so why don't you come fix up the damage you've caused?"

Not the nicest way of saying it, Axel thought, but I guess I'll take it.

Fiddling with his sleeve, the Changeling turned around, wiping his eye again. "Alright. I'm probably more used to bandaging things up than you, anyway."

He watched Smock bite back an insult, and followed the shorter man out of the room and into the bathroom suite, where they both sat, the pirate's back to Axel.

 

Smock undressed his top half, examining the bloodstains on the back of his shirt for a moment and grumbling something under his breath. Axel was hesitant, once again an extremely rare sight, and he reached out with a strange delicacy to run a thumb over the edges of the wound.

Bandage the worst before the others, he reminded himself, trying to distract from his angry and sad and horrible thoughts, but the markings just made him think about it more. Not only were the wounds a reminder of what he'd tried to do, but the brands Smock already bore were reminding him of the beings that had - or had at some point - much more ownership over Smock than he did now. Axel didn't know if it was necessarily even the idea of ownership that he wanted, but it felt wrong to not be a part of these brands.

Not letting on that he was thinking too much about it all, he started to wrap the wounds, trying not to touch Smock's chest in case the man yanked away or tried to hit him or something. Axel watched as the serpent disappeared, and the word too. He saw that Smock was tracing the Raven Queen's symbols, staring at them intently with a strange and unfamiliar expression. The Changeling tried to pick it apart but he didn't recognise that kind of look, and he couldn't help but quietly ask a question.

"Uh, what're you-" he started, trying to find the right phrasing, "you have a-a strange look. Expression, I mean. Why are you looking at them like that?"

Smock's voice changed a little. "Just remembering something."

Axel looked away. I've been doing a lot of that too.

Soon, the wounds were fully wrapped, and after tying and binding the bandages (magic was always useful when it came to wounds, he'd come to learn) he couldn't help but run a hand down the other's spine. He couldn't feel much under the bandages, but he didn't know what else to do with his hands.

Suddenly, he remembered the feeling of his hands on Smock's throat, searching for that familiar beat.

"Smock?" Axel hesitated for a moment, his heart beating out of his chest. Stop being so nervous. Nerves won't do shit for you.

"Hm?" the pirate turned his head a little to look at him before returning the gaze to the symbols. It made Axel's heart beat even harder.

"I was just wondering," he murmured, "why you don't have a pulse."

Smock took a breath. Axel wanted to read his mind in that moment, wanting to know what was going on, and what he was thinking and feeling and whether he thought about Axel in any positive light at all, but he couldn't, and he wouldn't, and now he just had to hope this man wouldn't lie to him. "Well." Smock began, "I... don't really need one. I don't even have to breathe but I fake it anyway. Helps keep up the whole 'human' thing, ya know?"

"But why?" Axel reached very carefully around, pressing a thumb to Smock's wrist and waiting, but nothing had changed, and there was still no pulse beating through his body.

"I wasn't really created with them." Smock shrugged, as if the idea of not having any sort of heartbeat or need for oxygen was completely normal.

I guess that's the only answer I'm getting. The Changeling left it at that, deciding not to push it. Getting answers at all was extremely lucky. I just want to... keep touching him.

He brought his hand up from Smock's wrist, resting it on his shoulder and then weaving it through the other's hair, which was tied into a loose side ponytail.

And Smock... allowed it?

There was still a suspicious look on his face, but he wasn't pushing away or anything.

Axel thought, and then he brought his hand away. "Look, don't be alarmed - just trust me for a moment, okay?"

Probably not a good choice of words, but the only ones he could offer without sounding any worse.

 

Smock stared very hard, kind of amused but extremely suspicious, and he turned his head back around. "Yeah, whatever."

Good enough. Axel paused, and then he reached his hands down to the sickles at his sides, where they usually were. He didn't want to do this, but he felt it was the only thing left at this point, and possibly the only way to make things a bit better.

He stared at them for a moment, gulping. They were enchanted, attuned, bound to him and him only. All of his weapons were. The enchantment made them known as 'vicious' weapons to others, and he hated the notion of that, because really they were just a little different to others of their kind. He hated the thought of things being 'vicious'. He hated the way he heard his father spitting the word, and he hated the way it was burned into his mind over and over and over again.

On second thoughts, maybe this was more for the best than he expected. Maybe it should stay this way.

Smock turned around, raising his brows. "You gonna fuckin' carve me up again?"

Axel seemed rather alarmed by the notion, recoiling and choking on his words. "I- wh... n-no, Smock. Wh-"

He was interrupted by the pirate's soft laugh, and he felt a little better after hearing it. It made him forget for a moment that he was always the vicious one, always the one they cast out and labelled.

Axel reached forwards and placed the weapons in Smock's lap.

He repeated the action with the scythe on his back, laying it across the pirate's legs.

"I don't want to hurt you." Axel insisted, stripping himself of all his daggers, placing them where Smock could see them, and then he did the same for his hidden blades, and any other dangerous items on his person.

Smock seemed a little confused, and Axel couldn't really blame him. The pirate looked at him, perplexed. "You're leaving yourself completely open to attacks. I could turn around and kill you right now."

"First of all, that would be desirable," he would've winked, but with one eye covered - and missing - it wasn't a possibility, "and second of all, I'm trying to show you that I trust you. I have nothing on me right now but my clothes and my hope, or whatever's left of it. I'm bare for you, Smock. So do what you will, just please stop thinking I'm this-" he fumbled with his hands, trying to represent or accentuate his words with gestures, "this monster. Stop thinking I'm what they all told me. It hurts."

No, stop. Stop telling him. Stop before you say too much. It's not going to change anything anyway.

Smock turned around, completely turned around, bringing the weapons on his lap with him. He looked extremely concerned, and he looked straight into Axel's eye. "I don't trust you, but I don't think of you as a monster. No, that's what I am. Well, I'm not really a monster, but you... get the gist."

Axel paused, looking more confused then the other. "You don't? Even after everything?"

If you I him, he would. If I told him the things I did. If I told him the way I feel, and have felt, he'd never think of me the same.

"No." Smock shrugged. "Nope, I don't."

Is he being sarcastic or something? Am I missing something?

"Who am I to fuckin' judge?" the pirate chuckled, "I've done some shit, even before falling. I'm not exactly your ideal angel. Or, Archangel, I guess. Whatever. Angels ain't what you think they are."

"Some of them are." Axel persisted, and he forced himself not to finish that sentence.

"Show me one that is, then. Show me someone who's perfect, who hasn't been kicked out because they refused to kill." Smock argued. "Believe me, you can't."

"That's not my idea of an angel." The Changeling sighed, lifting a hand and then pulling it back quickly. He messed with his cuffs, feeling them slipping just a little.

"What is it then? I can bet it ain't what we really are." He laughed, sitting back and watching Axel expectantly.

"I can't really..." he hesitated, searching for words that wouldn't give it away, "I can't really explain, Smock. I'm sorry."

I need to stop acting like this. I'm going to end up giving something away. Smock is going to hate me forever. I should just go before I say too much.

He knows too much already.

Maybe I should just let it all out.

Maybe I should tell him everything.

He deserves to know, doesn't he?

I should go ahead and tell him before I-

"Hey." Smock cut through his thoughts, stopping them momentarily and continuing to stare with concern. "I'm losing you, Sanguis."

Okay, never mind, he preferred his thoughts over that.

Because they were flooding him again.

Axel put his head in his hands, groaning and trying not to cry again. "Smock, I'm sorry. This is- I shouldn't be... It's wrong of me. My family taught me I shouldn't."

Now he was speaking nonsense, and he was fine with that.

Smock raised his brows again, taking on his usual expression. "Mine used to fuckin' beat me up. Told me to only obey. Look at me now."

"You are not helping." Axel snapped, then he caught himself and hesitated. "Oh, I- fuck, sorry."

"No, I'm really not." Smock started to get up, remembering that he had something to tend to. The weapons clattered to the floor. "I better get back up there before I fuckin' sink this ship."

Axel made a small, defeated noise, and then he grabbed for of Smock's heel. The pirate turned around and took a deep breath. Axel interrupted before he could say anything. "Can't we just- wake up someone else? Please? Ophelia will be fine- o-or Antichrist maybe, he read about sailing, didn't he?"

"That's not fair on Ophelia." Smock shook his head. "And I don't trust the others."

"Can I come with you, then?" he asked, sounding a little desperate to not be left alone.

Smock made a face, one eye almost closed and his brows raised. He tilted his head a little, then he blinked and let out a quiet sigh. "...Fine."

 

Axel got up, leaving his weapons on the floor, and followed Smock up to the quarter deck, buttoning up the new shirt as he walked. When they got there, and Smock was properly covered, he watched the pirate take the wheel, then sat down beside it, back against the railing. He stared up at Smock for a moment, then looked down at his knees and drew them up to his chest, shrugging his topcoat off and sitting just in his shirt. Naturally, Axel started fiddling with the cuffs, not wanting them to slide down and reveal whatever was left of a flower and a bunch of thorns protruding from his skin.

They were silent for a while, and then the Changeling started crying. Again.

"Geez, you keep fuckin' spilling. Something wrong with your... uh... eye?"

Smock's question made him freeze up, and he subconsciously lifted a hand to check the bandages on the other side of his face. They felt a little damp, so he assumed blood had already soaked into them. He wasn't surprised, really.

"N-no, I'm just..." he paused. In love with you? Sad? Distraught? About to throw myself into the ocean? About to do worse? Thinking about just getting up and kissing you?

"Well it's a nice night." Smock interrupted before he could pick one of those endings, and Axel was kind of grateful for it.

"Yeah." He stared up at the sky, tracing the invisible lines of constellations with his eye, though things were a bit blurry thanks to his tears. "It's been calm, recently. Gods, the stars are almost as beautiful as-"

He cut himself off. No fucking way am I saying that.

Smock raised an eyebrow, but very quickly finished the sentence himself. "As clams."

"I-I..." Axel couldn't quite think of any response to that, and he started to laugh, just a little. "Yeah, totally what I meant to say."

"Obviously." Smock gave him a side-glance that he couldn't quite figure out, then turned his eyes back to the water ahead.

I wish he'd stop looking at me. It makes my heart ache. I hate it.

The pirate suddenly pulled away from the wheel. "I need a drink."

And then he threw himself off the side of the ship.

And Axel sat there, wide-eyed, wondering what the fuck just happened. He stared at the edge of the ship, then returned his gaze to the floor beneath him, and then he turned just a little.

His heart leaped out of his chest when he saw Smock on the other side of the ship, his wings drawn as he stared down at Axel with a grin.

"What the EVERLIVING FUCK?" the Changeling yelled, backing up against the other side of the ship, alarmed and confused by whatever this pirate was trying to do.

Smock laughed, then he kept laughing, and then he wouldn't stop. He lost his footing and fell backwards, laughing even more, and then he felt the crack of his wings beneath him (sounded painful, though they definitely weren't broken from such a tiny fall) and he let out some sort of 'oof' noise. Now it was Axel's turn to laugh, and between his gentle sobs he hiccuped and had to catch his breath. He was amused, but more than anything he just felt happy that they could actually laugh together. Or, kind of, anyway, because Smock wasn't laughing as much now.

"Ooucch." Smock groaned, holding onto his bottle (where did that come from?) and taking a long swig.

"Smock-" Axel chuckled, wiping his eyes and staring at the man with a smile. Not a smirk, not anything like that, just a genuine smile. "Get up, you fool."

The pirate stood, not thinking twice about it, and then the two exchanged a kind of confused glance. I didn't say- I don't... that's weird. He didn't... hesitate?

"Errr..." Smock looked at him for a second, then raised the bottle to his lips and drank, breaking eye contact.

Wait, I think I get it now. I've been doing this wrong the whole time.

Axel looked at his hands, then he looked away, trying to hide the fact he'd just had a revelation, and trying to act as if this didn't mean anything to him at all. He knew that Smock would have probably done this regardless of who it was saying it, but it felt nice anyway.

He didn't say anything, looking away from the pirate and trying to ignore the energy that was being radiated from him. It was an entertaining energy but it was kind of overwhelming to feel the whole shit shit shit shit shit shit shit vibe.

"Smock, I was going to pretend I didn't just figure this all out but can you please stop panicking? I'm not going to do anything to you. I thought the whole weapon thing was a good demonstration of that but apparently not." Axel shrugged.

"I'm not thinking of the violence." Smock clarified, taking a step back, and then remembering he had a ship to steer.

"Well don't think of that, either!" Axel hissed. "I'm not gonna do anything full stop."

Smock froze up, his body tensing. He stayed in place, squinting his eyes at the other suspiciously.

The Changeling immediately realised what just happened and he covered his own face with his hands. "No! I didn't- I didn't mean to do that, that wasn't on purpose I promise."

Axel dug his teeth into the skin on the inside of his lip, drawing blood. It hurt but it distracted him from the thoughts that washed in.

"Yeah, I know." Smock shook his head, rubbing his face before returning to the wheel. "Just be careful with your wording."

Pulling his legs in as close to his chest as he could manage, Axel nodded, digging his nails into his knees. God dammit can I just STOP thinking about that for ONE SECOND.

They once again fell into a silence, somewhere between comfortable and uncomfortable that kind of fluctuated between both but never came to rest on one or the other.

 

Axel was tempted to just get up and go ahead and do what he wanted to, but he had a feeling it wouldn't go well at all, so instead he decided to do something that went okay last time he did it.

Smock still hadn't put his wings away, and they were twitching every now and then, so he stood behind the pirate and ran his hands along the wings gently.

He was met with a sharp inhale, a combination of surprise and the sensation of a tender spot being touched, and he tried to be as gentle as possible, running his fingertips from the base each bone's tip. The shudder of subtle pleasure that coursed through Smock urged the Changeling onwards, caressing the bones even if it was starting to make his hands turn a little black and even if it was starting to hurt just a bit.

To Axel, all that mattered was that it felt nice for Smock. That was enough.

 

He continued like that for a while, enjoying the small sounds and gentle whines that would occasionally slip from Smock's lips. He liked the way the wings gradually started to droop, clearly relaxing from their formerly alert position. At this point, Smock was slightly bent over the steering wheel, settling his body against it for support and grabbing the handles. Axel didn't want that to stop. He didn't remember it feeling this good to see Smock satisfied, not even when he was on top of him, watching him moan at the sensation of his wings being touched, and-

Axel killed that train of thought before it continued, but he couldn't help but wonder whether he'd pushed Smock into submission just by touching his wings.

"Uh, Smock, dear?" he figured this might be a good way to figure it out, so continuing to touch the wings, he got a little closer to Smock's ear and spoke as soft as he could manage. "Does that feel nice?"

He was met with a gentle whimper and a nod, and Axel felt his heart jump a little. The pain of flowers trying to bloom on his skin was threatening to distract him, to stop him even, so he took a breath and pressed closer, digging his face into the pirate's shoulder and just breathing as he moved his hands.

He continued for a few moments, then he decided to try his luck with moving on a little bit, wanting to bring the pirate as much pleasure as possible.

Axel stopped for a second, admiring the wings, before snaking a hand around and pushing it under Smock's shirt, caressing his sides and stomach gently.

No resistance.

He's happy.

I'm finally doing this right.

I just needed to be gentle.

He rest the hand on Smock's hip, then pushed his fingers just gently into the rim of the man's trousers, testing for any sort of bad reaction. Axel focused on the way Smock was breathing, and the way he was moving, and everything, alert in case he gave even the slightest hint he wasn't enjoying it, but everything in that moment sang for him to continue, so he did.

This is where I went wrong last time.

I don't want to hurt him.

Just make him happy.

Make him moan.

Axel wrapped his hand around Smock's dick, starting to move his hand slowly, making sure not to scrape the skin with his nails. He knew that Smock moaned last time he hurt him (the lesser end of the hurt, considering the greater side was stabbing) but he didn't want to, not yet anyway. Smock was whining and his breathing was getting heavier, and Axel took that as an indication to keep going. He moved his hand a little faster, moving the other from Smock's wing to his shirt, starting to unbutton it slowly and carefully.

"Help me take this off, dear." Axel cooed, figuring it'd be too much hassle to lift each individual arm and pull it from its sleeve. He pulled his chest back a little, giving Smock room to move, and it was a bit of a disaster because within seconds the pirate had gotten tangled in the shirt, unable to pull it over his wings.

Axel paused, then he started to laugh, and he carefully pierced the fabric with a nail, pulling it away from one wing and then repeating the process with the other until he was free. Smock was a bit red after that whole fiasco, and had turned to glare at his wings with the most condemning expression Axel had seen in a long time.

"Don't worry about those, let's get back to what we were doing." The Changeling purred, pushing himself against Smock and bending him back over the wheel. His hand slithered back down to its position, the other working its way over Smock's chest, once again seeking those silky moans that were coming from the pirate.

His pirate.

Axel felt his demeanour gradually starting to change. Not only was he pleased to see the man feeling good, he was pleased with himself for finally figuring out how he was going to proceed and claim what was rightfully his.

He couldn't help it. Axel brought up the hand touching Smock's chest, grabbing the side of his face with it and tilting it to the side so he could see Smock's sweet expressions of pleasure. The man's eyes were closed and he was gasping and moaning, letting out the most satisfying sounds Axel thought he'd ever heard.

And they were all his.

He pushed his hips against Smock's ass, gently grinding against him and quickening the pace of his hand until finally he was sick of the lack of skin-to-skin contact and he turned the man around.

Smock gave him a wide-eyed look and instantly a wave of heat travelled throughout the Changeling's entire body. "Sweetheart, will you help me undress?"

The pirate nodded and his hands shot forwards, grasping clumsily at the knot of Axel's tie. He undid it with a little struggle, then began work on the shirt.

He couldn't ignore the pang of anxiety that ran through his body at the realisation that the flowers and thorns would be on show, and all the other marks and afflictions littering his body, but he figured Smock was too submissive right now to question it.

The shirt was quickly discarded, leaving Axel's upper body exposed. The huge scar running over his skin seemed darker in the light, and every flower and thorn on his figure glittered softly in the moonlight. They were an assortment of colours and species, but Smock didn't seem to be paying them much mind. Various raised scars seemed to earn a quick glance from him, but his eyes returned to Axel's as he continued to fulfil the command, reaching for the Changeling's trousers.

Smock pulled them down, followed by the Changeling's underwear (which he was very proud of, considering he stitched the serpent design in himself) and then the bandages on his wrist. The bleeding had stopped, and Axel was a little tense, but he didn't stop the man, and didn't interfere when the bandages on his face were pulled loose too. Smock stared, a little wide-eyed, at the empty wound, where it appeared another flower had bloomed. More than one, actually.

Axel sighed, running the back of his hand over Smock's cheek before quickly removing his hat and letting down his hair. The pirate went red, then he looked away, trying not to make eye contact. Axel smiled gently at him, petting his head and then bringing his face closer to Smock's.

He thought for a second, refining his phrasing in his head until he just settled on a word. "Knees."

The way Smock actually thought about it, not having to just do it because he was commanded to, made Axel feel especially good when he then actually did it. Not without getting extremely flustered, of course, but of his own free will he went ahead and did it.

This is how it should be. My willing angel.

Now he was there, Axel didn't know exactly how he wanted to go about this. He could just grab Smock's hair and force his head forwards, but that kind of went against everything he was working at. He could wait, but he didn't think Smock would go ahead and do it without a prompt. He didn't want to command him, but his eloquent vocabulary didn't really include the word 'suck' on its own, or any variant.

He ran a thumb across Smock's lower lip. "Perhaps you could put those pretty lips of yours to good use." He hummed, gently pushing his hips closer to Smock. The pirate stared for a moment, then looked up at Axel's face, and then looked back down at Axel's dick.

"...Oh." Smock paused, and then he nervously leaned inwards, experimentally running his tongue along the tip. Axel reminded himself that Smock probably hadn't done this much before, if he'd done it at all, so he made sure to be patient, keeping a hand in his hair and caressing it for reassurance.

 

Smock was very hesitant to begin with, and to be fair he retained some of that as he continued, but he picked up a little confidence when he finally wrapped his lips around just the tip. Seeing that it wasn't actually that difficult, he slowly began to suck, eliciting just a quiet grumble from the man. With no clue of what he was doing, Smock very gradually started to move down, until finally he decided to just take the whole thing in his mouth.

Axel let out a half-startled, half-pleased gasp, leaning over to steady himself on the wheel of the ship. That was... quick, for a beginner at least.

Smock, at this point, didn't know what the fuck to do, though. He had stopped, unsure where to go from there on out. Adorable.

The Changeling gripped Smock's hair gently, bringing out a surprised whine (which he felt every single vibration of on his skin), and gently pulled his head back before pushing it forwards again. "It's as easy as that, dear."

Though he figured Smock would probably have worked it out, he continued to control the movements for just a few moments before loosening his grip, resting both hands on the wheel and pressing his face against the wood. Something about the innocence of this man was strangely attractive to Axel, and his thoughts were clouded with lust and desire.

A minute passed, and Axel decided this slow pace wasn't quite doing it, so he looked down at Smock and with the sweetest voice he could muster, he let out a command, even though he was trying not to. "Move faster."

The pirate didn't even hesitate, which made him feel much better about it, and Axel groaned in satisfaction, closing his eye and focusing solely on the wonderful sensation and the heat of Smock's mouth around his cock. He didn't want to stop Smock or move him, but the urge to just fuck him already was getting overwhelming.

He let the pirate keep on going for a few more minutes, then he pulled him to his feet and pinned him with his back against the wheel. Smock's wings draped over it, hanging loosely over the edges. Axel touched them, then ran his hands down to pull away Smock's bottoms. He hooked his arms under Smock's legs, pulling them up so that the wheel was his only support.

Leaning in close, Axel looked Smock in the eye, checking to make sure there was no hint of regret or aversity there, and when he saw there was none he gently eased his dick into Smock's ass.

The small whimper that came from the pirate was full of approval and he wrapped his arms around Axel's shoulders, closing his eyes and going extremely red, moreso than he already was. The Changeling kept pushing in until his hips were flush against Smock's skin.

He waited a few moments for the other to adjust, but the pirate let out a soft murmur. "There's no pain."

Welp, that was enough incentive for Axel to start moving.

He started just rolling his hips, rough and certainly not slow but still only a beginning pace. The feeling inside Smock was strange and unfamiliar, and he'd best describe it as how it felt to be inside of a woman but not quite. It didn't stop him, and he decided to note it for later, and actually it felt rather good. Axel watched Smock's expression twist into that of pure pleasure and he smiled, satisfied with himself, allowing heavy breaths to slip from his mouth and mingle with Smock's moans and gasps.

When he saw he was getting good reactions, Axel stopped rolling his hips and instead started thrusting. He smirked, enjoying the way Smock bounced and rocked with every movement, and he started to suck and bite all over the man's body, leaving marks and drawing blood, earning more moans as Smock's pleasure continued to skyrocket.

That was when Axel decided it was time.

In a tongue he knew Smock wouldn't understand, he whispered a command and in his hand a sigil appeared. It was silver, a large ring with engravings of the eleven elder dragon Gods' symbols, and Axel clutched it tight, knowing that he couldn't drop it or make any small mistake.

Quietly, so Smock (hopefully) wouldn't hear behind the sounds of pleasure they were both making, he murmured the names of the seven Gods he had given the pieces of his soul to.

His hand beginning to shake, he drew his blood from the pores in his palm, and let it sink into the symbols, waiting until they were there before returning to the common tongue.

"Gods forgive me, but I need my soul back."

Smock paused for a second, but before he could make any sort of comment, Axel angled his hips just right to hit a sensitive spot, over and over and over again, effectively silencing him. He felt his scarred body fill with a familiar coldness, a heavy and terrible feeling, but a strangely comforting and satisfying one too. He ignored how much pain he knew he just subjected the Gods too, and he ignored the fact that ichor was likely draining from their ethereal bodies, and he ignored the fact that a disruption like this to them might awaken Demiurge themselves, and he ignored it because for him it stung, but not too much, and he started to recite the spell he'd used to tear away his soul to begin with.

Smock immediately realised what was happening at the moment, because he could probably feel it in his body even underneath all the pleasure, but he was so far into his submission that he didn't stop it.

Perfect. Axel dug his nails into Smock's side, drawing just enough blood for the brand, and then he drew some of his own by yanking out a thorn from his wrist. He's perfect.

The blood combined, and formed the most beautiful serpent Axel thought he had seen in his entire life, appropriate for such a gorgeous man. He quickly made an edit or two, using the remaining power he had over the brand to perfect it.

Axel held it there for a moment or two, watching tension build in Smock's body, a familiar kind of clenching of muscles. The pirate's eyes had widened, and he looked straight at the Changeling's face. Oh sweetheart, you better believe I'm going to go ahead with this. But I'm gonna make you cum first.

He rolled his hips with every thrust, making sure to get the angle that made Smock squirm, until finally he felt the grip of the pirate's orgasm around his dick and he too couldn't stop the climax. The pure and undilated pleasure was almost too much, and he knew that it'd be the same for Smock, but he kept those legs wide, his body in the way so they couldn't close, and in the ongoing bliss of it all he finally brought his hands down. They started in the middle of Smock's chest, then ran up to the tops of his shoulders and all the way down to the topside of his wrists, and to finalise it all he moaned out Smock's true name.

"Azrael~"

 

The two finally stopped moving after a few moments, Axel panting heavily and Smock whimpering gently in the afterglow of the orgasm until he tilted his head back. His eyes drained of their colour, going a pure white and glowing, and the other marks - along with the new one - started to radiate light too. Axel wasn't alarmed, and he simply smiled, calming his breathing and pulling out. He watched as Smock fell silent, and then lost grasp of consciousness, falling limp in the Changeling's arms.

He looked at Smock's figure, humming in satisfaction at the new brand, and - though it wasn't his immediate choice - licking away the cum from the sleeping man's stomach. Axel chuckled softly, rolling his eye at how purely adorable Smock had been, and he gently set him down against the wheel.

 

Axel got himself dressed again, picked up Smock's clothes and his tie, and then wrapped the pirate up in both of the discarded overcoats and carried him down to the captain's quarters, where he set him down and curled up at his side.

Chapter Text

Smock woke up the next morning.

First of all, he felt funny.

Second of all, his shoulders and his chest hurt. And his ass.

Third of all, Axel was laying in bed, curled up against him.

 

Smock remembered exactly what happened, and he was not happy about it.

He put on some clothes, then he opened the window and threw himself out of it, landing on the water and just sitting down.

"What the fuck did he do?" he murmured to himself, looking at his hands, and then under his shirt at the new markings on his body. The bodies of three serpents coiled around the base of his throat, their slender figures extending out across both of his arms, ending in their open jaws on the topsides of his wrists, just out of view thanks to his sleeves. The serpent on his chest resembled Anjanox, its eyes flaring with magic, that - when he stared for too long - looked as though they were burning like they did in reality.

You know what, I deserve this. Serves me fuckin' right for feeling bad for that fucker.

He didn't know what to do with himself. He buttoned up his shirt, trying to forget everything that happened before the branding and trying to forget how nice it had been. He definitely hadn't been moaning or anything, why would he ever do that? He absolutely refused to think that Axel had made him feel anything even remotely similar to pleasure.

 

In the middle of his crisis, he heard the sweet, soft voice of Ophelia calling from the ship above. "Uhm, Smock, can you please get back on the ship?"

He turned to face her, reddening a little. Had she seen the markings and decided to stay quiet until that point? How much did she know? Had Axel said anything to her? He didn't like this, not one bit. But still, he got up and put on his usual smile. "Yeah, whatever."

Smock took a breath, and then very smoothly - and rather gracefully - swung and climbed his way up to the top of the ship, where he stood and brushed himself off. Ophelia opened her mouth, closed it again, and then looked over the side of the ship. "...What?"

"What do you mean, 'what'?" Smock shrugged, approaching the wheel and looking over at his crew, if he could even call them that. Billy - Wiccan, Antichrist, whatever - was in the crow's nest, as per usual. Mariquita and Dionysia were talking near the cannons whilst Jüdischer spoke to Axel near the pulleys for the sails. Hikari was loading some cargo onto the deck - something important, he assumed - and everything seemed to be going okay. Except for the fact Axel was there. That was very concerning.

For starters, the Changeling was sensitive to light, so coming out in the sun would definitely result in a long and painful migraine for him. It made absolutely no sense for him to be out there.

Ophelia noticed that Smock's gaze had focused on the man, and she got a little closer. "If it's any comfort, he only just came up top... I don't think he was looking for you, he went straight to Jüdischer."

Shamelessly, Smock took the wheel and made a request he would never be caught saying in front of a group. "Can you just stay here with me. The whole time?" he paused, and then he gave her a soft look, "Please?"

"Of course I can." She smiled, standing at his side and leaning on the railing. He saw the way she was looking at Jüdischer, the pure love that glimmered in her gaze, and then something dawned upon him.

Wasn't Axel giving him that look a lot too?

 

Oh.

Oh no.

"Oh my GOD." Smock couldn't stop himself from yelling in a mix of surprise, fear and a little bit of embarrassment. Ophelia jumped, trying to lunge in and stop when he smacked his head off the top of the wheel. The crew's attention had turned to him (including that FUCKING CHANGELING) and even Wiccan peered down from the crow's nest. He wanted to disappear. He put a hand up, not lifting his head. "I'M OKAY."

Figuring he was just a drunken pirate, everyone except Wiccan, Axel and - of course - Ophelia, turned away, returning to whatever they were doing. When he looked up, he saw Axel dismiss Jüdischer, and immediately panicked.

Ophelia tried to reach out and touch his face. "Smock, are you um, alright? That was... really weird."

"Peachy." Smock groaned, then he heard the faintest creak creak creak of boots making their way up the steps and he didn't spend one more moment on the hull. He threw himself around the side of the ship and repeated his stunt, sliding into the storage room - but when he entered, he saw the remnants of a blood-red portal and a rather disappointed Axel looking at him. Smock took off his ring and jumped right back out, plummeting into the ocean.

He swam underneath the ship, hoping it'd help, and thankfully nobody followed him, so after a minute he decided to climb up the other side of the ship and return to the wheel. He swung onto the hull once again, not thinking enough to anticipate that Axel might just be there.

He flew past Ophelia, fly-kicked the Changeling, and then fell on top of him.

Smock was quiet for a moment, staring Axel in the eye, and he saw the blood starting to well up beneath the bandage on one side of his face. "That was an accident, but this isn't."

He punched Axel right in the face, and stared down triumphantly when he saw the man's nose start to bleed too.

Axel pushed the pirate off, then he touched him, and all of a sudden he couldn't move at all. It felt like his limbs were locked in place.

Axel wiped the blood running from his nose on his shirt, then unwound the bandages on his face and holy shit it was gushing. How one man could lose that much blood and still be conscious was bewildering. He spoke with a groan, his voice only slightly weaker than usual. "Ophelia, dear, can you-" he covered his face with his free hand when he noticed they had an audience, because the rest of the crew had absolutely heard the commotion, "can you go fetch me some bandages and tell everybody to get the fuck away from us?"

Ophelia reached out for the Changeling, as she always did, and tried to caress his face. They were closer than ever, so if anybody could calm him, it would be her. "Axel, dear, you're getting too angry, I don't think-"

"Should I rephrase that?" Axel snarled, looking at her with the coldest expression Smock had seen on him in a long time. "Go get some bandages, and tell everybody to move along before I use my pact magic."

Ophelia withdrew her hand, nodded, and hurried to Smock's side, shooing everybody else away and checking over him. "Are you okay?"

He just laughed, glaring in Axel's direction. He willed his limbs to move but he couldn't make them do anything no matter how hard he tried, but Ophelia's hand gently brushed his shoulder and she sang a very quick and quiet healing song. He could move again, but this time it wasn't Axel holding him still. Ellamia used to do that. Smock eyed her suspiciously. This girl reminds me all too much of her. Even her face...

He summoned his wings, swiftly shielding her with them (and giving them a confused glare because there were black feathers sprouting in a couple of places, and they certainly weren't there before) and getting to his feet. Axel was still on the ground, covering his face, but when he saw the threat that the pirate was presenting, he stood and rolled up his sleeves.

Now that he wasn't a mewling mess, he noticed the colours of the flowers, and as he stared at them he felt words pulse through his mind. Roses of hatred, thistles of warning, a cypress of despair. Smock tried to stop the thoughts from flooding his brain. He had a feeling this was all to do with that fucking bond, and that Axel was much better at controlling them than he was. It was distracting, and right now he couldn't stand to be unfocused.

Smock helped Ophelia up, then pushed her away from the scene, trying not to be too rough with her. He turned to Axel, spreading his wings aggressively. "You really are just a spoiled brat."

 

That must have done it, because the Changeling immediately threw his fist back and opened it. Smock realised what was going on and swiftly murmured the his light cantrip, blasting the other with unbearable light, and he immediately cast his necrotic shroud, covering himself in a blanket of darkness. He expected Axel to cower or flinch or at least show some sort of fear, but the man wasn't one bit scared. Smock took advantage of Axel's light sensitivity and used it to turn around, glancing back at the crew, who were all horrified by what they saw.

He swung back around, preparing to cast another spell, and Axel jumped at him, pushing him back against the wheel. He made a motion with his hand and spoke in an unfamiliar language, summoning three barbed harpoons that hovered dangerously above his head.

Smock brought up his foot with as much power as he could manage, kicking Axel in the stomach and effectively winding him just long enough to push forwards and throw him at the railing of the ship, where he just about caught himself. One of the spears suddenly pointed at Smock and launched at him. Swiftly he flipped backwards, avoiding it and watching as it pierced the hull.

If that had hit me, it would have gone straight through me and that would have fucking hurt. He watched it fade, but couldn't stand around for long, because another one of those spears would no doubt fire soon.

He tried to dodge, but the second spear flew straight into Smock's calf.

He let out a shout of pain, reaching down and yanking it out. The inky substance in his body spurted out like blood from the wound and he let out an agonised groan before recasting the light and firing it straight into Axel's face.

The Changeling gasped and tried to cover his eye but the light seemed to be behind his eyelid and he couldn't get rid of it. The final spear tried to lodge itself into him but he sidestepped it and charged for Axel, grabbing him and hurling them both off the edge of the ship.

 

The two splashed in the water for a moment, and Axel didn't even bother to try change forms before summoning a spike of shadow behind him. Still recovering from the light, he was unable to control it and it completely missed. Smock spread his hands over the water and it turned a sickly black-green, feeling murky beneath his legs as he fought to keep himself above water, but it seemed to cause Axel much more trouble than it did for Smock, because he let out a gasp of pain. One of the flowers on the injured part of his face began to wilt, and the other.

Two orange lilies of desire and passion.

Axel let out a cry of pain, reaching up and desperately pulling to try get the rotting flowers away. Smock saw it start to bleed even harder, and an overwhelming urge to heal Axel washed over him.

No, no this is all a part of the bond. This isn't real.

He reached out a hand.

Stop. This isn't your free will acting, he's fucking affecting you.

He pulled it back,

this isn't real,

and curled in on himself, putting his hands in his head.

 

Axel stopped tugging at the flowers, and he seemed to immediately stop caring that he was in pain at all, because his next move was to drag himself through the water towards Smock, reaching out a hand. All of the malice had drained from his eyes, and he looked truly and genuinely concerned, though he was far more hurt than the pirate. "Azrael, dear, no- p-please don't-"

Smock's entire brain was imploding on itself and he felt his heart racing very fast. He was silent, not allowing himself to cry and certainly not about to cry in front of Axel. He fought it back, desperate not to start spilling, but he couldn't stop the black substance from welling up in the corners of his eyes and spilling.

One second they were in the ocean, and the next they were in the captain's quarters, on the floor with Axel cradling Smock's head.

The pirate held back his voice from breaking. "Just let me fucking drown."

"Azrael, no. I'm not going to let you-" he paused, then he pried Smock's hands away from his face. "Oh look what I've done. Dear, please don't cry. Everything's fine. We can forget about this."

Forget?

He looked the Changeling in the eye, and all of a sudden a strange emptiness took over the thoughts in his head. He stopped crying, just staring now, emotionless.

That scared Axel much more than watching Smock cry.

Blood dripping from his wounds, Axel held him closer.

Anemone, he's forsaken. He's sick.

The pirate squinted. What? Since when did I think like that? What's-

He stared up at the Changeling, confusion flooding his senses. "What the- Changeling, what are you doing in my room? Where's Ellamia?"

 

He didn't understand why that made Axel look so mad.

"Where's the ship? Where are we?"

 

Axel took a deep breath. "We're on my ship, we just got done fighting, and Ellamia is fucking dead."

"Your ship? Then-" he didn't fully process the last part, and when he did he threw Axel off of him and stood up. Pain shot through his calf. He had a horrible feeling about this. "Where's Ellamia? She can heal this-"

"Azrael, she's dead." Axel snapped.

"How the fuck-?" Smock Captain Undying hissed, backing away from the Changeling, who was sitting on the floor with his hand on his face. The pirate hurried towards the mirror, staring in confusion at his clothing and his face. This was wrong; he didn't look the same as he did just a second ago. His beard was longer, and his clothes were all different. He turned and pointed a hand accusingly at Axel. "What the FUCK did you do?"

"I told you to fucking forget and look what it-" Axel cut himself off, shaking his head and letting out a growl of frustration. "Ellamia is DEAD. She's DEAD AND GONE AND I KILLED HER."

Captain Undying - Vex Tailor? Yuwo? Daniel Quiz? Copper? Haley Smit? Who was he? - looked at Axel in alarm. "Where is Ellamia? She can fix this, she can tell me who I am-"

"I said she's DEAD." Axel yelled, getting up and approaching him. "You don't understand, Azrael. She is dead and there is nothing you can do. Come back into the present, for fuck's sake, I can't-"

 

I am in the present, right?

He was done with this Changeling's bullshit. He swiftly pulled himself through the door and shut it hard behind him, rushing towards the stairs and climbing them until he was out in the sunlight. He saw a Sea Elf, and immediately rushed towards her.

"Ellamia!" he looked at her face, and it was her, but then he looked at her hair and her lips and her eye didn't have the birthmark and this was not her. "Where is she? Where is my wife? Where am I?"

The Sea Elf's eyes widened, and she covered her mouth. "Y-your wife? Smock, she's not... she was killed years ago. We're out at sea."

"I'm not Smock, she's not dead. I saw her minutes ago." He was still smiling, but his eyes were wide and he felt his heart beating faster than it ever should. "She can- she can heal this, and tell me I'm stupid for doing whatever it was I did-"

"Oh no." Ellamia Not Ellamia murmured, looking down at the wound. "He didn't, did he?"

He was confused and worried and starting to panic more and more with each moment this continued. "Is she not on the ship? If so, I need a ship, and I'm going to go find her." He slapped his head, fishing in his pocket. "Wait, I've got the map. I can just find her on that."

The Elf caught his hand and looked him tearily in the eyes. "I'm Ophelia Vonn Elloss. I'm Ellamia's sister, and I heard that she was dead a very, very long time ago. She's gone, Smock."

"Look, call me Haley Smit, not this 'Smock'." He took out the map. "And Ellamia didn't have any sisters, she would have told me."

This 'Ophelia' person shook her head. "I-I was- well, Smock- Haley, I..." she stammered, unable to find her words, "I'm the reason-"

"You are the family that made fun of her because of her birth mark." He nodded, suddenly piecing things together in his head. "But now you're just a different gender."

"I've changed! I think about it every day-"

"You're the reason she became a prostitute, and you are damn lucky I was there. That she came up to me. If it had been someone else, she might not have lived to see today. Now where is she and what did you do to her?"

"LISTEN TO ME!"

The girl's voice seemed way too soft to ever be used to shout, and something about it felt so painfully wrong, but he didn't know why it did.

"I've changed. I have to live with what I did every day of my life and I have never stopped thinking about it! When she left, they turned against me and I felt what she went through and I-"

"It's up to Ellamia to forgive you." Haley snarled, then pushed his way past Ophelia and continued his search of the ship, desperate to find his wife because there was no way Ellamia was dead. She was too strong for that, and even if something happened, he would have stopped it.

But she wasn't anywhere to be found, and when he opened the map, he saw that it marked her location as right there, under the hull.

 

Smock took a breath. He had to go back to the captain's quarters. Was she playing some sort of prank on him? It didn't seem like her to do something like this, but maybe she had, because she wasn't dead.

He stepped into the captain's quarters, walking past Axel, and straight for the closet, the one without the alcohol.

How do I know there's alcohol in there? What the-

Something felt wrong.

"Ellamia, really?" he sighed, approaching the closet. "That wasn't very funny. You sent me into a panic."

He couldn't see the way that Axel looked at him, or the way his eyes clouded with guilt and sorrow.

"Come on, I know you're there. I'm not mad, we can dance or something. It's been a while, hasn't it?" he chuckled, waiting outside the closet and then shrugging and reaching for the handle. "I love you but you better not be naked in there."

 

He opened the door, and a skeleton dropped into his arms. For a second, he didn't realise that all that was there was bones, and he rolled his eyes. "Yeah, love you too-"

Then he saw that there was no life here. The skeleton was dressed like her, and still felt a little like her in his arms, but it couldn't be.

He checked the map again. Her location had changed, but only slightly, and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was his wife.

 

"Azrael, please remember. Remember your life as Smock. Remember everything up until I told you not to, please." Axel begged, and he turned around, glaring at the Changeling.

"You did this." He held her remains close, then he set them tenderly down on the bed. "I'm broken because of you."

Axel's eye widened and he looked as though he were bleeding from the lip, as though he'd bitten it so hard it was horribly punctured. Haley didn't care.

"You made me suffer and I did nothing to you. I just wanted to be happy." He choked back a sob that seemed to be climbing up his throat, trying to claw its way out. "After everything I've been through, don't I deserve to be happy?"

"You deserve to be happy!" the Changeling cried, getting up and taking a step towards him.

"Don't fucking come near me." Haley growled. "I wasn't all of those things she said I was. I wasn't made to be happy. I should've stopped trying to be something I'm not."

"Then make it your purpose to be happy! Be happy for me, I swear I'll do whatever I can - please just-" Axel pleaded, reaching a hand out towards him.

"You're not her." The pirate snapped, and the look of pure heartbreak that washed across Axel's face seemed to wrench some sort of healing instinct from him. He didn't know what was going on, or why he felt it, but he wanted to kill it immediately. He took his hat off, and his bandana, and he made for the door. "I'm taking a boat and getting as far as I can from here. I-I'm going to start a new life away from this."

"Azrael-"

"Stop calling me that." He interjected, but Axel wasn't stopping.

"Azrael, remember. Remember everything up until I told you to forget."

 

That command brought the pirate to his knees, and the memories of an entire lifetime struck him hard. He felt pain, and sorrow, and grief and joy and anger and hatred and love and desire all over again. He couldn't stand it. He started to cry, and then he started to hyperventilate and then he let out a scream, one filled with pure agony.

It was the most horrible, heartwrenching sound Axel had ever heard.

The Changeling rushed to his side, holding him in his arms. "Please don't cry. Don't cry, it's okay."

Smock didn't respond, and Axel couldn't check whether he was even alive, so he just hoped for the best and held the pirate as close as he could. He knew his touch would never be good enough, and he knew he would never be able to hold Smock the right way, because no matter what he did, he could never be her, or anything like her at all.

Chapter Text

Smock woke up (even though he wished he hadn't) and laid limp in Axel's arms. The Changeling had his head buried in Smock's neck and seemed to notice a change in something, because he lifted it and cupped the pirate's cheek, examining his face.

You know what? If I pretend to be asleep, he'll probably fuck off.

He didn't open his eyes, and Axel stayed in his spot for a few moments before returning his head to Smock's neck.

"...I guess you didn't hear any of that." The Changeling murmured. "Good, then I'll continue."

Is he talking to me or himself?

"Azrael, I didn't mean for any of this to happen." He sighed, breath warm on Smock's throat. Last time I felt his breath, it was cold. That's weird. "I have to live with it, you know. It wasn't the worst I'd ever hurt somebody, but it haunts me more than any other crime I've committed. She didn't stop fighting back, and only in those last few moments did the hope fade from her eyes. She was strong, your Ellamia. She was bleeding all over, and so was I, and I remember hearing your voice somewhere from the ship. You couldn't see through the fire. I felt my gut twist, but I had to do this. They had my family, and I couldn't lose them."

He felt Axel gulp, his chest rising and falling a little faster than before. "I've already told you what happened with them, and I guess here I conclude that little tale, because I never got them back. And now the blood of an innocent woman is on my hands, all because I love y-"

He cut himself off. Smock felt Axel's eyelashes bat rapidly at his throat. "I loved you, and I loved them, and this seemed like the best fix. It was stupid, and I regret every second of it. Now I've lost the favour of Demiurge, I don't think I'll ever get to make any of it right."

Smock awoke at that, pushing Axel away. I know Demiurge. I helped raise them. This is fucked.

And was he talking about Ellamia?

Did he fucking-

"Holy- Smock, Azrael, how much did you hear?" Axel stood up, covering his bleeding eye.

"You killed Ellamia." Smock hissed, staring at the man with an icy expression. "You thought that you could win back lives by taking another's."

"Wouldn't you do the same?" Axel protested, tugging at the wilted flowers on his face again.

Anemone, he's sick and forsaken. Orange lilies of desire and passion. Asphodel of regrets that will follow him to the grave.

I've been through this all before.

"No. It doesn't always go the way you want it to go." He responded coldly, disdain in his eyes, and then he walked out.

 

Axel didn't call his name or try to bring him back, and Smock was more than fine with that. He made his way up top, not giving two fucks about how much of the Changeling's blood was coating his clothes. He didn't care about the burning pain in his calf. He didn't care about anything in that moment.

When he approached the wheel, he saw Ophelia and Wiccan talking. The wizard seemed extremely alarmed and worried, and his eyes widened when he saw Smock approaching. Ophelia looked his way but didn't meet his eyes, looking strangely mournful.

"God, what happened to you lot?" Smock enquired, approaching the wheel and looking around at the floor. There was a splintered plank where one of Axel's magic harpoons had missed him, which he noted in the back of his mind for repairs.

Wiccan looked confused, then he threw open his arms. "You and Axel fucking fought and we thought he'd kill you!"

Smock just laughed, "Hah, he wished."

That gave Wiccan something to think about whilst he turned to Ophelia, regarding her with slight concern and wonder. "Am I missing something?"

She looked at him with her eyes wide, hesitating. "You don't remember?"

"Remember- oh fucking Hell." He took a deep breath. "What did that son of a bitch do to my memory?"

Ophelia frowned. "Oh no... is he using that-" she groaned, running a hand through and adjusting her hair. "I'm going to have to talk to him about that..."

Smock froze, looking her dead in the eyes. "Did he tell you?"

"Tell me what?" Ophelia tilted her head, then she shook it. "He hasn't said anything to me since you fought."

"Wait, what did you think happened?" he got a little closer, picking apart the expressions that crossed the Sea Elf's face. They almost spoke to him, coursing through his mind rapidly. Grief, anger, sorrow. He wasn't used to this, it had never been that way before-

Before the bond.

Oh no.

"I thought he'd altered your memory or something - he did that to me to try to stop me thinking about the..." Ophelia looked away, stopping herself and taking a deep breath. "Everything I did."

Wiccan, at this point, was staring at them both in confusion. "Memory erasure? He knows..." the young wizard hummed thoughtfully, "he must know the 'forget' spell."

"Yeaaahh that's what it is." Smock nodded, glancing back at the railing where he'd thrown the two overboard. He pushed back the memories springing up. "Well I think it's about time you learned to sail, Wiccan."

The boy looked confused, glancing up to the crow's nest. "But-"

"Yeah, I'll man that." He replied, pushing Wiccan towards Ophelia, "She'll teach you," before hurrying towards the pulley to the crow's nest.

 

No way did he want to see that Changeling fucker. They were absolutely not on speaking terms after all of this.

He unhooked the rope and it lifted him rapidly up to the nest, where he let out a sigh of relief and draped himself over the railings, summoning his wings and turning to examine them.

More black feathers had sprouted.

Shit.

He moved them fowards so he could reach, then started to pluck out the feathers one by one.

It fucking hurt, and he knew he wasn't meant to do this and that they'd grow back no matter what he did, but he hated them and he wanted them to go. Having such a constant reminder of his past would hurt, even though it lingered in his mind anyway, and he didn't want Axel to see the changes because he would know it was because of him.

I'm not telling that Changeling anything about angels or Archangels.

Having silence like this was refreshing.

He looked down at the hull, putting his hat down a little. It shadowed his eyes, and he didn't want anybody to see the way he was looking right then.

The Changeling has feelings for me.

More than that, actually.

Smock thought about it for a moment, frowning. Everything was going crazy. He never should've accepted that offer from Faena. Everything had gone downhill from there. All he wanted to do was act like a drunken pirate and go about his life and have a good time with these idiots, but now he'd gotten involved with reality magic, the stuff of Demiurge's creation (and slumber), and then a crazy Changeling and their entire family. He'd even found himself harbouring the God of insanity.

Speaking of which, Anjanox hadn't been seen since Axel bonded with Smock.

 

Smock started to think.

Axel said the seven Gods each had a part of his soul. Axel has his soul back. Smock remembered what the Changeling had said. 'Gods forgive me, but I need my soul back'. I don't know what that did to the Gods, but...

That son of a bitch.

He's an idiot.

And definitely just a child.

He stopped plucking his feathers and dropped his head into his hands.

This was a whole dandy shipwreck, and then some more.

He turned to look at Wiccan and Ophelia, pushing back the thoughts trying to crawl their way in. Kid isn't doing so bad at this. Wiccan seemed happy and excited, nodding to the Sea Elf when she spoke and perfecting his methods gradually. He was no expert but for a beginner, he seemed to learn pretty quickly and was doing great.

Smock gave a proud smile, feeling an almost fatherly - or at least grandfatherly - instinct to go congratulate the kid. He looked across the ship, checking over all of the others. They were back at their usual jobs and seemed to be doing well. Axel was nowhere to be seen.

He sighed, then turned back to face the ocean. The sea was calm, a perfect day for sailing, and land was approaching slowly. He pulled his map from his pocket, glancing at their position and then to the dock they were approaching.

His heart sank when he saw it.

Neanos, the village of Neanosia, which was the Serpents' primary area of control in the South-East.

They had a fortress there, a place that Smock had learned they took frequent outings to, and a number of Sanguis family members stayed there throughout the year, particularly Canis and Korona. Canis was the thirdborn Sanguis heir and - last time Smock checked they had three kids, Void, Rift, and Felis. These bastards and their weird names.

He quickly hooked his foot on the rope, swinging down and using his momentum to push himself away from the mast and onto the hull, where he (thankfully) calculated his jump correctly and landed at Wiccan's side. The wizard jumped, startled, almost losing his grip on the wheel.

"Why," Smock sighed, "are we heading towards Neanos?"

Ophelia looked at him with a soft smile, clearly having relaxed a little since earlier. "Oh, we needed to resupply and it was the closest place to dock. Axel also had some business to tend to, and I wanted to go see one of my family members."

"Alright," Smock took a deep breath, trying not to visibly freak out. They don't have a picture of my face or anything, right? Nothing from when I was Captain Undying, right? "Well I need some clothes."

Ophelia patted Wiccan's shoulder gently. "There's some closets in the storage room with some old things that might fit you."

 

He made his way carefully down to the storage room, making sure Axel was nowhere near it, and then he found his way behind a bunch of crates to a closet. 

When he opened it, he realised that these were Axel's clothes.

They mostly consisted of reds and blacks, with the occasional appearance of a gold or purple on the rims or certain details.

You know what, fuck it.

He fished through it for a moment, searching for anything that didn't have a snake on it, and eventually grabbed a black shirt and some deep red trousers. He checked around him, ducked behind a crate, and quickly slipped into the clothes.

When they slipped onto his skin, he couldn't help but let out a quiet grumble of satisfaction. Whatever they were made of felt amazing on him, and the insides of the trousers were soft and warm. He looked for an overcoat but decided that he'd be better without, then stretched and made his way out.

I swear to God if anybody realises I'm wearing his clothes I am going to throw myself off this ship.

 

He confidently made his way back to the wheel, coming to stand behind Ophelia and Wiccan, and he stared out at the land. It was approaching quickly.

Smock grasped the railings, leaning forwards and pointing to the sails. "Trim the sails! Clews up!"

Wiccan was the only one there who knew what that meant, so he vaulted over the railings and ran for the ropes, furling all but the mains. The ship slowed, approaching the harbour at a much more manageable pace. Smock took the wheel, Ophelia at his side, and he steered it into place. "Sails up!"

The wizard quickly did as Smock said, and he congratulated both himself and the kid for the good work.

We make a good team, he smiled, and let go of the wheel.

He raised his voice again, looking over the bunch. "Alright, good job everyone. Get dressed and then we'll regroup on main deck."

 

It felt good to be captain again, he realised.

 

It took a good few minutes but soon everybody had gotten dressed into more formal clothing (he assumed they'd seen Axel on the way down and he'd told them where they were) and hurried up to the side of the boat. He looked over them, nodding in approval and checking everybody was there. He was disappointed to see that Axel was coming along - though he already knew he had business here - but tried to ignore him.

"Behave." Smock commanded, resting his hand on a rapier and standing on the railing. "I don't want any of ya ending up hurt, or worse. This is Serpent territory," he glared at Axel for a second, "and one wrong move could go real fuckin' bad for us all, especially if they find Dionysia." The girl flinched, looking away and petting her wolf. "We stay together, we fight together, and we return together. Any trouble and we'll kill together, too."

Ophelia gave a bright smile, beaming. Smock couldn't help but be reminded of Ellamia. He smiled back. "Alright, let's get in and outta here."

 

They stepped onto the dock, gathering together once more to quickly check over one another. Axel - who was dressed differently - approached him and he couldn't help but let out a sigh, putting on the serious expression he'd been working on whilst the others had been getting dressed.

"I couldn't help but notice," the Changeling purred, "that you're wearing my clothes. And your hair is tied up very nicely, dear. But you look very different with that serious expression on your face."

Smock stared through uninterested eyes, then he simply started walking away.

The others followed, and together they walked into the village of Neanos.

Chapter Text

The group's first course of action was to resupply.

Considering he had the best taste and cooking skills of them all, Wiccan was appointed to choosing food. The market was a lively place, bustling with all kinds of folk, mostly commoners. Smock saw the way that people parted when the group passed through, and he saw the looks they would get, of fear and terror. God, we're just coming to get food. Everybody looks so fuckin' horrified. The Serpents really do have a rule over this place, don't they?

Smock cast his gaze upwards. Past the seaside village of Neanos was the city of Neanosia, and beyond that he could see the towers of a castle, no doubt where the Sanguis bastards were. He sighed. That family was never a good sign.

He watched as Wiccan and Axel approached about three vendors, getting a barrel or two of certain foods (including some salted beef jerky, which he was very glad about) and of some fresh water, which Axel used his magic to transport into the ship, which alarmed a lot of people who were passing by. They picked up some fresh vegetables, and this time Wiccan - with the Changeling's guidance - took a turn at the portal thing. It took him a couple of tries but he got there, and when he did he excitedly grinned at Axel and the two exchanged a joyful conversation before returning to the rest of the crew.

"Alright," Smock cleared his throat, keeping his face solemn as he could. "I'll go stock up on materials, then we need to pay for some repairs, then we can take care of anything else that needs to be done."

Everybody nodded, and Smock approached Axel, staring at him coldly. The Changeling stared right back, summoning three of pouches of money (from the ship, he assumed) and then dropping them in the pirate's hand. The tension radiating from the two washed across the rest of the group, who couldn't help but stare, until Smock continued on his way.

That asshole, He thought bitterly, approaching the shipmaster's store. He entered the shop, waiting for the customer before him to be served, and then he approached the shopkeeper.

"Hey." He set all three pouches on the bar, making sure not to slouch or lean on it like he otherwise would have. "I need as much cloth, metal and wood as that can buy. Even amounts."

"No problem. Anything else I can get ya?" the man asked, taking the three pouches and emptying them. The guy widened his eyes a little at the money, and Smock examined it. Damn, that's a lot of gold. Where the Hell is he getting this from?

"We also need some repairs done on the ship, which I'll get a guy to talk to you about" He affirmed, waiting for a moment before sighing. "Let me get one of my crew to help transport this."

 

Smock poked his head out from the door. He had two choices: the stronger magic of Axel, or the mess of a wizard that was Wiccan. He knew which one he was going with.

 

The boy was really struggling to open the portal, but once he got it ready he held it open as Smock and the shopkeeper - who seemed like he'd seen this shit one too many times - fed through a large number of (heavy) crates. Once that was done, they thanked the shopkeeper and left.

Alright, now it's just getting Axel to sort the repairs out.

 

It didn't take long for the Changeling to return. He had a certain look in his eye that Smock didn't think too hard about, and he turned to Ophelia.

Smock regarded her with kind eyes (as kind as they could get when they were so serious) and cleared his throat. "You should lead the way."

She hopped towards Jüdischer and the two took up the front. Axel looked at Smock, took a step towards him, and then averted his path to link arms with Dionysia. That's strange.

He doesn't ever do that. Last time he was so worried about her was-

Oh.

Him.

Smock rest his hand on his rapier as he walked, feeling the need to prepare himself for a fight. Something felt weird. He wasn't sure whether it was a gut feeling or his protective instincts, or maybe it was the way this place was crawling with nobles but also street rats and lowlifes. As much as he felt sorry for the common people, he knew that around here it was do or die, and people might take risks and sacrifices to climb into wealth.

Looking around, he wondered how many of these people had killed or stolen their way to success.

 

Wiccan came a little closer to Smock, and Mariquita took up the rear with Hikari. Tension built in his muscles and he felt increasingly nervous with each moment. 

That was when he heard Ophelia yelp, and he was unable to stop himself from pushing past the people in front of him to see what was going on. A man was standing in front of her, trying to talk to Jüdischer.

"I'm related to her," he insisted, "she must come with me."

  Jüdischer wasn't taking a second of it. "You don't look like her."

"Distant - I know her family, she must come with me. I have something for her ears only." He repeated, reaching for Ophelia's hand.

  Jüdischer swatted it away quickly, stepping in front of the Sea Elf protectively. Smock saw someone trying to creep up on her whilst everybody was distracted.

"Leave her the fuck alone." He growled under his breath, stepping to cover her side and staring down at the man.

When he saw his accomplice had been taken on, the first man backed away from Jüdischer. "This must have been a misunderstanding, she looks just like a girl I know-"

Smock saw the man's eyes glint with fear as he backed away, then sprinted, followed by his friend. That's right, run you bastards.

He watched them run as Jüdischer comforted Ophelia, checking over her. He watched as they approached another alleyway. He watched as one suddenly started bleeding from the wrists. He watched as spikes burst from the other's back.

The two collapsed, and he turned back. He caught a glimpse of Axel rolling up his sleeves.

You better hope they don't trace that back to us.

 

The group continued after a moment, and he sighed gently. Not everything can be solved with violence.

He kept an eye out for more troublemakers, but thankfully the journey wasn't much longer, because soon the group approached their destination.

Neanos' houses were small and cozy, much less extravagant than those of the city ahead but homely, and enough for the commonfolk. This house had two front windows and appeared to be made of dark wood, with a sloped roof and stone supports.

Ophelia approached the door and knocked, a small smile on her face as she waited. It took a few moments but soon a dark brown Tabaxi answered the door. He looked at Ophelia, then his face lit up and he wrapped his slim arms around her.

"OPHELIA!" he laughed, pulling her into the street and dancing playfully with her. "Where have you been?"

She giggled, her smile widening. "I've been out at sea! These guys are the group I've been travelling with recently."

The Tabaxi turned to look at them, bright green eyes shining. "It is wonderful to meet you all - thank you for keeping her safe."

Jüdischer gave a soft smile. "She's been keeping us safe."

"That's very true!" Ophelia laughed sweetly, rushing over to Jüdischer happily. "Mouse, this is Jüdischer. She's my girlfriend."

Mouse - he assumed that was the Tabaxi's name, anyway - smiled with pure pride and glee. "Wonderful to meet you! It's good to see Ophelia happy with someone."

The two blushed, standing close, and then Ophelia rushed to each person in turn, taking their hand as she introduced them. She approached Smock and, without even an ounce of hesitance or fear, did the same, and after introducing him she hopped over to Axel. She didn't touch the Changeling, and didn't look at him at all. Mouse picked up on it and didn't give Axel such a warm greeting, but overall the introductions went very well.

Mouse gestured towards the door. "Well then, come in everybody, make yourselves at home. We're all back from an adventure, I'll introduce you all to the others. Ophelia, they will be so happy to see you!"

 

Smock took up the rear, looking around the home when they entered. It was thankfully big enough to comfortably hold the group and more, and they all settled down in the living room. He had no reason to believe these people would hurt Ophelia, but still kept an eye out, and especially kept one on Axel. The Changeling kept flexing his fingers and seemed a little tense, though his expression remained in the same grin as usual.

Ophelia and Mouse returned with a weird-looking band of adventurers. They were a strange group, but Smock supposed so were they.

First came a Sea Elf, who bore striking resemblance to Ophelia, who immediately rushed forwards and scooped her up in a hug.

"Auntie Liayra!" Ophelia greeted her, nuzzling her face into the hug. "It's been forever since I've seen you! Where were you last time I came home?"

"Had to go find Six. You know what she's like." Liayra chuckled, pulling away and looking down proudly at her niece. "It's so good to see you. You are looking absolutely stunning in that dress!"

Smock's eyes wandered and he examined Ophelia's clothes. It was a nice red dress with a bright red snake weaving around it. He frowned. I didn't think she was with the Serpents.

A black-blue Kobold lunged at Ophelia, tackling her and hugging her tightly. The two giggled, the Kobold letting out a soft and affectionate grumble.

From the doorway, a black-scaled Dragonborn man let out a rough chuckle. "Six, sweetie, don't jump on the guests."

The Kobold whined and then got up, moving to sit next to the fireplace where she started to play with some shiny rocks. Smock stopped himself from smiling at the memory of Demiurge doing the same.

"UNCLE KILMORNE!" Ophelia immediately got up and rushed into his arms. Smock felt weird being in the middle of a family reunion like this.

"Good to see you, dear." The Dragonborn held her close before turning to look at the hallway. "Voyage and Nassbera will be down in a minute, they're just finishing up a game of dragonchess."

 

Axel leaned back in his chair, lifting his hand and, when nobody was looking, cast a quick spell. Smock recognised it, and he also saw the way that the spirit of a wolf with smouldering eyes formed beside Kilmorne. Nobody else could see it, and for a moment he wondered why he could, but then he remembered the bond.

Is Axel trying to tell me something?

Hands behind his back, Smock stared suspiciously down at the Changeling. The Ashen Wolf. What kind of pact did Kilmorne make? Are we in danger? Do I need to protect Ophelia from him?

He turned to watch the Dragonborn, but all seemed to be normal. The spirit faded as the spell expired, and the two exchanged a dark expression.

 

"Well, how can we help you then, Ophelia?" Liayra asked, approaching Dionysia and looking her over with a smile. The girl looked quite confused, but smiled back.

"I was wondering if you'd like to come with us!" Ophelia looked over them with a grin. Smock hesitated. It would help to have more crew members for sure, and these lot seemed somewhat reliable, especially since they cared for Ophelia. Axel didn't seem phased by the offer, and the others were more keen than anything, except Mariquita - which was no surprise.

Six let out a little yelp of excitement, turning to face the group with hopeful eyes. Liayra and Mouse shrugged, turning to look at Kilmorne.

The man thought for a moment before letting out a sigh. "Sure. We'll go with you. We don't have anything else we need to do, so... what's stopping us?"

Ophelia excitedly grasped her girlfriend's hand. "Thank you!"

"It'll be great to face the world with you again." Mouse mewed.

"Can we do anything else for you? Do you need a place to stay whilst you're here? Can we get you dinner?" Liayra enquired - or offered, really - and the group looked at each other, and then to Axel.

"Well," the Changeling thought for a moment, leaning forwards in the chair, "a place to stay would be much appreciated, and I'll have to find a way to pay you back, but we really must be going. Thank you so much for having us. It'll be great to travel with you."

"We'll get the spare rooms prepared." Kilmorne nodded, crossing his arms. "We won't keep you waiting any longer. Go attend to whatever business you have, and dinner will be waiting for you all when you're back. Oh - and don't worry about paying us back."

 

They said their goodbyes and then headed out, on their way towards the castle.

Chapter Text

Sanguis castles seemed to always be a sight to behold. The building was tall with a number of towers and components, black flags with red snakes flying high from flagpoles. It was nothing Smock wasn't used to, but he still took it in and quickly mapped it out in his head.

Axel had taken Dionysia's arm once more and the two were chatting calmly. Mariquita and Smock took up the rear, with everybody else in the middle. Wiccan was reading as he walked. Smock still felt uneasy, but he didn't let it show, his serious expression staying solid on his face.

They approached the gate and Axel quickly grabbed Dionysia, standing in front of her. The group stilled, and Smock stared suspiciously at what was going on.

"Stay close to me, and if you see Soren tell me immediately." He instructed, looking at Smock. "If I'm not there, go to Smock. He'll keep you safe."

He raised his eyebrows a little, but he wasn't going to complain about being tasked with protecting her, especially if there was a chance Soren was around. That fucker rubbed him the wrong way back at the ball, and knowing he was so deadset on taking Dionysia made him very angry. He'd kill the man if he had to.

"Alright." She nodded nervously, turning to look at Smock for reassurance. He didn't offer a smile, but he did soften his gaze, feeling a strong protective instinct washing over him.

The group continued, Dionysia falling back to stand with Wiccan, and approached the castle gate.

 

Smock did not want to go in there, but he had to keep Dionysia safe.

Axel approached the guards. "Hello dears, it's your favourite Serpent. I'm here to speak to my family."

The men looked at each other, then pointed their weapons at him. "We've been instructed to keep everyone out, the family is not accepting visitors right now."

"I am the family." Axel purred, raising his brow and staring down the guards with an aura of pure discomfort and intensity. They swiftly put down their weapons, and one quickly cast a spell, opening the gate efficiently. "Thank you, boys."

 

The group entered the courtyard, and then proceeded through into the throne room, where Axel straightened himself up and strode confidently forth. A familiar face was sitting on the throne, with two people on each of his sides.

 

He spread his large barn-owl wings, standing up and frowning down at Axel before casting his gaze out to Dionysia and smiling unpleasantly. He clasped his hands behind his back and stepped down, raising his wings threateningly. "Brother."

"Soren." Axel hissed, regarding the other with an extremely bitter glare. Smock edged towards Dionysia. "We had an agreement."

"Yes," the other hummed, walking closer and closer until he was face-to-face with his brother. Soren was a couple inches taller than Axel, but he appeared much bigger and more intimidating thanks to his feathered wings. "Though I'm considering extending your end of the bargain. I know how much you are willing to sacrifice for your boys."

"I only have two sons. Don't call my daughter a boy." Axel threatened, staring up with pure hatred. Smock was confused for a moment, and then he put two and two together. I didn't think I could hate this Soren bastard any more than I already did. Ophelia looked as though she were trying to hold herself back, her face red and her lips frowning.

"You're still feeding into that whole fantasy of his, aren't you? Julius can't just say he's something else and be it." Soren laughed sourly, putting a hand on Axel's shoulder. "You should know that by now."

"You fucking- Don't talk about her like that." Axel snapped, swatting away the hand and taking a deep breath. "And it's Avian. You know what- fuck you, Soren. What do you want?"

"What's owed to me." The winged Changeling chuckled, his eyes flicking towards Dionysia. Smock scowled, his hand on his rapier, and he looked down at the girl, who looked absolutely terrified. Don't be afraid. I'll keep you safe.

"I'm sorry, dear, but Dionysia is staying with me." Axel bit back, then he shoved Soren away and made his way to a downwards staircase to the left. The others followed, but as they were walking by Soren tripped Dionysia and caught her, pulling her closer to him. He was about to speak when Smock grabbed Dionysia and shoved him away, checking over the girl - who was red and frozen in shock - and then hurrying off in pursuit of Axel.

 

I don't like Soren. Smock thought, allowing Dionysia to hold onto his arm for security. As soon as I have a chance, I'll teach him not to fuck with my crew.

They walked down into a stone room, where Axel stopped and looked over the group. "I have some private matters to attend to. Smock, Antichrist, Ophelia and Jüdischer - you may come with me. Can the rest of you please look after Dionysia?"

Hikari and Mariquita looked at each other, then nodded, sitting down around a table and starting to talk. The other four came with him as he entered the dungeon.

 

The cells were all full and Smock didn't look at the criminals as he passed them by. He heard a few murmur and scoff as they saw the group, but he paid them no mind, watching as Wiccan edged closer to him. The place smelled awful and musky, and the only light was from torches on the wall, leaving shadows and dark spots. Everything was made out of dark grey stone apart from the utilities in the cells and the bars themselves, which appeared to shimmer with some sort of magic.

"This place is creepy." The wizard remarked, and Smock nodded solemnly. Most dungeons are.

Ophelia was trying not to look as they walked but she occasionally glanced to the side, quickly catching herself and looking away again.

At the very end of the dungeon they came to a large, slightly nicer cell. Smock got close to Axel in a natural urge to protect, and also to look at who was inside. It appeared to be housing three people, who immediately jumped to their feet and rushed towards the bars when they saw Axel, letting out a unanimous cry of "Dad!"

 

Wait, what?

These are his kids?

 

Axel approached the bars, getting as close as possible to them and reaching his thin arms in to wrap the three up in as much of a hug as he could. Once he let them go, he clutched the bars, his voice cracking as he spoke. "I've missed you all so much. How have they been treating you?"

The boy in the middle sighed sadly. "Horribly. They keep calling Avian by her birth name and they beat Angelus when he tried to correct them. They've been threatening me, too..."

"The bastards." Axel hissed, reaching to put his hand on the cheek of the child with the long hair. He assumed that was Avian. She closed her eyes with a soft frown. "I'm so sorry. I'll make them pay."

"It's okay." Avian spoke sweetly, completely eliminating Smock's reckoning that they hated their father. I expected them to be lashing out at him, or insulting him or something, but they seem to genuinely care for him, and he cares back. "This isn't your fault."

"No, this is entirely my fault." Axel argued, his other hand resting on her face too. "If I hadn't been so fucking blind-"

"Dad, don't blame yourself, please." The remaining boy, Angelus, insisted. He looked the most like Axel out of the three of them, with long lashes and white eyes. His hair was white, unlike his brother who had blue hair and his sister, whose hair was black. His skin was more purple than red or pink, and he had short horns where the others had long ones. His hair was wavier than the others, and his face shape was the most similar of the three to their father. "You didn't know what would happen, and you tried to protect us."

"Well I'm still sorry. I'm sorry for everything." Axel shook his head, then he looked across his children and sighed. "I have a reason for being here, however."

Avian furrowed her brows, then she stepped back in surprise. "Dad, you're-" she hesitated, looking at the three others, "you're all going to get in trouble with Soren."

"It wouldn't be the first time." Axel shrugged, walking towards the door to the cell.

Oh no- "Axel, you can't-" Smock protested, but the door swung open and Axel opened a portal.

"Let's go, my dears."

Chapter Text

Everybody made their escape through the portal, jumping through and landing outside the castle. Axel felt adrenaline coursing through his veins, a feeling he hadn't felt in many years, and he altered the portal to go collect the three he'd left in the sitting room.

When everybody regrouped, he smiled. "I'll explain in a minute. Smock, dear, come with me."

 

Axel altered the portal one more time, then he and Smock entered.

 

The throne room spread out before them, Soren once more on the throne. Axel walked up to him with the most purposeful and intent gait Smock had seen in a very long time. He grabbed the man by the collar in one hand, froze his guards with the other, and then threw Soren down his stairs towards Smock.

He stared at the man, then swiftly cast his necrotic shroud. It's time. His eyes went completely black and he brought forth his wings, watching as fear clouded Soren's expression and he froze in place, his wings twitching in pain from the fall. The winged Changeling hesitated, then he uttered a word and stared wide-eyed at Smock.

When nothing happened, Soren started to back away, flapping his wings to try get momentum and help himself up.

"You should know by now that I can't die, after you sent your ships after me..." Smock snarled, towering over him and bringing out his rapier. Soren's eyes widened in shock and realisation. Axel was approaching, looking composed as ever as he rolled up his sleeves and pulled out a dagger. He looked proudly at Smock, his grin widening and his eyes narrowing as he summoned three silver harpoons above his head.

Smock looked at them, remembered how much it hurt to have one strike him, and he stepped on one of Soren's wings, pinning it in place. All three harpoons flew into the wing and Soren screamed in pure agony, writhing to try get away from Smock to no avail. Seeing he couldn't escape by sheer force, he yowled out a word and a sharp beam of blue and white light shot towards Smock, slamming into his body and sending him reeling back. He caught himself, extended his arm and threw crackling energy at Soren, who just about shielded himself with a wall of fire before pointing a finger at Axel.

Oh no.

The Changeling was surrounded by hellish flames but didn't even flinch, bringing his dagger to his wrist and slicing into it. Blood spurted from the wound and Soren screamed in agony, his own wrists starting to bleed.

Smock stopped, realising the damage that Axel was doing to himself, and he let out a rough growl, pinning Soren and getting on top of him. He brought his rapier up to the Serpent's face and thrust it through his eye, easily breaking through the soft organ and piercing through the back of his head. Soren screamed, stabbing Smock in the stomach in an attempt to deter him but in that moment Smock barely felt any pain at all. "Now you look just like your brother."

Soren hissed, trying to cast another spell, but Smock caught his hand before he could.

"Remember this next time you try to hurt my crew." Smock glared, and then he got up and forced his foot down hard on the man's other wing.

 

Axel approached, his face a little paler than before, and looked down at his brother with the same sarcastic grin he always had. "Tell father his vicious serpent sends his regards."

He used the dripping blood from one of his wrists to form crystal shards, which he sent straight into Soren's throat. The life flashed before the man's eyes, and then Axel started to walk away, unfreezing the guards and leaving his brother bleeding and dying on the ground.

 

Before they entered the courtyard, Smock pulled Axel behind one of the throne room pillars and reached forwards to touch the Changeling's wrists. He watched as the blood returned itself to within his body, then the veins (which appeared to instead be actual rose stems) stitched themselves back together and finally the skin repaired, and the colour started to flow back into the man's face. Axel dropped his grin and lifted his hand to touch Smock's face gently, cupping his cheek.

"Thank you." He said sincerely.

Smock looked down, letting out a murmur in a soft voice. "Yeah, yeah whatever." He closed his eyes as they returned to normal, and he cleared his throat. "We need to catch up with the others."

Axel looked a little disappointed but nodded, backing away and leading Smock outside to return to the group. They seemed to have acquainted themselves with one another. The second Axel's children saw him, they rushed up to him and tackled him to the ground, hugging him tightly now that there were no bars between them.

"You little ruffians." The Changeling laughed affectionately, wrapping his arms around them and kissing their foreheads. "We're gonna go on an adventure together."

Out of earshot from the others, Avian leaned closer to Axel and looked up at Smock. In this light he could see that she looked much younger than the others, and he could see her bright amber eyes properly now. A strong paternal instinct arose in him and he fought back a smile. Avian murmured a soft question. "You never let anyone come near you... why are you so close to that man?"

She pointed at Smock and he widened his eyes a little, hesitating. Axel simply smiled, looking warmly towards the pirate. "He's my boyfriend."

Smock froze completely, unsure how to react to that. Am I? That's- He regained his composure and didn't dispute, but he felt tense at that title. Boyfriend? Are we together? We haven't talked about it. Does Axel think of me that way?

"Awwww," Angelus laughed, hugging his father tighter, "I'm so glad you've moved on from mom. You weren't the same when she died."

"Aurora was important to me," Axel sighed, sitting up and pushing his children gently away, "because she was your mother, the only woman I'd ever loved that much. But I knew she'd want me to be happy without her, so I let myself love again."

Damn, didn't know Axel was capable of even thinking so profoundly.

"That's so sweet!" Felix smiled, looking up to Smock. The three got up and approached him excitedly, and he wasn't sure what to expect. Oh no. "Sooo that would make you our stepdad!"

The three hugged him, and he suddenly realised why the Sanguis family was dubbed the 'Serpents'. These kids had such a constrictive grasp, one of the tightest (yet still comfortable) hugs Smock had ever experienced. He stepped back, then fell over, protectively grasping the children and holding them close to him. I will protect I must protect I will protect. He was blushing very hard, trying to stutter out words but ultimately failing. Outside he was a flustered mess. Inside, he was panicking.

I am not ready to be a father oh my God I don't know how to feed them do they sleep how do I take care of them what do I do am I meant to do a lot am I still pirate or am I dad what is-

"Sorry to interrupt uh..." Hikari approached, looking over the scene in confusion, "whatever this is, buuuut we should prooobably get going."

 

Smock suddenly remembered that there were four angry guards (and an angry Soren, if he was alive) who would no doubt be charging out from the throne room to try arrest them or worse, and he turned to the Changelings. "You guys should probably change into a different form."

The children had a sudden moment of realisation and all nodded, each shifting into the form of various types of Elves. Axel watched them with pride before changing his body completely, taking on the form of Mouse (which, to be fair, was a smart choice) and taking up the lead.

Smock turned to look at the castle. He waited until everybody was out of sight, then he reached up a hand and summoned dark lightning before eldritch blasting the roof of the castle as it set ablaze. He looked triumphantly at his work, then caught up with the others.

 

They ended up taking back alleys and side routes to stay out of the eye of any guards and of the public, until they reached the house. Axel quickly shifted out of his disguise and knocked on the back window.

 

Mouse approached it, looking down at the group in confusion before opening the window. "You... could have gone to the front door."

"Uh... not right now." Hikari laughed.

Mouse thought for a moment, then he gave a sigh of 'for fuck's sake' before opening the window fully. "Get in, quick."

 

Everybody climbed in, brushing themselves down and tidying up their clothes. The group from earlier were gathered in the living room, sitting together and talking. There was a Tiefling and a Dwarf that hadn't been there before, which Smock assumed to be Voyage and Nassbera, who grinned at them as they entered.

The Tiefling winked. "Aren't you a charming bunch, coming through the window like that. Don't suppose you've seen the castle, shit's on fire dude."

Smock couldn't help but chuckle quietly. "Looks better that way."

"Sure does." She agreed, looking away, but then she snapped her gaze back to him. "Yo, you didn't. Holy - you fuckin' legend!"

He smiled after a moment. That's not the only thing that went down. He considered saying it, but figured they'd find out tomorrow. News like that didn't stay quiet for long.

Axel looked at Smock with a smile, then he took a seat next to the fire, sitting back and watching it burn.

Kilmorne looked at the new additions, letting out a sigh. "You are... so lucky we have multiple floors in this place. And extra dinner."

"Dinner!" Six shrieked, jumping up at Kilmorne. He caught her in his arms, holding her and letting out an amused huff.

"Yes, dinner. Six, darling, go play with your rocks - I'll bring in the food." The Dragonborn put her down and she rushed towards her rocks, squeaking in excitement and starting to play. Avian crouched down and started to play too, and Six's sounds of pure delight were absolutely adorable. Smock couldn't help but smile at it, memories of Demiurge flooding in and filling him with joy. As hard as looking after the little guy had been, it had been an absolute pleasure and a very rewarding experience that he wouldn't give away for the world. The sea was no place for such precious and innocent souls, but there was no way they'd leave her here alone, so he swore to himself to protect her.

 

Kilmorne set up a round table in the middle of the room and set down a range of food items and large meals for the group to pick at. They dug in immediately (except Smock, since he didn't really need to eat) and started talking.

Liayra, offering Smock a small bowl of stew, seemed to smile as she started speaking. "I was looking over a painting of our Ellamia today."

Smock froze up, then he gulped and started eating, wishing there was alcohol around.

Ophelia smiled gently. "Oh! The one auntie Krislee did?"

"Yup, that's the one. She looks very pretty - should I bring it out? We should hang it up somewhere in here!" Liayra suggested, getting up and making her way into a room to the side. When she returned, she turned the painting to the group. Axel's eyes became bitter but he quickly hid it by turning away to look at the fire, but Ophelia lit up immediately. Smock stared at the painting, and sure enough it was her.

"That is such a good painting of her! Six, sweetheart, come look at your cousin." Kilmorne smiled, examining the painting with warm eyes.

Cousin?

Auntie Krislee?

Our Ellamia?

"You guys are her family?" Smock said after a moment, his breath hitching in the back of his throat. I thought all of her family was bad, but these guys... genuinely care about her.

"Oh, you didn't know?" Liayra looked at Ophelia and then back to the pirate. "Ophelia is her older sister and I'm her auntie. I don't really see the rest of her family anymore, and honestly my sister was... not all that nice."

Ophelia frowned a little. "And neither were her brothers, but... Liayra and the rest of the family tried to be." Then she had a moment of realisation, and she leaned forwards, giving Smock an apologetic gaze. "O-oh, maybe we shouldn't talk about Ellamia right now..."

"No, no it's fine." He waved his hand a little, looking down at his food. He didn't feel very hungry at all right then, but he couldn't just leave food that had been so generously made for them. "She... sounds like a really interesting person."

"Oh, she was. Our Ellamia was amazing." Liayra chuckled, framing the painting on a rogue screw on the wall. Kilmorne had been right, she did look absolutely beautiful in that painting. It captured her features and her figure perfectly, and he wanted to reach in and pull her out just to hold her all over again.

"Six would have absolutely adored her." Kilmorne chuckled, looking at the Kobold with kind eyes. "I think she would have loved you guys. She had such a heart for adventure, and such a gorgeous singing voice too, more beautiful than any Siren could ever sound."

They're not wrong. Her voice was beautiful.

Mouse leaned back in his chair, letting out a soft laugh. "I met her that one time and she was so cool - it's such a shame she ran away, though. I feel so bad for her."

"What happened to her?" Smock asked. He knew very well what happened, but he wanted to see whether these people knew, even though he wasn't sure how he'd feel if they did.

"After she ran away from home, we didn't know anything." Liayra answered, offering a smile. "We heard she went into piracy."

Ophelia's face changed, and she looked down at her hands for a moment. She was clearly piecing something together.

Kilmorne chuckled. "We actually became adventurers on our quest to find her again, but we didn't really get anywhere with that. She came back to this house one day and told us a bunch of stories, and she said she was married now to an amazing pirate, Captain Undying she said he was, and we were like, 'no fuckin' way! Tell us everything' and she did. I am so proud of her for getting such a brave and exciting fellow."

Liayra nodded, waving her arms in the air excitedly. "Oh, their stories were awesome, and she told us about how good he was at dancing! It was amazing. We were so sad when we heard about her death. We haven't forgiven the Serpents for it, and I don't think we ever will."

Axel's ears drooped for a moment before he caught himself and forced them to stay up. He fiddled with something in his hands, then slipped it into his pocket.

Smock's limbs froze, and he stared at the painting. He gave up the whole 'breathing' thing. They know.

"Shame Captain Undying is dead too, he really kicked it to them Serpents." Mouse sighed, and Smock couldn't handle it anymore.

"I-I need to go outside for a moment. Breath of fresh air." He chuckled nervously, getting up and heading for the door. He saw how tense Ophelia was, and he tried to give her a reassuring look.

"Alright mate, careful." The Tiefling called after him, before turning to the others. "Damn, Captain Undying was a riot. So proud of our girl for gettin' with him. That guy kicked the asses of those Serpent bitches."

Smock tripped over, then caught himself, feeling eyes on his back. "Sorry - I'm fine."

 

Before anything else could be said, he hurried outside, shutting the door behind him. He couldn't hear the conversation from out here, and he didn't want to.

If they knew I was the reason she became a pirate, they would hate me.

They'll never forgive me either. They'll realise it was all my fault for dragging her into this. It's my fault she was on the ship when they attacked.

It's all my fault that she's dead.

 

Smock felt himself getting closer and closer to crying. He felt a strong pang of grief and emotional turmoil and he walked around and into the alley, dropping his head into his hands and trying desperately to calm himself down, but the thoughts kept on coming, and in that moment there was nobody that he hated more than himself.

That was when he heard the front door open. Heels clacked out of the door, then paused, then continued towards the alley and he saw a certain Changeling round the corner.

 

Axel saw the state Smock had been worked into, then he rushed over and brought the pirate to a sitting position. The cold of the night bit into them both like a snake, and Smock wanted nothing more than to disappear. He sobbed, pain in his eyes and even more in his chest. He wiped the black tears from his eyes, but they wouldn't stop falling. Axel knelt down in front of him, looking him in the eye as though he were trying to figure out what Smock was feeling.

"Hey, dear, breathe." Axel told him, and he couldn't disobey, but when he started breathing it was more uneven as he cried, and kind of felt like he was hyperventilating. Axel pressed a hand to Smock's chest, then brought up one of Smock's to rest on his own. "Breathe with me. Copy the way I do it, let's breathe together."

Axel's breathing started out just a little slower than Smock's, then he began to slow it gradually until it was at a normal pace. Smock copied the rise and fall of Axel's chest specifically, mimicking it and enjoying the feeling that breathing brought. It was calming and made him feel a little better, though he still felt sick to his stomach at the thought of him being the cause of Ellamia's death.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" the Changeling asked softly, holding a hand over Smock's and filling it with warmth.

"Ellamia died because of me." He answered, fighting back the tears that threatened to start falling again. "It's my fault she got into piracy and my fault she was a part of my issues with the Serpents and-"

He choked back a sob and started breathing rapidly again, his panic rising and his tears clouding his vision. Axel gently pressed his forehead against the other's. "Breathe with me again, it's all okay. None of it was your fault, I promise."

Repeating the breathing exercise, he calmed down once more, but this time he couldn't stop his tears from falling. "No, it has to be my fault."

"Azr ael." Axel sighed, bringing up his hands to caress the other's face. "It wasn't your fault. If you hadn't taken her aboard, she would have met a worse fate as a prostitute. She was happier with you than she would have ever been there. You saved her."

"I couldn't save her when they attacked." Smock protested, letting out softer sobs than before but still crying.

"That wasn't your fault." Axel argued, keeping his tone as soft and reassuring as he could. "You can't save everyone. I lost my wife too. I know how it feels to have someone you care so much for just... ripped away from you. I blamed myself for so long, and I still do, but sweetie it's never our fault and it never will be. Ellamia wouldn't want to know you were blaming yourself. She'd want you to be happy."

Smock nodded, just a little, and leaned in to bury his face in Axel's chest, focusing on the gentle rise and fall as he breathed.

"Keep on like that, you're doing great." The Changeling reassured, stroking his hair and back gently. Smock let the world around him phase out, not wanting to ever return to it, and he held on tightly to Axel as if one move would destroy everything.

 

Eventually, he calmed down, keeping his face pressed against the Changeling's chest until gentle hands lifted his chin. Axel pressed their foreheads together once more, then he reached up to take off the bandages on his face. Smock saw that new flowers had bloomed on his face.

A crocus of love. A red daisy of beauty unknown to he who possesses it. A forget-me-not.

"Look, I can't... explain these things that I'm feeling." Axel started, looking away from Smock for a moment. "And maybe I should have never said anything. Maybe I should stop right now and just-" he cut himself off, his voice getting worked up and cracking. It was a heartbreaking noise, the sound of a person's voice breaking before they started to cry. "...Even when you hate me, you make the world feel a little better. Even after I spill all my blood and split all my veins and tear away every single flower from my frame, I will still love you."

A tiny sunflower.

He leaned forwards and let out a sigh, then he pressed his lips to Smock's in a kiss that was so passionate he was sure it must have been held back for years. It wasn't the first time either of them had kissed someone, but the feeling felt so new and refreshing after so long of them both being so alone. Their lips seemed to fit together so sweetly, and Smock felt the weight of the universe lift itself from his shoulders for just a moment. One blissful, beautiful moment. Even the way that the flowers and their petals gently brushed against his skin felt like stardust settling against his cheeks.

"Gods. I could do that again..." Axel murmured, and then he kissed Smock once more, and it felt just as blissful as the first time.

"And again."

He was more prepared this time, and he clutched Axel's shirt.

"And again."

He wanted to feel the kiss deepen. He wanted to know that wonderful feeling again.

But Axel pulled back, and Smock hid his face immediately in his hands, not wanting the Changeling to see how red he'd gotten. He stopped himself from making any small sounds and he didn't know what to say.

Thankfully he had no need to, because Axel let out a soft and affectionate laugh, reaching to gently caress Smock's shoulders.

"Come on angel, why don't we go buy you some clothes?"

Chapter Text

Smock and Axel were among the last people at the market. Dark orange hues settled over the darkening land and the sky was fading into a low gold and blue. The clouds had cleared away and the distant fire of the castle was still raging on, casting a soft burning backdrop over the land and its buildings. Stars were starting to appear in the sky and the land was quiet. The only people remaining were nobles, and very few of them at that.

Axel deemed it safe for them to be out without disguises, and he walked closely to Smock, wanting to hold his hand but ultimately deciding not to. The two observed the shops before the pirate picked out a nicely-decorated store that was home to a number of dresses and generally feminine clothing.

When they entered and the bell rang to signal it, the lady behind the counter smiled and perked up. She was a human, tall and blonde, with a pretty face and a kind smile. "Hello boys, take a look around."

Axel chuckled, looking at his companion affectionately before turning back to the woman. He approached her, watching as Smock started to look around. "How well do you suppose your clothing will fit a man?"

"Everything's unisex, love," she winked, leaning across the counter, "and anything that isn't can be adjusted. You buying for someone in particular?"

They watched Smock wander around, examining different clothes and smiling at them. Axel couldn't help but let out a satisfied sigh. "All for him, though I might grab a thing or two for some folk we're sailing with, since they don't have much on our ship."

"That man is pretty slim to start with, so he'll have no problem with the display size." She shrugged, pulling out a piece of paper. "If you need anything in a smaller size, or a bigger one, just let me know and I'll go into our storage to grab some for you."

"Thank you, dear." Axel smiled, watching as Smock turned towards him and then turned away with a small blush, walking away from whatever he was looking at and going to check out some more clothes.

He is absolutely adorable, the Changeling thought, leaning back against the counter. He wondered how much traffic this place got, and how much this lady was earning, because he thought it was quite a delightful little place. The clothing on display was absolutely gorgeous, fit for both casual and formal wear. Axel considered buying something for himself whilst he was at it.

 

The Changeling browsed the store for some time as he waited for Smock to finish up, and when they were all ready they gathered at the counter. Smock had clearly taken the command of 'get what you want' very seriously, as a pile of clothes had collected in his arms and he nervously set them down. Axel separated the clothes into piles, then he asked the lady for all the adjustments necessary for the others and waited for her to return with them.

Whilst they waited, Axel couldn't help but quickly flick through what Smock had chosen, and he smiled warmly at the selections. The majority of clothes were rather feminine in appearance, but he didn't mind, and he actually found them very cute.

"You have good taste." Axel complimented, looking down with a very genuine expression of happiness. "I think you will look stunning in these."

Smock went bright red, fishing for words but ultimately failing. He clearly was having trouble mustering up anything except the sounds of stuttering and starts of sentences. Axel raised his brow in amusement, materialising a group of crates when the lady came back carrying the different sizes of clothing.

He gestured towards the crates. "Your pay, and extra, my dear."

The lady widened her eyes at the crates, then she pried the lid from one and dug through it, checking that the money was genuine and then looking up at Axel in shock. "This is- you didn't have to."

"Your shop made him happy," the Changeling tilted his head towards Smock, "and you are an absolute darling, so you deserve it."

 

It took them a while, and a few bags, but eventually they left the shop (after some profuse 'thank you's from the shopkeeper) and started to make their way home, but Axel stopped next to a jewellery store and halted Smock. He approached the vendor, picked up something and immediately asked for it before handing over some money and returning to Smock. He clasped the ring in his hand, looking at it with a soft smile. It was designed to look like black interwoven thorns, each end spiking up just slightly to give even more of a thorny effect.

"I know you won't forgive me," Axel whispered, "but now I've got your power back I'm going to use it."

Then he murmured a blessing, and watched as icy blue magic coursed through the ring.

He grabbed one of Smock's hands, looking him in the eyes and stopping him in the middle of the street. "Dear, I need to give you something." Axel didn't wait to slip the ring onto Smock's middle finger, and he looked the man in the eye. "You're going to need this. Never take it off."

Smock didn't ask, examining the ring and clearly fighting back a smile, and then the two continued onwards.

 

They reached the house a few minutes later and Axel knocked on the door, smiling to Mouse when he greeted them.

"Where have you been?" the Tabaxi asked, concern in his tone. He looked at Smock, smiling a little, and then back to Axel.

"Smock... wasn't feeling so good, and I needed to get the crew some new clothes since they don't have much, so we ended up going shopping." He answered, gesturing towards the bags. Mouse looked at them, then shrugged and let them in.

 

When they entered, they were greeted by the sight of Six standing on top of Axel's children, holding a wooden cutlass and pointing it to the roof, letting out a victorious squeak. "I am Captain Undying! I am SUCH A GOOD PIRATE!"

Wiccan had his head in his hands.

Smock approached, confused, and set the bags he was carrying on the ground. "What's going on?"

The wizard let out a long sigh, looking at the pirate and frowning. "I asked them about Captain Undying and I got a play."

"I don't think Captain Undying would say 'I'm such a good pirate'." Smock chuckled nervously.

Axel laughed, amused by the look on Smock's face, and then he set down his bags alongside the others. "I'm going to go to bed. I bought you all some clothes, so take a look; they're labelled."

The pirate watched him as he left, but didn't say anything.

 

He didn't wait for any response before climbing the stairs and claiming the biggest bedroom (which he checked over for possessions, it was most certainly a guest room) to recline in.

Axel sighed, laying back in the bed and running a hand over his face, feeling the scar and pushing his nails into it, feeling how deep it was for the millionth time that day. He removed his bandages, ignoring the blood that had seeped onto them throughout the day, and then stood up in front of the mirror and started to get undressed.

He unbuttoned his shirt, staring at the flowers on his chest and sighing softly. Asphodel again? I know I have regrets but I haven't regretted anything today, have I?

He thought for a moment, then sighed. Please don't tell me I'm having regrets about Soren. He abused me.

But there was an aching in his heart, and a deep remorse. He deserved it. I can't feel bad for him just because he's my brother. Why do I still-

Why do I still care about him?

Axel frowned, but he left the asphodel. There are nettles on my skin. They're for protection. I know I want to protect Aziel.

An array of roses for him, too. Aren't they just the sweetest of flowers?

The Changeling looked to his wrist, but there were no happy flowers resting at the base of his palm. Thistles. A warning. For what?

Birdsfoot trefoil. Doesn't that represent revenge?

Begonia flowers - 'beware'.

What's going on?

 

Axel shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts, and he laid back in bed with a long sigh.

It must be Soren... but what is he planning?

Chapter Text

Smock had taken a seat by the fire with Six, relaxing beside her and listening to her talk about Captain Undying. The Kobold was endlessly enthusiastic about him, going on and on about how he must have been the coolest and most amazing pirate ever and talking about his battles. She told him about how much Captain Undying had done to fight back against the Serpents, and how much she wanted to be like him when she grew up, and she came up very close to him and cupped her hands around his ear.

"And guess what?" she whispered, excitement filling her voice.

"What?"

"I don't think he's actually dead."

Smock smiled, letting out a soft chuckle. Nobody knows who I am... I might as well give this kid some hope. "He's not." He confessed. "I've seen him."

"No way!" Six squeaked, grabbing her wooden cutlass and kneeling next to him, looking up with the most excited eyes. "Tell me about him! I wanna know!"

"He doesn't go by Captain Undying anymore," he mused, "and only a couple of people know he's still alive. One of them is me, and another is Axel."

"Is he still super cool and heroic?" she asked. "Does he still say he's super cool?"

Smock laughed quietly, staring into the fire thoughtfully. "He is very heroic, and he still fights the Serpents, but he doesn't say it." He leaned in closer to her, looking from side to side to make sure nobody was looking, and then he let out a very quiet murmur. "You know what he would say to all the bad guys before he made them go away?"

"What did he say?!" Six's eyes widened, and she immediately knew she was getting in on a big magical exciting secret.

"He'd say, 'care to dance with the Angel of death?', and it was very cool." He reminisced for a moment, reminded of all the times he'd spoken that phrase and the way his enemies' eyes would cloud with fear or hatred. He remembered killing so many people, and he didn't think he would ever forget it. But for the sake of Six, he tried to push them back, and he wanted to give her as much hope and excitement as possible.

"That is so awesome!" she grinned, then she leaned in close again. "And dad said my Auntie Ellamia was his wife!"

Smock had to stop himself from frowning, closing his eyes for a moment and taking a breath. "She was, and she was the best wife for him ever. She was even more awesome than he was, you know."

"Woah, really? She must have been SUPER COOL!" Six giggled, then she jumped to her feet and pointed to Avian with her wooden cutlass. "Avian! Come here!"

The girl looked up from her book, then she jumped to her feet and rushed over to Six. This kid has everyone on her side, doesn't she? "What's up?"

"Be my Ellamia!" Six grinned, jumping up to her feet and hugging Avian tightly. "You are the bestest wife in the world! I am Captain Undying but you are WAY cooler and you are so awesome and did cool things!"

Avian was extremely confused for a moment, but she tried to play along anyway. "Uh... yes! I am... Ellamia! I am very cool and do cool things?" she hesitantly hugged Six back, then she rolled her eyes and picked up the kid, holding her tightly. "I am a great wife and I will protect my Captain Undying no matter what!"

The two laughed with each other until Kilmorne stood up, crossing his arms and looking down at the two with an affectionate smile. "It's getting late, we should get some sleep, especially you Six."

"Oh no! It's dad monster! The most fearsome sea monster EVER!" Six squealed, pointing her wooden sword at him. "Come on wife Ellamia! Let's make the big baddie go away!"

Smock smiled warmly, standing up and looking at the two from the other side. "Come on kids, you're gonna be on a ship tomorrow. Besides, if dad monster doesn't eat you... I will." He didn't realise how dark his voice had gotten until he got a look from Liayra, but he just smiled, pretending he'd done it on purpose for the thrill of the kids.

Kilmorne raised his eyebrows, then let out a soft, rumbling chuckle. "See? You might be the best pirates to ever exist, but even the best pirates needed sleep."

"Fiiiine." Six whined, but she jumped out of Avian's arms and instead clung to Smock. "Goodnight, I love you!"

"You're a sweet little lass, aren't ya?" Smock chuckled, naturally reverting back to his pirate accent and smiling at her. I'm gonna protect this kid. "Love ya too, kid."

 

She giggled, happy, and threw herself up into Kilmorne's arms, snuggling into his chest and starting to talk to him about Captain Undying some more.

Smock watched as she went, almost missing the brightness she brought to the room just by being in it, and he sat back down by the fire, enjoying the warmth on his skin.

"That was strangely... adorable." Voyage shrugged after a moment, turning a coin in her fingers and watching Smock. "Feelin' alright, bud?"

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." He waved it off, watching the flames flicker for a few minutes before his silence was once again interrupted. This time it was by Avian, who came to sit beside him.

 

"Thank you for making dad happier." She opened the conversation with, and immediately Smock was hit with a wave of confusion. It took him a moment to realise she was talking about Axel. God, I need to get used to that fucker being a father. "The last person he ever let himself be alone with was our mom, and she died a long time ago."

Smock turned to look at Avian. Of the three children, she looked the least like Axel. She had long, black hair and antler-like horns, with red skin and bright blue slitted eyes. She had Axel's lashes for sure, though. "Yeah, your dad's really somethin' else."

Avian nodded in agreement, laughing softly. "You got that right. He's an amazing dad though, and he is really sweet when you let him in. We're lucky that we got him and not one of his brothers."

"That family's so dysfunctional it makes mine look great." Smock retorted, and he didn't even mean it jokingly. The Sanguis family was a complete wreck, and he certainly didn't see that changing any time soon.

"Uncle Soren is so disrespectful." She sighed, fiddling with her shirt for a moment before looking up at Smock with sad eyes. "You... don't mind me being... you know, trans?"

Smock raised his eyebrows, looking at her in slight surprise. "Of course I don't mind, kid. Yer a girl, don't matter what Soren says. Hell, I'm intersex, so don't worry about acceptance."

Avian smiled, and her eyes lit up a little at that. "Wait, really? What's that like?"

"I just got both." He shrugged, setting his hands down in his lap. "I didn't even realise people had... well, just one, for a real long time."

The girl couldn't help but let out a laugh, and she leaned against Smock's shoulder. "I really like you. Thank you for making dad happy."

Smock gave a small laugh. I make him happy? "Yeah, no problem kid. Now go to bed, tomorrow's gonna be a very big day."

Avian kissed Smock on the cheek, then she got up and took her new clothes, making her way up to her room, followed quickly by her brothers. Everybody else filtered out, until finally it was just Smock, and he decided he didn't want to linger much more alone, and made his way upstairs.

 

When he got upstairs, he felt an extremely strong calling towards one room in particular. He wasn't sure what it was but he could barely control the movement of his legs as he approached the door. Smock took a breath or two to calm himself, then he opened the door.

 

Axel was sitting up in bed reading a book with a serpent resembling Anjanox on it, his eye trained intently on it. He seemed deeply interested in whatever it was that was in the book, and he had a glass of red wine in his free hand and was in nothing but some baggy trousers. A lantern was burning on his bedside table, casting a low orange light over the room. "Hello, dear."

Smock looked at him with confusion. "What's that?"

"The book, or the wine?" Axel enquired with a chuckle, putting down his reading material and sipping his drink. "I have some strong whiskey, if you're interested."

That was an invitation he couldn't say no to, so he quickly came to sit at Axel's side on the bed, stretching out his legs and watching as the Changeling passed over the bottle and picked up his book again.

Axel was strangely quiet, making no remarks and not trying anything at all. He seemed calm, perhaps even a little tired, and certainly comfortable. He hummed a little as he read, then picked up the hum in a song, keeping it quiet but loud enough for Smock to hear. The sound was kind of calming.

"You alright?" Smock asked after a while, after downing the entire bottle of whiskey.

"Absolutely wonderful, dear. I might sleep for the first time in a while." He said, folding the corner of his page and scribbling a note in the corner before setting it back down. "Did you know my sister Clari was a writer? She loved to write children's stories, but she did a couple more serious ones."

Smock wasn't really interested in writers, but he was interested in the Sanguis family (even if it was in a hateful way) so he acknowledged Axel's words with a nod. The Changeling passed him another bottle, which he took without even questioning where it had come from.

"I love this one - it's an account whereas the others are fictional, but it's very interesting to learn of where she went when she went missing." He laid down, resting his head on the pillow but then deciding it wasn't satisfying and instead resting it on Smock's leg. "Clari joined a Tabaxi clan, and after a long time she returned to the family and taught them all about fighting techniques and their societies and everything."

Axel then cleared his throat. "Unfortunately, after she returned, my family went out and captured and slaughtered a large number of Tabaxi. Not her choice, but tragic for sure."

"Well." Smock had not expected that end to the story, but it didn't really surprise him. That family was something else entirely, and them eliminating Tabaxi clans just because they knew how to wasn't too out there. Tabaxi would be a key group that would resist against their rule, too. They're free spirits, they would never accept the Serpents as their rulers.

Though Mouse was more relaxed than others of his race, he clearly had a lust for adventure, and didn't seem to like the idea of being under some group's control.

"...Oh well. I'm tired, I'm going to go to sleep." He shrugged, wrapping his arms around Smock's waist and getting himself comfortable. Smock watched the Changeling, unused to him being in any way soft, but didn't stop him, and figured this was probably as comfortable as the two of them would be getting for a long time. His voice lowering into a sleepier and deeper tone, Axel let out a soft grumbly murmur. "Azrael, go to sleep after I'm asleep and wake up when I do. I love-"

The Changeling cut himself off, clearing his throat. "I... goodnight."

Smock didn't quite know how to react to that. He knew the end to that sentence was most likely 'you', but would he have said it back? It felt strange to even think about telling the Changeling he loved him, even if maybe he was feeling things for him. Smock was a little confused, to be honest. First Axel had called him his 'boyfriend', then they'd kissed, and now Axel was professing his love?

Smock would have continued to think about it, but he felt tiredness wash over him, and he let out a sigh. Fuckin' bond.

He put out the candle, laid down, and pulled the blanket over Axel's shoulders, then allowed himself to rest.

Chapter Text

When the two awoke, they stayed in bed for a while, Smock watching the Changeling groan and murmur to himself about having to check on the kids and cook breakfast, until he suddenly realised they were in someone else's house and he let out an extremely satisfied sigh and squeezed his arms tighter. Smock wasn't quite sure how to react to this, and he just watched, unsure whether he should try and get up or not.

He didn't have to worry about that, however, because Axel pried himself from Smock and kissed him on the neck before approaching the mirror. Smock blushed, looking away for a moment and then gazing in Axel's direction.

The Changeling, however, seemed to be avoiding showing his back. Curiosity washed over Smock but he realised he wasn't getting anywhere by just sitting. He was too late to do anything, however, as Axel threw on a shirt after bandaging his face. He put on a red and black overcoat, got into some fresh underwear and bottoms, and then buttoned up the coat. He slipped on some heeled black boots and looked at Smock. "Let's get down, dear. We'd best leave as soon as possible."

Smock groaned, snuggling into the blanket for a second before jolting upright. There might be news about Soren.

He got out of bed quickly, undressing himself and searching through his new clothes for something to wear. He settled on the blue coat and, the usual, a baggy white shirt. He tied a red piece of fabric around his waist and put on some light brown bottoms. It was clearly the clothes of a pirate, but Smock didn't care - he'd be on the ship soon anyway, and then he'd be back in his element.

The two walked downstairs and were quickly greeted by Six, who squeaked and ran into the kitchen. Smock smiled a little at her, amused, and then the two proceeded into the living room. Everybody was gathered, some sitting and others standing, each with luggage that they'd be bringing aboard. Kilmorne was standing in front of the fire, his black tail sitting calmly by his feet.

"Good morning, you two. Has Six told you the news?" he hummed, staring at the two with an unreadable expression. When neither of them responded, he sighed. "So not only was the castle set alight, but Soren Sanguis was attacked by Captain Undying, and some prisoners were freed from the castle. I'm not upset, but..."

Smock felt eyes settle on him, and he took a breath. "But?"

"We quickly figured it out... you're Captain Undying." Kilmorne looked him in the eye and he felt the world crash around him before swiftly rebuilding itself. These people aren't afraid of me. I should be worried. They know my face. But aren't they my crew now?

He looked over them all, silent, before pointing to Axel and then the door. "Yeahh, Axel will explain, I gotta quickly wrap something up."

 

Before anyone could protest, he launched himself out of the nearest (open) window and climbed onto the roof of the nextdoor. He heard the Changeling's nervous chuckle, but didn't stay around to listen to anything more, for he wanted to check on something.

He carefully made his way across the rooftops, his eyes trained on the path before him, the world seeming to fly past him. The castle approached quickly, and he skidded to a halt, standing atop a roof and gazing out at the building. He could see the damage he'd caused; the castle's roof had a hole struck through it with black patches where the fire had scorched the stone.

Solemnly staring at it all, he lifted his gaze to the sky. It was a nice day out, and the fires of Summer would soon be burning across Aldelis. Spring had been sweet but timid, and he had brought it to a perfect close.

This isn't enough, he decided, looking at his hands. I need to do more.

 

Silence didn't linger, for suddenly he felt a presence behind him. Smock turned around, trying to figure out how the man had so silently crept up to him.

"So my dead enemy shows his face." Soren hummed thoughtfully, his barn owl wings tucked in against his back. "I can become you, now."

Smock huffed, amused. "What ya gonna do? Make my reputation worse? I'm a pirate, my reputation is already bad. You fucked up when you told them I'm alive. Now everybody knows about your failure, and they know that I'm standing between you and them. I thought your brother was a spoiled brat, but now I can see that he's just a brat, and you're the spoiled little whiny one." His voice darkened, and an echo arose behind it as he chuckled. "You don't even know what I actually sound like."

Soren laughed roughly, "If I spread your face and your name, I'll have more people on my side than you might think. If I place a bounty, for example..." he flexed his fingers, "then you will be a very popular target. And of course, there are the cultists, our worshippers, our followers and our men. You are nothing in comparison to us." Soren smiled, opening his wings, his voice crackling and distorting and separating as though it were being spoken all around his head. "And don't use the voice trick on me, pirate."

"I'm a pirate, I'm already a popular target, but I appreciate the excitement." Smock retorted. If you want a face-off, you can have a face-off. "I am nothing. You know nothing about me, while there's centuries of information on you. I'm nothing because I'm unknown, and that scares you, doesn't it? You were scared when that spell didn't kill me, and you're scared that I'm still walking when I should be dead." He knew all the voice tricks, and he was even more tempted to use them now. His voice glitched, darkness filling it and the voices of the void crackling behind it. "It's been so long since I had some fun."

Soren didn't seem intimidated, but deep down he must have been crumbling. He flared his wings aggressively, and Smock saw the split feathers and the splints holding them together where they'd been injured. They were healing fast it seemed, but they trembled when he moved. "You don't scare me one bit. You underestimate the Serpents. Why would we still be in power, in control of all of Aldelis, if we were as incompetent as you think? Just because you won once doesn't mean you've claimed permanent victory."

Unable to keep it down, Smock started to laugh. "I can't take a fake Angel seriously, oh my Queen. Sure, sure- try and kill me again, I'm sure stopping me like last time would be soooo great. And yeah, you're incompetent on your own which is why you had to breed like rats, your father should have killed a few of you honestly, clearly the genetics got a bit fucked. Oh, and are the followers as fuckin' crazy as the family?"

Soren smiled, then he let out a quiet laugh. "I won't disagree with you there, you're right. And yes, they are just as crazy, if not worse." He straightened his posture and then his face, looking down at Smock and fixing his disapproving glare back into place. "Anyway, I really must be going. I have... things I must attend to."

Smock shrugged, looking at the castle and smiling. "Yeah yeah, whatever. Go have fun getting served from a gold platter."

"I will." Soren smirked, and then he snapped his fingers and disappeared, leaving behind a single owl feather. Smock rolled his eyes, kicked the feather off the rooftop, and decided it was about time to head back.

Chapter Text

Soon as Smock returned, the crew got going and he manned the wheel.

It didn't take long for everything to settle in, and he hit his head against the wheel, letting out a groan. Why did they have to find out there? Of all places, why there? What did Axel say about me? Why did they have to find out? Why did I let this slip?

 

He wanted to fucking die, even though he knew he couldn't, but he WANTED to and he regretted EVERYTHING.

Soren knew far too much, even though he barely knew anything at all, and that was certainly not a good thing. He hated the Sanguis family. He hated Soren and their father and everyone. They were all slimy, horrible, gross, squirmy snakes and he couldn't stand them and he wanted them dead and away from Aldelis.

He hated that a bunch of complete strangers knew he was Captain Undying, and he hated that they knew Ellamia and that they were part of her family. He wanted to run away from all of this and start again. I've been too reckless in this life.

 

After a while of steering in silence, he saw the black-scaled Dragonborn approach him, suspicious but confident in his manner. Smock watched him through the corners of his eyes as he approached and then stood at his side. The dragon man hesitated for a moment before he found his words. "Look, I... know you're Captain Undying, and I don't really trust you, and I know you have an otherworldly patron, but... I'll tolerate you, and maybe we can be friends. But I just wanted to thank you for being nice to Six. She's really thrilled to be friends with Captain Undying himself, and I'm honestly surprised with how sweet you've been."

Smock shrugged, looking down before taking a long-ass fucking drink. "Just call me Smock. And... you haven't seen the other sides of me yet."

Kilmorne gave him a slightly skeptical look. "I'm sure I haven't, but I refuse to believe you'll hurt my little girl. There's good in you, Smock. Just... take care of her, alright?"

"I will." Smock nodded, quickly glancing away from the wheel to look at Kilmorne. The man looked stressed and tired and sad, but there was something else off about him. When he tried to figure it out, his mind was clouded by the memory of the wolf spirit. That's awfully suspicious.

 

Kilmorne didn't say anything else and he shuffled away, leaving Smock alone once again, just how he liked it.

He ended up examining the ring Axel had given him. It pulsed with an icy blue energy, but he couldn't quite figure out what exactly the magic was. It reminded him of the ice magic Soren used, and he wondered if it were perhaps something to do with that. A suspicious part of him theorised that perhaps Axel had tricked him and that this was a tracking device, or perhaps it was slowly damaging him, or perhaps it was sealing him into another dimension or something more awful. Another part of him thought that perhaps this was genuinely a nice thing, and that maybe it was enchanted to protect him from something.

Next he looked at his wedding ring. He smiled, remembering that day, and looked over the silver band, beautifully embedded with light blue spinel and intricately carved with wave designs. He couldn't look at the ring without wanting to dance with her and hold her close, and sometimes the memory hurt but most times it reminded him of great joy and pleasure.

He had to look away from it, getting too carried away in his thoughts, and Gods forbid anyone asked him about the ring.

 

"ALRIGHT, ANYONE GOT ANYWHERE TO GO?" he yelled, projecting his voice hopefully enough to be heard all across the ship, and he saw a couple of heads turn but ultimately no response, all until Axel fucking materialised at his side.

"I do, actually." He hummed, leaning against the railing next to the wheel.

"I do not want to be going and meeting any more of your fucking family." Smock didn't even wait to hear where the Changeling wanted to go, because frankly it didn't matter because he just wanted a break from that crazy shitshow of a family.

"It's... a different kind of family." Axel chuckled somewhat nervously, rubbing the back of his neck and trying to shoot Smock a charming grin, which failed completely.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he didn't even want to imagine Axel having any other kind of family, even if it wasn't necessarily the Serpents.

"So..." he trailed off, thinking for a moment and then drumming his fingers on the table. "Do you remember the Gods?"

"Oh no." Smock suddenly realised what Axel was implying, and he wanted to throw himself overboard forever. "Oh no."

"Yeah." The Changeling laughed very nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. "They're gonna be pissed at me."

"What did you even do?" he asked, realising he didn't actually know why the Gods were so angry at him, or why he seemed so tense.

"Well, you see..." Axel pulled out his ring, staring solemnly at the symbols etched into it. "Behind their backs I started working on a little something that could retract or return my soul at will, since I know they would never let me have it back of their own free will. But they have it back now, and I know they're going to be mad because I told them nothing of this and it must have hurt to have a piece of a soul ripped out of them by force. I'd know."

Smock shook his head. His back was starting to itch a little, fuelling his agitation. "You fuckin' dumbass, you're betraying the kids of the God of fucking reality. They have crazy power, and I can't even fuckin' imagine how many other Gods you're messing with by doing with. You don't just betray a God and get off with a slap on the wrist."

"I know." Axel looked at his hands, turning away from Smock. "It won't be the first time, or the last."

"Axel, they're going to get sick of this and end up just erasing you from existence, in this plane at least." He snapped, taking a hand from the wheel to gesture at the sky.

"Again, not the first-" the man started, and then he paused and cleared his throat. "Well, it's been a good talk, dear, but I'm just... I'm going to go write some letters."

But he didn't get the chance to protest, and he was left alone all over again.

 

Smock didn't mind being left alone, but something about that whole conversation had put him off. That man was involved with too many Gods in some very concerning ways.

Gods, his back really itched. He reached a hand around to try and scratch it, but his back felt funny under the fabric of his clothes.

Then Smock had a realisation.

 

"IGHT IMMA HEAD OUT." He slammed his hands down on the wheel, then he looked across the ship and stared at Ophelia before launching himself off the railings and over the side.

He kicked in the cannon of the storage room, threw himself in through the hole, and then bolted for the captain's quarters. When he got there, he shut himself in, locked the door, and dropped his head into his hands. Holy shit holy shit holy shit no way is this happening.

His back was burning now, all of his nerves in agony, until the climax of his agony hit and he had to cover his mouth, letting out a muffled scream and falling to his knees. He dug his nails into his arm, trying anything to numb the pain, clawing at the wood of the floor desperately. Everything hurt and he could barely feel anything at all other than the agony.

He gathered all of his strength and dragged himself toward the bed, pulling the blanket from it. He hid under the bed, holding the blanket tight over his body and trying not to sob. He felt overwhelming amounts of emotion, something he hadn't been subjected so strongly to in a while, and he dug his nails hard into the covers, curling up.

Back burning thanks to the new limbs that had shot through them, he felt feathers twitch as he wrapped the wings around himself, trying to comfort himself at least just a little bit.

He heard a knock at his door, then the doorknob jiggled, and then he heard Axel's sigh from outside. No, not now! Not now, please not now.

The Changeling's feet materialised beside the bed, and he heard heels clacking on the wood as he walked. "Azrael, dear, where are you?"

Smock stayed completely silent, not breathing. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. He heard closet doors swinging open and those boots crossing the room and then they settled beside the bed, and then he saw knees, and then he saw hands and then Axel's face.

 

The two stared at each other for a few moments before Axel finally spoke. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"

Smock whined, not wanting the man to see but in so much pain he didn't have the strength to resist, not with Axel anyway. He extended a wing out towards Axel, and the man realised what was happening and started to caress it.

The pain was overwhelming enough to make the pleasure almost nonexistent. He focused on whatever was left of it, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths to try and calm himself.

Frowning sympathetically, Axel reached out to touch Smock's face with his other hand. "I caused this."

"Yeah." He groaned, looking away and shuffling a little closer to the man. "Yeah, you did."

That didn't seem to be the reaction Axel particularly wanted but it wasn't a lie. It definitely was his fault. Axel must have had some idea of Archangels with wings or some shit, or read about them and subconsciously wanted to see him with them or something or maybe it was just the bond in general but this was fucked and he was not happy at all.

Smock let out a slight growl, trying to pull himself from under the bed. His wings were wet with the black goop that was his blood. He took a deep breath, pain rippling throughout him as he moved, but he refused to stop. "Piss off."

"Please, dear, don't be like this. All I want to do is be here - please let me be here for you." Axel couldn't hide the hurt that flashed in his expression at Smock's words, and he backed away a little bit. Smock got out from under the bed, pulling the blanket with him before discarding it, and he got up, wincing in agony.

"I don't need you." He snapped, taking one small step and immediately stopping. God, why does it hurt so fucking bad?

"I know you don't." Axel's breath shuddered and he swallowed, clearly hurt.

Last time he got all 'sad' with me, he ended up branding me. I'm not falling for it this time, bastard. "All you want to do is see me suffer! Isn't that what this fucking brand was all about? Wasn't learning my true name good enough for you?" He spread his wings threateningly, even if it hurt and it made him want to cut them straight off. "You fucking hurt me, and you keep hurting me, and you know what makes it all worse? I don't even know what you really want."

Tears had gathered in Axel's eyes. "Is that what you really think?"

Smock's face was shrouded in rage, his eyes dark. The Changeling stared, rubbed away his tears, and took a deep and broken breath. But Smock wasn't done. "Do you just want me to suffer? Is that what you want? You keep calling me by a name that's dead, that brings back memories. You're doing this for your own fucking sadistic pleasure, aren't you?"

"No!" the other cried.

"You made me without a purpose, you made me without free will, what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to be happy!" Axel sobbed, clutching at his own shirt, his ears drooping and his scar flashing from time to time with a brief pulse of white magic. "That's all I want, and I know I'm not doing a good job at it but I want you to be happy, even if that's without me! I don't give a FUCK about what happens to me, and I couldn't care less if you killed me right here and now, or I could just fucking do it myself, but ALL I WANT is for you to be happy."

"I'm not even a person, I'm not even a REAL PERSON," he looked away from the Changeling, his voice darkening "-I'm just a thing."

Smock didn't care about what the other thought, or felt, or wanted. He brought his wings forward, and started pulling as hard as he could at the black feathers. He started to grab handfuls, tearing them out, leaving patches of damaged tissue and black blood. Axel, alarmed, stood up and grabbed Smock's wrists, holding them tightly and pulling them away from the delicate wings, which were bursting with pain. The two made eye contact, Smock's eyes now empty and Axel's filled with sorrow. "I'm not dumb enough to think I matter. Do you just want me to be this thing for your twisted pleasure? Because that's what you did the first time. If that's what you want, I can be that."

"No." Axel argued, his fists clenching tighter. "No, fuck no. I don't care what you are or who you are, I just want you to be happy - I want to make you happy, or for others to make you happy, or something, but you're not this shell that you think you are. You're no less of a person than me. You feel, and that's enough for me. Please just listen-"

"I told you, I'm not a person." Smock hissed, trying to rip his hands free. "I can't even fucking kill you. It's not in my programming to kill you, you're basically the one in charge of me."

"Then I'll do it myself. Would that give you some satisfaction? Would that make you happy? Would that be enough for you?" Axel cried, stepping back, opening his hands at his sides and staring straight on at Smock.

"No, because I wouldn't let you." The pirate argued, tightening his own fists in a mixture of both anger and a sudden uprising concern.

"It's what you want, isn't it?" the Changeling asked, tears spilling from his white eyes like water from a broken glass.

"You have children." Smock growled, taking a step closer to Axel. I won't let him do something stupid like this.

"They lived long enough without me." Axel argued, then he shook his head and broke down into tears again, backing up against the wall and sobbing so hard he had to gasp for breath.

Smock wasn't sure what to do. He could walk out right then and there, but neither himself nor the Changeling were in any kind of good mental state and he didn't trust Axel not to do something fucking drastic. He stepped forward again, only to get shot a pained glare. "You don't want anything to do with me."

"Axel, don't you realise I'm the Angel of death? My job was to stop people in grief from doing stupid things because of their emotions. Do you know how much grief this would cause?" Smock sighed, more done than angry now. His rage was slowly getting replaced with some bitter sense of half-caring.

"Everybody hates me. I thought you might have cared, I thought you felt something, but once again I was fucking wrong. The others hate me, and I made an awful impression on Ophelia's family, and I've seen the way she looks at me since we fought." Axel's voice was going through so many emotions it was hard for him to keep up. "My kids are the only ones who care about me and they don't know half of the things I've done. If I told them, they'd be through with me. My family is fucking gone, Smock. My father always told me I should use my magic to do something useful by offing myself."

"You shouldn't have cared for me in the first place." Smock said coldly, taking another step closer. He was trying to edge closer as subtly as possible, knowing a quick movement might make things worse. I need to heal him. I need to heal him but I can't heal this.

"I can't help it." Axel lamented, grabbing his hair in his hands. "I tried to get rid of the feelings but they never go away, and I can't forget you, and I love you but I don't want to, and it will never be enough to make you happy."

All of this over wings.

When Axel closed his eyes, Smock came to sit next to him silently, drawing his knees up to his chest and looking at the Changeling. His pain had lessened but he was certainly still in it, and he hesitated for a moment before huffing and leaning on the other. Axel caught his breath for a second, but he immediately had to gasp because he was still sobbing intensely, making those soft hiccupy noises and high-pitched breaths. Smock naturally tried to use his healing hands, but they didn't seem to be making the man feel much better.

He likes sexual things, right? Maybe that'll cheer him up?

"If you want to... punish me, or... hate bed me, then you can, if it'd make you feel better." He offered, not knowing any other ways of comforting Axel, but he just received a sad sigh.

"I don't want to fuck you right now. I don't want to use you and hurt you like that. I love you, I-I just..." he looked down at his arms, and Smock felt a strong need to heal him all over again. "What do you want?"

"To serve you, I guess." Smock answered with a light shrug, not feeling much of anything at all other than his physical pain.

"What do you really want?" Axel asked, weaving a hand down to clutch Smock's.

 

Then agony shot through him again, and two sets of much smaller wings burst through his back. This time, he was unable to stop the tears from falling and he cried out in pain, not prepared at all. Axel's arms wrapped around him this time, stopping him from falling completely, and gentle fingers touched the larger ones that had already sprouted, masking at least a small portion of the pain with a much more desired sensation.

Axel kept massaging them, then he moved his hands to the more sensitive smaller wings, and caressed them until the pain was a little bit more bearable. Smock clung tightly to the Changeling's shirt, his eyes closed as he tried to breathe regularly.

The pain went away much faster this time, until the two were sat entwined on the floor, recovering from their tears and their pain together. Neither spoke for some time until Axel picked up the pirate, holding him carefully and placing him down on his front on the bed. Axel crawled on top of him, then cupped his face and leaned down to give him a gentle kiss, and then a few more, before laying down next to him.

"I'm sorry for all of this." Axel sighed, staring at the ceiling quietly.

"You didn't know. How could you?" Smock replied softly. "I was the one who did, and I didn't stop it when it came down to it."

"Don't start blaming yourself." The Changeling wrapped an arm around Smock's head and pulled him gently over to rest on his chest.

"Yeah yeah, whatever." He grumbled, crossing his arms but ultimately curling into Axel and snuggling close. This is a huge mess.

Hands caressed his wings, easing the ache in his back, and he couldn't help but let out a small sound of just slight satisfaction. He felt the other chuckle just a little at it. Affectionately, Axel ran his hands down to the base of the wings, through Smock's hair, and then all the way back. "I'm sorry that I love you."

Smock didn't say anything, not really knowing how to respond, and he just brought himself as close to Axel as he could, subconsciously taking a breath and releasing it as something akin to a purr. It wasn't only due to the nice sensation of hands on his wings, but also due to the pain.

Axel stared in absolute confusion and bewilderment at the sound of purring, for he knew Smock was no cat, but after a few moments he settled and continued moving his hands, clearly wanting to hear more of it. Smock didn't even realise he was making the noise until he heard a sigh and tuned in again to his surroundings, hearing the soft rumbly noise coming from his own chest. He was half-tempted to stop completely, but it was too comfortable and too healing to be that much of a pain, and anyway it seemed to be making Axel feel very calm.

 

After some time of just laying there and purring, Smock decided it was about time he put away his healed wings and headed up to sail. Axel kissed his lips before he left, then curled up in the bed on his own after fetching a book.

 

Smock returned to his post at the wheel of the ship, forgetting how horrible and sickly he looked, and he approached Ophelia, who immediately threw her arms around him. "Where were you?"

"Ehh, just took a power nap." He shrugged, though Ophelia was absolutely not buying it, because she examined him skeptically and raised her brows. Smock quickly stopped her before she spoke. "Really, don't worry. I'm great. Absolutely fine. Just peachy. You can go do whatever."

Ophelia took a deep breath. "Yeah. I know exactly what I'm going to do."

She bitterly frowned, then marched away down the steps to the deck.

Oh.

Oh no.

 

Smock tried not to think about it, and he started to steer the ship.

Chapter Text

Steering the ship was generally rather relaxing, but thoughts of what Ophelia was going to do or say or talk about kept nagging at him. Would she ask anything about Smock? Would she ask about Ellamia?

He was getting distracted very easily and he couldn't stop thinking about it. Anxiety was welling up in his chest and he found himself drumming his fingers against the wheel.

Of course, the next step was to start banging his head against the wheel. It was the absolute best response to stress, clearly, because immediately he heard the sound of a worried yelp from nearby. He didn't stop (why would he?) and turned his head so he could at least see who it was between the thumps.

Wiccan brought himself up the stairs and towards Smock, too alarmed to try stop him. The pirate fell forwards onto the wheel, letting out a long and agitated groan. He stared at the wizard, waiting for him to say something, but the boy appeared far too startled to do much of anything at all, so he let out a curt "What?"

Taking a breath, Wiccan folded his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels. "I saw you hitting your head a-and I was kind of um... worried?"

Smock raised his brows. "Well, if only I had a brain to damage."

"I-" the High Elf paused, squinting in confusion, "What? Smock, I-" he struggled for words.

Smock rest his head on his fist, staring expectantly at Wiccan.

"I was also a little worried because I heard Ophelia..." he murmured, then cleared his throat, looking away. "She was yelling. And that's very strange for her. You spoke to her before she left to go downstairs, what's happening?"

Oh boy. "Probably cutting in deep to Axel."

"...Oh." Wiccan looked as though he were working something out in his head, then he looked at his feet. "It sounded nasty. I should probably go interfere before it gets out of hand..."

The wizard turned away, starting to walk away, but Smock interrupted him. "Listen kid, I'll go take care of it, you can man the ship so you don't get involved in that shit."

Wiccan thought for a moment, but the pirate had already grabbed him and placed him solidly behind the wheel.

"You'll do a great job as captain." He hurriedly said before rushing down the stairs. Multiple scenarios were running through his head, but all he really felt was a little frustration and that sense of 'here we go again'. He carried himself down the walkway, entering the hallway, and swinging open the door after grumbling to himself the whole way. He stared into the captain's quarters, eyes half-lidded and indifferent, at the scene.

 

Ophelia was stood with her arms open, clearly in the middle of having a lengthy and passionate rant at Axel, and the Changeling was stood with blood running down his hands and cheek, his bandages on the floor. Smock felt the instinct to heal nag at him, but he refused it. It's not the time. These fuckers need to sort themselves out.

"Right, what the fuck is going on?" he demanded, entering the room and slamming the door behind himself. They were both crying. "If you wanted to argue in the captain's quarters, we are going to settle this in the captain's quarters."

The two were still speechless, their gazes locked on Smock, until Ophelia caught her tongue again and let out a half-shout. "HE is a fucking BASTARD and he HURT ME, and I needed to SORT IT THE FUCK OUT but he's NOT LISTENING."

"You're not the only one, honey." Smock snapped, crossing his arms. "But screaming and shouting isn't gonna do anything but make me angry, and make the rest of the crew worried."

Axel's mouth moved as if he wanted to speak, but he quickly stopped himself, looking away from the others. Ophelia glared at him as he did so, huffing. "But look at him. He's fucking- He won't... all he keeps saying is SORRY and he's not actually resolving anything."

Smock shook his head, letting out an annoyed sigh. This isn't going to get us anywhere. His voice dark, he stared at Axel and then Ophelia in turn. "Stop acting like children."

Ophelia went to speak, but immediately the pirate cut her off. "Shut. Up. I did not drown for three years, only to awaken three months ago and have to process everything, to put up with this bullshit."

Axel was speechless, his head still turned, and he held his wrist in his bloodied hand nervously. For once he was giving off an anxious aura rather than an uncomfortable one. Ophelia took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and then let it back out again, seeming to calm just a little. "Look... I want to sort things out with him, but it's not going well, and he said something that made me tick. I just want to have all of this resolved, Smock, because it's been hurting me and-"

"A lot of things hurt in this world, but shouting will not solve a thing." He cut her off again. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like for this to be sorted before the ship sinks. I left Wiccan in charge, and he doesn't know how to port."

Ophelia's eyes opened in worry, but shortly returned to their anger. "I can't just leave this unresolved. I need answers, and closure, and everything."

"Right. Well let's get this shit on the road then." He frowned, turning to Axel with icy eyes. "Axel, stop it."

The Changeling whipped around, clutching his wrist tight. "What? I haven't- I haven't even had the chance to speak, I-I-"

"Stop ignoring Ophelia." He reiterated, staring down the other very intimidatingly.

Axel turned to the Sea Elf, taking a breath, and he closed his eye, a flower blooming where the other should have been. As per usual, its meaning shot through Smock's head like a bullet. Wormwood. Bitter sorrow. "We both knew I didn't mean any of that. I didn't think we'd... end up as friends. I didn't mean to hurt you, Ophelia."

"Then why did you?" she asked, her voice breaking as she cried, her hands clutching the space over her heart.

"The Gods told me something." Axel turned to Smock, hesitant to continue, but his face was unreadable and therefore unrewarding. "Valerias insisted I-I had to... he told me that if Kelkas was killed, it would bring her back, but clearly it didn't. I made a mistake, okay?"

Ophelia went through a series of emotions - denial, anger, sadness, hatred, and finally understanding. "Oh."

Smock looked between the two, unsure of who exactly 'her' was but figuring that Axel must have hurt someone important to Ophelia in an attempt to bring back someone else. It never works like that.

"I'm sorry, Ophelia." Axel shook his head.

Then something clicked, and Smock stifled a sigh. He's talking about Ellamia, isn't he? He looked downwards to his feet, his face bitter, before returning it to its solemn state. He didn't want to know more, and with the ambiguity that Axel and Ophelia were presenting him with, he doubted much more would be revealed. The two weren't done, though, because Ophelia still stared with anger. "What about the lies you've told me? You kept telling me they were alive, and that I'd be able to see..." she choked back a sob. "You lied, over and over, and now you regret it only because you know me more, and we're meant to be friends. You- you're an unfeeling bastard! You're just as bad as your father!"

Smock cut in coldly. "Are you forgetting about Ellamia? Because I have some things to say to her family. But really, it isn't my place."

 

At that point, both Axel and Ophelia had frozen, but the woman reacted much quicker. "At least I changed! Axel never changes, and he never has! He keeps doing the same things-"

"You say you changed, but yet you're using someone else's insecurities against them. I'm not excusing Axel's actions; he's a flawed person, but don't say you've changed when you're repeating your behaviours." Smock criticised bitterly.

"He's insecure about it?" Ophelia squinted, then she looked at Axel. "No, no I didn't- I didn't mean to dig into insecurities. I didn't know, I'm-"

Now she was crying again, and Smock just sighed.

Luckily, Axel seemed to realise he should probably do something and approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder and saying something quietly, but she swatted him away and pushed him back.

"Stay away from me." She wiped her eyes. "I didn't mean it as a dig. I meant it as a comparison. He's like his father, is there something wrong with me saying that?"

Smock tilted his head, looking her in the eyes before turning to look at Axel. "Oh."

The Changeling had frozen up, but the second he regained his awareness, he reached forwards, opened a portal, and left.

 

Well shit. Smock stared at the place where Axel had been, then looked at Ophelia. "You're smart, figure it out."

She took a few seconds but she eventually had a moment of realisation. "He has issues with his dad? He never..."

"It's more than issues." Smock corrected. It wasn't Ophelia's fault for not knowing, but it certainly wasn't the best choice to make a comparison when it was clear Axel didn't have a good relationship with just about anybody in his dysfunctional mess of a family.

Ophelia wiped her eyes, clearing away a little of her smudged eyeshadow. "I'm going to have to fix this later." She sighed, then she made for the door. "I'd best help Wiccan man the ship."

She left quickly, rubbing away her eyeshadow entirely as she went, leaving Smock alone in the room.

 

He took a moment to plan his next move, and figured it was probably best (considering how fucking unstable he was at the minute) to go find the Changeling.

Thanks to his bond, he was able to sense Axel's location and swiftly made his way towards him, wasting no time in finding his way to the arsenal. The location was an immediate warning sign, because Smock knew how many dangerous weapons were there, including one or two firearms, and also how much gunpowder was down there.

He entered the room, not hesitating at all in walking forwards and grabbing Axel's wrists. "Whatever you're about to do, no."

Axel tried to wrench his hands free, wincing in pain, and he opened his mouth but was stopped as Smock wrapped his arms around him. The pirate just held him for a minute, then another, until his breathing had calmed a little and he hugged Smock back.

As soon as the calm washed over them, Smock used his healing hands, letting the magic course through Axel until he was certain the man's body was repaired and his mind was a little more at rest.

"It has not been your day, has it buddy?" the pirate chuckled softly, not letting go of Axel just yet.

"It really hasn't." He agreed, his arms hanging limp around the other. He seemed lifeless, and Smock wondered whether it was his lack of a soul or his horrible emotional state. Maybe it was a mix of both.

"Would it make you feel better if I said I called Soren whiny and a fake angel to his face?" Smock offered with a slight smile, feeling the man laugh in his arms.

"Good, he needed to hear that." Axel buried his head in the side of the pirate's neck.

"He also started talking so cliché - he opened it with somethin' like 'so I know my enemy's face, I can change into you now' or some shit. Real monologing. And the idiot didn't realise I'm a fuckin pirate." He rambled. "Called him crazy whilst I was at it too - he was acting all grandiose like he was some fuckin' special bitch in the family. The only thing 'special' about him is his wings, and they're barn owl wings, a fuckin', common-ass bird."

Axel laughed hard at that, clinging to Smock a little tighter. "Oh my God - you didn't."

"Oh I did, and it was fun. He was so defeated, he was all like, 'I have things I must do' but he was totally scared of me. I really fucked him up." Smock chuckled, reminiscing a little and recalling how victorious he'd felt on the way back to the house. "...That bitch."

"I wish I'd have been there." Axel sniffled, clearing his throat.

"Next time he comes around I'm gonna say some even worse things, so don't worry." He promised, and the two fell into a comfortable silence, staying in each others arms.

Smock thought that perhaps this wasn't so bad. Maybe he could stay like this for a while.

Chapter Text

A week passed calmly.

A whole week without conflict or issues.

Smock was extremely happy with this break, finally feeling a bit of life flowing back into him.

 

He'd announced to the crew that the next person to fight was getting thrown the FUCK overboard, and he was one-hundred percent ready to stand by that. He'd tossed Axel overboard, and it was certainly not a good idea to go ahead and try him.

 

So when Axel showed up in his room with a huge smirk, he wanted to fucking die, because everything had been going so fucking dandy and this definitely wasn't going to.

The Changeling had his arms behind his back and was standing upright, looking very formal but very mischievous.

Smock glared at the man, curling up in his bed, where he'd decided to relax for a little while. "Whatever you're planning, leave me the fuck out of it."

"It involves you." Axel grinned, watching as Smock pulled the covers quickly over himself, because if he couldn't see Axel then he must certainly be very efficiently hidden. "Come on dear, it'll be wonderful."

"It doesn't anymore." He grumbled, but then the life was squished out of him because Axel had jumped on top of him on the bed, yanking away the covers and staring at him with that stupid excited expression.

"I want to do something." Axel insisted, peeling the blanket away from the pirate.

"What could you possibly want to do that involves me?" Smock groaned, rolling onto his front and pushing his face into the pillow. Hands reached down to caress his back and pressure settled on them as Axel leaned in to his ear.

"Come on, it'll be fun!" hot breath spread over his ear, and then a slight prick of pain followed by a nice sensation.

Smock forced back any small sounds threatening to slip out, instead complaining, as per usual. "You didn't answer my question."

"I don't need to, sweetheart." Axel purred, his tone completely flipping, and he pushed down Smock's head into the bed. The pirate let out a disgruntled huff and tried to turn his body over, and he managed to get there just in time to avoid a hand tracing his brands.

"What are you playing at?" he asked, genuinely confused, since he was most certain that Axel wouldn't do anything sexual again.

"Sweetie, sweetheart, darling, dear!" Axel chuckled, pressing his face to the man's cheek. "Angel, sweetest angel, aren't you just wonderful."

Smock was thoroughly perplexed, unsure what to think of the barrage of pet names being thrown his way. He didn't get much time to think at all, actually, because he felt a hand slip down into his bottoms, sliding right down between his inner thighs and towards his ass. Smock let out a soft sound of surprise, unsure of how exactly to react, but ultimately parting his legs to allow Axel's hand some more space, and himself some comfort - as much as he could get with his clothes on, at least.

"What do you want?" Smock murmured, turning his head to the side and going red. Looks like I was wrong.

"Let me just..." Axel trailed off, snaking his hand further until he found Smock's entrance, which he very carefully pressed two fingers into. The pirate couldn't help but whine softly as the long fingers flexed and explored, pressing against all kinds of sensitive spots and pushing forth until they couldn't anymore. Axel's head was resting on Smock's shoulder, and he hummed in satisfaction and curiosity, letting his fingers rest where they were.

"What are you doing?" the pirate asked, flustered and confused and a mix of all sorts of strange baffled emotions.

"You feel wonderful." Axel answered, pulling out his fingers and marvelling at the slick substance coating them. He pulled them to his lips, put one finger in his own mouth, and then brought the other to Smock's. "Taste it! It's brilliant. Smock, darling, this is brilliant!"

"You're fucking losing me here, Axel, what the Hell-" he was cut off by the finger being slipped inside of his mouth, and he felt the liquid pass over his tongue. Intrigued, he licked a little more from the finger, thinking as he enjoyed the semi-sweetness of it. That came from... inside of me.

"Don't you understand?" Axel chuckled, pulling his finger away and wiping the excess on Smock's cheek. "You have... you feel like- it's just. Nice? You're both, it's so very interesting and that must feel brilliant when I touch you and my God you are a fascinating man."

"First of all, I'm not really a man, and second of all, both of what? What're you going on about?" Smock was still completely oblivious, and truthfully just a little concerned.

"You don't just have a dick, dear." Axel put it.

"Yeah, what of it?" he tilted his head, a little surprised that the Changeling was bringing up such a fuss over the whole thing.

"This is the first time I've ever actually experienced that. You're the first one, dear! It's wonderful! So many ways to make you feel nice, and it's all so new and unique, and I can combine all sorts of skills. Oh, the ideas!" he mused.

"Okay, great. You figured it out. Can you leave me alone now?" Smock muttered, training his eyes on the bed stubbornly.

"What? Of course not, dear. That'd be so dissatisfactory." Axel's tone changed once more and he pushed his free hand down on the pirate's throat, grasping it tight.

"You realise I don't need to breathe, right?" Smock said. "Are you trying to fight me?"

"Oh my God- dear, I'm about to fuck you. Come on. I thought you'd know this by now." Axel laughed softly, watching as Smock's face turned redder and redder. "And yes, I know. But it feels nice to squeeze on your neck."

"Why?"

The Changeling stopped what he was doing to let out a highly amused laugh, pressing his other palm to his head. "I was bored, and I was like, 'Smock feels nice on the inside, I'll go mess with him', and then I got into it, and now I want to make us both feel good, and maybe experiment a little."

"Why couldn't you go mess with someone else?" he whined, his face completely red and his hands reaching for the blanket again.

"I don't want to fuck anybody else." Axel would have rolled his eye if he had any pupil to roll. "Besides, you're more adorable than anybody else on this ship."

"That's a lie." Smock insisted. "The kids are pretty cute."

"Ew, no- not..." Axel shook his head. "Not... I fucking give up, let's just get to business."

"Oh, I-I didn't- not like that-"

 

The man reached for the beside cabinet, fishing through it for his bandages, and he brought them back to Smock, who eyed them suspiciously. His wrists were efficiently bound in a very short span of time, and when he struggled to test whether he could break free, he realised he'd need a blade to cut through them and get them off.

He had a feeling Axel wouldn't allow that, though.

The Changeling started to undress Smock, slowly but surely admiring every part of his body in the form of touches and kisses. The sheets were pulled away, allowing Axel free reign and sight of his form.

"Hey!" Smock complained, displeased at his sudden exposure (or at least kind of displeased) and trying to reach again for the sheets, only to remember his hands were quite literally tied.

"I wanted to look at all of you, dear. The blanket was in the way. Don't say you're cold, it's Summer." Axel chuckled, his lips pressing to the inside of the pirate's hip and moving further inwards. Smock couldn't help but let out a gentle whimper when they were placed upon the side of his dick. Axel's tongue ran all the way up to the tip. From there, he didn't take much longer to start sucking, and it was evident that it wasn't his first time doing this.

Smock would have covered his mouth, but on his back like this he had few choices, so he tried to turn his head to the side and grab the pillow in his teeth. He managed to slightly gag himself, but gentle moans were slipping from his lips, betraying his whole 'tough guy not gonna give in' thing, which he wasn't really winning at to begin with.

Axel kept going, quickening his pace, and it seemed that he wasn't stopping because even when Smock started to whine in desperation he kept going. He was barely in a state to think, but between the submission he managed a sentence. I thought... he wanted to... fuck me?

But on he went until Smock couldn't stop himself from releasing into the warmth of Axel's mouth, and he bucked his hips, enjoying every last part of the orgasm until he had to stop moving. Axel lifted his mouth, licked his lips, swallowed and then hummed, thinking. Smock stared at him hazily as he panted, his eyes clouded with pleasure but still suspicious of what the man's next move was going to be.

 

Axel started to get undressed now, undoing all of the buttons on his black and red formalwear, until he too was completely nude save for his bandages, which this time he kept on his face and arms.

Axel ran his fingers down to the wetness between the pirate's thighs, scooping just a little up and examining it. He smiled, satisfied, and crawled on top of Smock, a hand gently caressing his face before he leaned in for a kiss.

It pushed onwards longer than the first few times, until their lips opened around each other and tongues slipped out, messily clashing in passion.

In the distraction of the make-out session, Smock completely missed the sensation of being fully penetrated until he zoned back in to his surroundings and felt warmth and fullness. He whimpered softly, balling his hands into fists where they were bound in an attempt to cope with the pleasure when Axel started slowly rolling his hips, angling every movement upwards in the most satisfying way.

Impatient as ever, the Changeling's pace didn't stay slow for long, and he parted lips with the other. Smock was unable to stop the stuttering of his words as he spoke out a simple phrase of, "M-my Serpent-"

"Oh?" Axel hissed, pleased, and he bit softly into Smock's neck before growling, "Say that again."

Smock gulped, stifling a moan at a particularly rough thrust. "My S-Serpent?"

Releasing a rumbling sound of satisfaction, Axel continued his biting, downwards until he reached Smock's collarbone where he bit down especially hard. One of Axel's hands was in the other's hair, clutching it tightly as he got rougher and faster in the gyration of his hips. Smock was overwhelmed with pleasure and he continued to cry out the words that the man seemed to especially enjoy. "My- My Serpent! Ah- My Serpent~"

Axel's movements were rough enough to hurt just a little when their hips came together, but Smock didn't mind. He felt very whole, and he was glad Axel had come in and taken over like this. He wanted to feel good like this forever.

As he came closer and closer to a second orgasm, he brought his hands down and over Axel's head as much as he could with them tied, and he clung to the man's hair as he gasped and moaned, not even trying to hold himself back from his release this time. He felt the warmth of Axel's climax follow soon after, but this time the Changeling didn't stop.

Smock gasped, throwing his head back and tugging on Axel's hair as the pleasure grew and grew until it became overwhelming and he could hardly bear it any longer. He whimpered, then he whined between his panting, and he gasped and tried to close his legs and everything but it didn't work, because his body was sent into a state of overstimulation and he eventually cried out. "A-ah, my Serpent, p-please-"

Apparently that was all that Axel needed, because immediately he pulled out and laid on top of Smock, breathing heavily and wrapping his arms affectionately around the twitching mess that was the pirate.

Smock could feel his whole body coming down from the ruined orgasm, the sensitivity leaving him with a throbbing sensation that was half-enjoyable, until he settled, worn from it all.

Axel hummed, satisfied, and planted gentle kisses on the areas he'd formerly bitten. "Bet you weren't counting on that."

"You bastard." Smock grumbled softly, holding Axel tighter when the bandages were cut free, and closing his eyes in the comfort of being chest-to-chest, resting after the experience.

"Oh I know." The Changeling chuckled, lifting a slightly shaky hand to run his fingers across Smock's jaw. "God, I wasn't expecting that whole thing with 'my Serpent'. Where'd that come from, sweet-"

"Shut the fuck up." Smock protested almost immediately after processing what Axel was saying, pulling the man's head closer so he couldn't speak without his words being muffled.

 

For the first time in a while, Axel drifted off to sleep.

But Smock wouldn't rest, for even if he wanted to he had a realisation, and it was no wonder that he was alarmed.

Still, he stayed with Axel, knowing that the conversation was ineviatable once he awoke.

Chapter Text

Axel was unaware that Smock had been awake the entire time he'd been asleep, nor that Smock had been staring at him very aggressively, until he opened his eyes and went to give the pirate a kiss.

Axel noticed the look in his eyes, squinted in confusion, and sat up with a stretch, comfortable on the other's lap. "What's that look for?"

Smock just tilted his head, silent. The Changeling looked at him, very worried. Did I do something wrong? Is he having regrets? How do I fix this?

The silence was starting to get a bit unnerving, so Axel cupped the other's face in his hands and stared him in the eye. "WHAT IS UP WITH YOU PLEASE TELL ME I AM GOING TO CRY."

"What?" Smock quipped, looking highly confused.

"You are acting weird and you were staring at me." Axel answered.

The man blinked slowly, letting out a small and fond chuckle. "Oh you know nothing about angels."

"No I don't, so educate me."

"Well I was waiting for you to get up to order me or something." He shrugged, clearly not seeing the dissatisfaction in Axel's face at the answer, and he brought his hands up to rest on the other's wrists.

"No, there's something else." He insisted, shifting and pulling himself a little closer to examine Smock.

"I feel a bit... weird. But it's probably because of the bond." The pirate confessed, and immediately panic spread across Axel's features.

"Oh no, did I do something? Did I hurt you? Did I scratch your insides or some shit with my nails?" he questioned, running a hand down to caress Smock's skin.

"No, I'm not in pain." He returned, twitching a little when the Changeling's hands moved along his lower back.

"You seem off." Axel hummed, bringing the back of his hand to Smock's cheek. It was hot there, moreso than it probably should have been. "Do you have a fever? Can you get fevers?"

"...I don't think so." He shook his head a little, but stopped very abruptly in the middle of the movements with a groan. "I'm fuckin' dizzy."

Axel was no stranger to nausea, so he didn't question it once, and he thought for a second before a thought crossed his mind. This is awfully familiar... Where have I seen these symptoms? If he can't get sick... "Are you... hungry at all?"

"...I want clams." The man answered right away, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Ah. Right." Axel sat back, examining Smock thoroughly. He looks a little ill. His eyes are a little watery with that black shit...

"I want clams Axel," Smock suddenly sobbed, and immediately his suspicions were confirmed. I remember all of this with Aurora.

"We picked some up from Neanos, do you-"

"Yes."

Axel didn't hesitate any longer, and he wrapped Smock's naked form back up in the blanket. "Don't move or get up or anything. I'll be right back."

 

When he stepped through the portal into the storage room, he immediately slammed the door and crouched down, his head in his hands. What the fuck is going on, how is this possible, I can't...

Axel stopped himself from hyperventilating, reminding himself that this reaction was exactly what he had last time, and that everything turned out okay. For a while, anyway. Then there were complications, and she could have died. Azrael wasn't made for this, what if it hurts him badly? What if it does worse?

Applauding himself (sarcastically) for his absolutely stellar methods of preventing a panic attack, he sat down and leaned his back against a crate. He wasn't sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing or something inbetween, and he wasn't sure if he was currently stable enough to even raise a child.

What about the others? What will they think? Of a bastard child, especially... and my family. Corvus will want to kill the poor thing, just as he tried with the others. What if I'm unable to protect them? What if Corvus uses them?

Axel could barely breathe as he sat there thinking all of this through just a bit too much, and he only grounded himself by remembering that Smock needed - or wanted, at least - his clams.

Everything will be alright. Maybe he can't even conceive. Maybe I'm panicking over nothing.

He opened up the crate with the right label, fished out a few of the nicest-looking clams he could see, and made his way back through the portal to Smock's bedside.

 

"Dear, I have a question." Axel tried to hide the fact he'd been hyperventilating and on the verge of tears, though he noticed how fragile his voice sounded and cursed himself for it.

Smock grabbed the clams as soon as they were offered, biting straight into the first one and swallowing everything, even the shell. "Mmh?"

"Can you get, uh... pregnant?" Axel enquired, sitting down on the side of the bed.

"Well... I have both of them, but I don't think either of them really work." Smock explained, and relief flooded Axel. Temporarily. "Unless you wanted that or some shit, buuuut..."

"Oh," he cleared his throat, tapping his fingertips on his knees. "Sweetheart, I don't suppose you remember me saying I'm a... uh, family man?"

Smock shrugged. "Have you ever said that?"

"Yeah. Yeah I have." Axel turned around to look at him, his eyes trailing down to the angel's stomach.

"Sooo?" clearly he wasn't getting it, so Axel rest a hand on the other's stomach.

"Look, I... didn't think I did, but maybe a part of me... wanted... a family. With you. Maybe."

 

Smock's face was blank for a moment and he stared at Axel, a clam in his hand, before letting out a long sigh. "Haha. What." He stared, clearly unsure quite how to feel. "I'm fuckin' what?!"

"I-I can try and kill it. With m-my magic, I guess? I-If you really wanted?" Axel felt the panic setting in all over again, but he tried desperately not to let it show.

"But you're a 'family guy' or whatever." Smock's confusion alarmed Axel - did he want this? Did he want to get rid of it or keep it or what did he want? And how do I react if I do have to use my magic?

"So do you want to keep it?" Axel asked, averting his gaze from Smock's.

"Do you wanna keep it? I don't wanna kill it but it ain't the time to have a kid." Smock was either extremely good at hiding his alarm or he didn't give two shits about what was happening.

"It wasn't the time when I had the others, but here they are." Axel replied, certain he was making it rather evident that he wanted to keep this kid.

"I-I can try and keep it dormant in my body for a long time? But that's gonna drain so much of my power..." the pirate suggested.

Axel jumped forwards to grasp Smock's hands. "No, no just... trust me? I'll protect it."

"Wait, do we even know if it's there? Maybe it's not?" Smock offered, sitting up but immediately clutching his head.

Axel thought for a few moments, then he brought his hand to Smock's stomach, resting it there for a moment and waiting. He waited, and sure enough after a few moments the glowing outline of something that was growing. It was very small at the moment, but it was definitely there.

With the bond, Smock could also see this, and after staring for a while they both met each others eyes. Axel gulped. "...Well I guess this is... I guess this is happening?"

I want him to say yes but this is a horrible, horrible idea.

Smock just hummed, then he got up (unsteadily) and rubbed his forehead. "I need to... steer the ship."

Axel tried to protest, but Smock was gone before he could say anything, and he started to panic all over again. He knew for a fact that steering the ship right now was not a good idea. Morning sickness had a label for a reason, and he knew that Aurora had been in the bathroom all day when she had it. Axel didn't know much about carrying a child but he knew about caring for someone who was, and he was not letting Smock just go about this alone.

 

He got up, rummaged through his wardrobe for that loose black shirt he liked, got dressed and stood at the door for a moment. He touched his wrists and his face, making sure the bandages were applied securely, and, wincing with pain as he twisted his hand, he opened the door.

Axel walked up to top deck, watching as Smock lifted a bottle to his lips, and he immediately opened a portal and leaned through it. He appeared in front of Smock, grabbed the bottle, and disappeared again. He watched Smock look around in confusion to try spot the Changeling (he was on the main deck and Smock was up at the wheel, so there was quite a distance between them) until finally their eyes met and Axel drew a line over his throat, trying to gesture to this man that drinking was not appropriate right now.

When the two were side-by-side, staring out at the ocean from the wheel, Smock immediately complained. "Why are you taking my drink?!"

"You CAN NOT and MUST NOT drink with a fucking baby inside of you! The alcohol will go to the kid and that will cause horrible effects on them." Axel lectured.

"Oh." Smock thought, and then he shrugged. "Well at least now I know what happened when Soren was born."

"Exactly, and if we're to have this child, you do not want a little Soren running around, do you?" he added, crossing his arms.

"Okay, so when am I supposed to start drinking again?" the pirate asked, clearly not taking this all that seriously.

"After the thing's born! I don't know how long it'll take for you, cos you're not-" he waved his hands around, trying to find the right word.

"A person?" Smock offered.

"Precisely! And I'm... kind of mortal, so... I don't know how this will work, but it'll take... what, nine months at most?" he tried to remember how it went with Avian's birth, since it was the only one of the three to go smoothly.

"Oh God, this kid might be... really powerful." The pirate chuckled half-darkly, his eyes clouding over just a little, and it hit Axel like a stack of bricks.

With my heritage and my power combined, we already have a terrible combination. But with that and Azrael's... "You're right. B-But that could be a good thing, if we... well, you know... be..."

"Raise it well?" Smock continued, and Axel nodded. "Just make sure that Soren doesn't find out, since he sure loves kidnapping kids."

"Yeah. I don't think any of my family should find out, actually. They hate me and they most certainly hate you, so a child..." Axel trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck. "Let's... not go into that right now. My family can't know, fullstop,"

Smock gave him a look out of the corner of his eye, then trained his gaze back on the ocean with a groan. "God, my head fuckin' hurts."

"You should really be resting, dear. Ophelia and Wiccan can man the ship, and Liayra - she knows how to sail just fine. We're going to be at sea for a while, you can't sail all this time."

"I've been resting for far too long." Smock shook his head, and Axel sighed.

"Then just sit next to whoever's sailing, or come help me with my errands and letters. I don't think it's a good idea to be doing something so... responsible right now. If you start feeling really sick, you could probably do with letting yourself recover." Axel explained, only to earn a shrug from the pirate.

"Ehh I've been through worse."

"Fine. But I'm checking up on you, and if you feel bad then please get someone else to steer." He insisted, and then the two settled into a comfortable silence, watching the waters go by around them.

 

The ocean was very calm and it was a rather warm day, so it was no surprise that there were a number of ships around. Most of them were tiny, some even so small as gunships, so Axel wasn't at all worried until he saw a convoy sailing some awfully familiar flags.

Chapter Text

As soon as he saw the approaching ships, Smock ran down to the main deck and gathered everybody.

"Alright, we're all servants of Axel's. Captain Undying isn't here. My name is Haley Smit. I'm a High Elf, I'm pregnant and the mother of uh..." he looked across the ship and his eyes settled on Axel's children. "You three. Hendrix, Braylen and Cerys. Get into your fuckin' disguises, this could be dangerous and I ain't losin' any of my crew today."

"But Smock, you're a man?" Wiccan pointed out, and Smock looked down at him, using his higher-pitched second vocal chords to suit a much softer and feminine tone.

"But I can be so much more." He answered with a sly smile. Confusion spread across the faces of the crew, but he couldn't marvel in it for long, for the ships were growing closer ever second.

 

After the announcement, Smock charged through the crowd and hurried into the bathroom, where he promptly shaved off all of his body hair. He knew that he could look feminine without it, and he did without a shadow of a doubt. He used his angelic powers to alter his body, though it tired him, and rummaged through the clothing he'd bought for a dress that didn't scream 'noble' or 'pirate'. He (hesitantly) dirtied the clothes, figuring he could wash them later, and ran up to top deck after applying some makeup, where he found a strangely relaxed Axel hidden from the crowd's sight on the other side of the mast.

"Why are you so calm?" Smock - or Haley, now - demanded, watching as the Changeling's eye traced his figure slowly.

"W-Well, dear, I'm not uh..." he stuttered, distracted, before lifting his gaze back up to meet the other's eyes, "not that afraid of my brother. He's not as fearsome as he'd like to appear."

"Oh I know, but he knows me as Captain Undying, and probably figured out the kids are missing." He pointed out, but the man will still unfazed. It was strange to see Axel appearing so unfeeling, especially after the numerous breakdowns he'd displayed prior.

"Perhaps, but he won't be able to find them here. If he asks, I'll tell him I wouldn't be so stupid as to bring my children with me when I knew Soren would follow. They've already shifted their appearances to mimic you." Axel nodded in their direction, and sure enough they bore some resemblance to Smock. "By the way, High Elf? I didn't expect you to go for that."

"Yeah yeah, whatever." Smock rolled his eyes, turning to walk away, only to have Axel grab him by the arm and reel him back.

"Stay safe, sweetheart." He said softly, pulling Smock closer and giving him a soft kiss. "I love you."

Smock couldn't help but go red, but before he could even think of a response he saw that the ship had sidled up to theirs, and a rather triumphant-looking Soren was making his way across the boarding bridge, a rapier in his hand.

 

Smock approached the children, dragging Dionysia over as he went, and he stood in the middle of them, slightly to the front. The noble girl looked at him in confusion, and leaned in, shakily whispering, "How do you look so much like a woman...?"

"I'm a mystery." Smock whispered back, falling silent when Soren set foot on the ship.

 

The Sanguis looked across them all with scornful eyes, clearly searching for somebody, and when he couldn't find them he frowned. "Where is Captain Undying?"

Axel, at this point, had stepped forth and was leaning against the side of the mast, watching his brother suspiciously, but he said nothing to answer that question.

Voyage stepped forwards, fearless, and shrugged. "Dunno mate. Ain't no pirates on this galleon."

"There's pirates in these seas? Oh dear me, my children..." Smock feigned innocence, pulling the four - his four? - kids closer to him. The reaction seemed to shock them a little (the pirate was acting afraid of pirates. Tragic) but they kept their composure it seemed.

"How strange. Axel, where are you hiding him?" Soren immediately called out to his brother once he got a dissatisfactory answer.

Laughing, the younger Sanguis crossed his arms. "As the Tiefling said, there are no pirates here. I left Captain Undying back in Neanos; he had unfinished business, and I thought it ever so rude to pull him from that."

"That sounds very strange for you, brother." Soren hummed. "We checked the entire island, and you seem awfully close to that pirate. I know how... protective you can be."

Something about that struck a nerve, because Axel tensed. Smock watched his pure white eyes glaze over with memories before swiftly snuffing them out and becoming completely emotionless. "I think we both know your search teams are incompetent. Leave me and my servants alone. I wish to sail back home, and I absolutely do not want those fools dirtying my land."

Soren flicked his wrist, extending his rapier to the side, in a refined battle stance.

"Sir, I think he's telling the truth." Smock softly piped in. "I would have known if there was a pirate on board. They are such loud things..."

He saw Avian tense in preparation to laugh but quickly cuffed her ear, bringing her out of it before she made any sound.

"It makes no sense for Axel to be travelling with servants. It would remind him too much of home." Soren mused, spilling his thoughts without any kind of resistance. "No, this is all far too much of a coincidence. Axel, tell me where Captain Undying is, else-" the man looked around, locked his eyes on Smock, and grabbed him, the rapier to his throat, "-I will kill her."

Smock held back his sigh. Are you fuckin' kidding me? I gotta act scared in front of all of these fuckers, all because of this spoiled brat. He did, however, do his damn best at acting afraid. "S-Sir please, I have kids, I'm with child-"

"I couldn't give a fuck." Soren cooed, his silky soft voice contrasting heavily with the nature of the comment. Damn, and I thought Axel was unfeeling.

The younger Sanguis, in the meantime, appeared to experience several emotions, the first of which was panic. Then he was angry, then he hid his concern from all but Smock, who for some reason seemed to be able to read past the smoke and mirrors. I don't care about Axel or anything, he's just... I've seen to many of his type. That's all. Axel took a moment, but when he calmed he spoke. "Soren, don't be so cruel. Captain Undying is in Neanos, probably burning down your stupid castle as we speak."

"You care for this woman." Soren pointed out with a smirk, pushing the blade into Smock's throat for a moment before pulling it back away, not drawing any blood.

Voyage looked over the two and pieced something together. She must have caught the expressions on Axel's face, because she turned to Smock with sympathetic eyes. "Soren, bud, come on. You really gonna do this? Takin' a pregnant woman really ain't your style. Don't stoop to uh," she shot Axel a 'forgive me, I don't mean it' gaze, "Axel's level, buddy."

Axel didn't look hurt at all, he just stared at Soren with extremely cold eyes.

Chuckling, Soren looked at Smock. "I think I'll take this one back with me, you know."

Smock widened his eyes. "I- Excuse me?"

"Unless you tell me where on this ship Captain Undying is, I'll be taking her, and perhaps someone else of my choosing." He looked in Dionysia's direction, and immediately Smock wanted to break character and fight him, but he knew it'd make things so much worse.

Axel was faced with two decisions. He could keep denying and send off Smock and Dionysia - alive, at least - or out Smock and save Dionysia at the cost of someone he deeply loved.

Axel took a deep breath, crossed his eyes, and stared at his brother. "Check the ship. Captain Undying is in Neanos."

Soren, dissatisfied, ran his free hand across Smock's face. "Mm, such a pretty one, too. Shame she's mine now, you'll miss her I'm sure. You always had quite the eye for pretty girls, but they always ended up being taken from you."

Smock was losing his shit. He had to regain his composure, but it went without saying that the entire crew could see that the pirate was on the brink of giving up his act and punching Soren right in the face. Axel took a breath. "You've won, isn't that enough for you?"

"Dear brother, always so weak." Soren laughed, pointing his rapier to Dionysia. "You won't even stop me, just like you didn't stop them from taking Aurora."

Axel physically flinched, and seeing he'd cut deep, Soren decided to get in one last victory, and he grabbed Smock's chin and kissed him.

Axel looked like he was on the verge of a killing spree, and Smock was already about to explode. The pirate grabbed Soren's face hard. "Dear, you are pushing all of my buttons right now. And I have one simple phrase for you. Care to dance with the Angel of death?"

Soren froze, his eyes wide, and he looked at Smock with anger and shock but also pride. "Oh, this is even better. That's why you got so worked up, dearest brother."

Axel was trying to hold himself together, not wanting to give his brother the reaction he wanted. Smock decided that he would take this opportunity to punch Soren in the face, and the Sanguis man growled in anger and pain before lunging at Smock.

The two fought for some time until Soren pinned Smock, and with one unfamiliar word he was frozen in place.

 

Soren stood up, rubbing his hands together and clearing his throat. "Stand back, everybody. I don't want to have to do this to anyone else."

 

It took a minute or two for a series of guards to board the ship, carry off Smock, and then guide Dionysia away. Soren, of course, was never satisfied and he returned, walking through the crowd to his brother.

Axel took a deep and long breath, staring resentfully at his eldest brother. "I am right on the edge, and I swear if I find out you hurt him when I come get him back, I will fucking annihilate you and whatever patron is inside of you." Axel grabbed his brother's chin, staring up at him coldly. "Don't consider this a victory. I think we both know who is the more powerful of us both."

 

But Axel, for whatever reason, let Soren go, and Smock stared, feeling slightly betrayed but understanding. There were at least thirty other ships anchored, and to fight could have caused the deaths of a bunch of innocents.

Smock couldn't do much to get back on that ship with Axel and the others, but he knew he could at least piss off Soren here, and so he did. When the Sanguis man approached, Smock looked at him wide-eyed. "S-Sir, he told you that Captain Undying was in Neanos. You said you wouldn't take us if he told you."

"You fucking-" Soren took a breath, then he grabbed Smock by the collar. "I don't know what you're playing at, pirate, but I will fucking break you one way or another."

Smock allowed a cheeky grin to spread across his face for a moment before returning to his innocent facade. "But sir, the children!"

"They weren't your kids, you fucking liar." Soren hissed, pushing Smock back against the wall before letting go and turning away. "Guards, tie his hands. He'll be situated in the side-room to my quarters."

 

The guards looked at each other, confused, but ultimately obeyed. Smock let out a dramatic noise of dismay. "Oh my, that's no way to treat a lady! Especially after you kissed me back there without my permission."

Dionysia was stood, staring in a mixture of horror and confusion, until Soren grabbed her by the wrist and walked off elsewhere with her.

 

Smock still felt the strong need to protect Dionysia, so being so helpless whilst she was taken away hurt him and he felt an inner voice scorning him. You're disobeying your Serpent's commands. He told you to protect her.

He was taken away to Soren's quarters, and then led down a small corridor attached to the side wall and into a little room with a bed and a couple crates, which he assumed were provisions.

 

The guards slammed the door, locked it, and left him all alone.

Smock got out of his chains, rather easily actually, but he stayed in the room. He didn't have much of a choice.

He looked around, realising how truly bland and boring the room was. Apart from the bed, there was a bedside table, and a chest which - upon inspection - held loose clothes that were suited to both sexes. Smock frowned. Well this is lame.

He decided to stay in his dress, figuring it would be far more comfortable than any of the clothes provided, and with a huff he decided to lay down on the bed and wait.

 


 

Smock got a visit or two from guards every day to make sure he was alive and well, but apart from that it was terribly lonely and painfully boring in this little room. He'd spoken to Gilgeam in his boredom, asking him a few questions (which he got no answer to, unfortunately) about Gods and goings on around the world. He found out that the dragon population was on the rise, but apart from that there was nothing of interest or importance.

Smock ended up carving things into the wall in his boredom. A quick doodle of Six went up there to remind him of her bright smile and optimistic attitude, a couple of Ellamia as a nice reminder, a snake (which he promptly crossed out and drew as decapitated), and more than one raven. It came naturally to him to draw them, but they were also a reminder of his Queen, who had treated him kindly, unlike his so called 'family', the other Archangels.

 

When they finally docked, he was brought out alongside Dionysia, who looked positively traumatised, and the two were led ashore to an unfamiliar location. It wasn't Neanos, that much was certain. He looked around and, after hearing some guards talking, figured out this was Schofengen, and that they were headed towards Kapenwald, which was situated on the mountains ahead.

The land around him was covered in ice and snow, and everybody was dressed for the cold weather in furs and large coats. They stared in confusion at the large group of men and their boats. Most of them remained at the dock, bowing as Soren walked past with his prisoners, and eventually it was just them and Soren's guards traversing the land. The village spread out for some time before it stopped at the foot of the mountain, where Soren took a winding path and started to lead them upwards.

 

The path went on for hours and Smock lost himself in the sight he had from the mountain. It was brilliant - the icy wasteland spread out for so far, and in places the ocean was frozen. He eventually turned to Dionysia, who was walking beside him, looking at her feet.

"You alright?" he asked, then he continued with a soft, "Don't worry, we'll be fine."

"S-Soren," she stuttered, looking at him wide-eyed, "he's... he scares me... H-He's done bad things."

Smock narrowed his eyes, piecing things together in his head very quickly. That fucker won't be alive much longer. "Don't worry my dear; I have a million and one ways to make him pay." He paused, then he decided that it might comfort her to share a piece of his own history. "If it's anything, Soren killed my wife and tried to kill me."

Dionysia sighed softly, looking sorrowfully at Smock. "That's horrible... I-I can't believe he'd do that to you, I'm sorry."

"Oh, I was a real thorn in his side, and I continue to be." He chuckled darkly, staring up ahead at Soren resentfully. He had so many ideas, so many ways he wanted to hurt that man. He wanted to kill him, but he wanted to make him suffer, and he wanted to give him a taste of true loss and punishment for everything he'd done.

"Will we ever escape?" Dionysia asked quietly, training her eyes on his with a glimmer of hope.

Smock looked at her with a grin. "Lass, if there's one thing I learned about being a pirate, it's how to escape."

She let out a very small laugh, and she looked ahead. "That's good. I hope we get out soon."

Soren turned around, locked his eyes on the two, and hummed in disapproval. "Stop talking. It's fucking annoying."

"Oh, he does have a voice box." Smock remarked, still speaking with his feminine voice, watching as the man grew angrier and angrier until he became an icy-cold kind of mad.

"I said to stop talking." Soren reiterated, then he sighed and tucked in his wings tight. Smock, knowing it would piss off the man, started whistling a song that Ellamia used to sing. Soren was fuming, but he realised he wouldn't get anywhere with it and the group continued.

 

Finally, they approached the castle, which was covered in ice and dotted with white stone. Smock couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, I know why you brought me here!" he grinned. "It was so I couldn't burn it down!"

"That's certainly part of it." Soren hummed absently.

"What, is the castle still under repairs?" Smock asked, enjoying the thought of causing a large sum of damage to the Sanguis family.

"Yes, but that isn't why you're here." Soren answered, approaching the large doors to the castle and opening them with the flare of his wings.

Behind them stood an unnaturally tall man who bore stunning resemblance to all the Sanguis children that Smock had seen, and he immediately identified him as the infamous Corvus Sanguis.

The man was just as people described him: tall and proud, with a narrow face and startling golden eyes. His hair was white and it cascaded over his shoulders and down his back, slightly wavy towards the tips. He had a magnificent set of peacock wings, and a wonderful cascading tail of the same nature.

"You and your wings - can a lady have a break?" Smock protested.

Corvus' voice was low and accented, overbearingly posh and refined, as he spoke. "This is... Captain Undying? Isn't he supposed to be a man?"

Soren turned, looked at Smock in alarm, and nodded his head. "Y-Yes, but you see, h-he used some sort of magic or polymorphed or something and now he's a woman, he was trying to deceive me - I-I-"

"Ain't my fault you kissed me, son." Smock interrupted, then he turned to Corvus. "You should teach your son some manners when it comes to ladies. I thought this was a noble family, not some common criminals."

"Soren, must I remind you of your manners, or can you remember yourself?" Corvus stared down dangerously at his son. ...This is working?

"No, oh God no of course - I can remember, there's no need for that. It's fine." The sheer panic in Soren's voice was overwhelming, and he gestured towards Smock and Dionysia. "I-I brought them both to you, just as you said."

"Hm." Corvus stared critically at the two, then approached them. Smock had to look up at the man, actually having to put a bit of effort into staring at him, and Dionysia - who was even shorter - looked like a Dwarf in comparison. Smock turned to look to the side, not showing any interest or care in the fact the Corvus Sanguis was standing right in front of him. He was, instead, watching Soren's pure anxiety, intrigued. He's actually afraid of this man. This could be useful.

"I-Is everything alright, father?" Soren asked hurriedly, his wings twitching nervously as he stared hopefully at his patriarch. The man so often tried to appear threatening and carried himself so confidently, but here he was showing how much of a child he still was, and would always be.

"It is." Corvus responded simply. He ain't one for talking, is he? He seems like more of an 'action' guy to me.

Soren is afraid of his father. Corvus seems to have some set of morals, based on nobility and ranking; I could take advantage of this, if I find the right things to say. I could really push this. I want to see how much trouble I can cause for Soren.

Smock turned after a few moments to look at Corvus. The man's golden eyes were trained on him, examining him before speaking. "You took out Soren's eye, and broke both of his wings. I take it that my son is incompetent."

"You're gonna focus on that after everything else I've done?" he asked, a hint of a chuckle in his voice. Corvus' expression didn't change, all except the slight raise of his eyebrows.

"That will come in later. For now, I need to note where my son is weak, and then I can... fix it." Soren's panic skyrocketed at that, and he was going a little red in the face.

"Take a look for yourself, then you can see where he needs to improve." Smock couldn't help but enjoy the way Soren was panicking; after everything that bastard had done, the pirate was pretty sure he was entitled to his amusement.

"I'll assess your fighting skills shortly, Soren." Corvus turned to look scornfully at his son. "Fear will get you nowhere. Don't pretend to be so strong when your father reduces you to this mess by his mere presence." He turned away from Soren. "You're excused. Go remind your pathetic wings that you're an Icarus, and they won't be around much longer if you keep flying closer to the sun."

Soren wasn't sure whether to be relieved by his dismissal or hurt by the remark, but either way he hurried into the castle without any further hesitance.

Dammit, I wanted to play with Soren some more. Guess I'll do that after he's disciplined, or whatever Corvus is gonna do. Smock cleared his throat. "Uh... we gonna stay standing out here, orrrr?"

"How rude of me. Of course, please follow me inside. I'd best get you out of those restraints." Corvus' tone was by no means inviting. I am very amused by this guy, and I'm gonna fuckin' destroy him.

 

They followed the Sanguis' patriarch into the throne room of the castle, and then off to a hallway to the left. From there, they were lead downstairs, through the dungeon, and into what appeared to be some sort of interrogation room.

Smock looked at the girl next to him. "I thought you only wanted me, not her?"

Corvus looked at Dionysia, frowning slightly. "I'd like to ask her about the marriage."

"The one Soren is so excited about after all of his failures?" he asked bitterly, fully set on getting Dionysia out of this.

"Yes, that one. I don't believe my son deserves it, so I will be rearranging." Corvus sat down after closing the door, reclining on one of the comfortable chairs in the room. "Please, take a seat."

Smock stared at the chairs, trying to figure out whether they were a trap in any way, and once he decided they weren't he sat down, a little relieved to have some comfort after being stuck in that cramped little room in the ship for so long. Dionysia was nervous as ever, drumming her fingers on her knees.

Corvus crossed his legs. "So, which one of you shall I begin with?"

Smock looked at Dionysia, who hurriedly looked up and answered, "Me."

"Very well then." He cleared his throat, watching her with curiosity for a moment as though she were some exotic animal. "I no longer blame you for avoiding the marriage we arranged, but you must understand that your family needs this bond, so we must go forth with something. I don't need one of my most prominent noble allies going bankrupt or losing their positions."

Dionysia looked away, her eyes clouding with guilt. "Please don't give me away to Soren."

Smock felt awful for her, so he tried to make things better. Perhaps he could give her a better chance, with someone far nicer than Soren was. "She's quite a good fighter, especially with her wolf."

"I heard; some people spoke of her and a group of people who had taken down some of the local Lizardfolk raiders." Corvus nodded thoughtfully. "Perhaps I could let you take a pick of my children, instead of forcing you together with someone you're incompatible with. Would that be preferable?"

Dionysia's eyes lit up a little. "All of them?"

"Of course." The man confirmed, seeming rather pleased that he'd come to a conclusion that benefited them both. "Why, do you have someone in mind?"

Without hesitation, the girl nodded. "Erin."

Corvus chuckled gently, his golden eyes softening just slightly. "Our Erin is a sweet girl, I am sure she would be thrilled to have your hand in marriage."

Smock was a little surprised at the acceptance Corvus was displaying, considering how much of a prejudiced prick Soren was, but he reminded himself not to grow any kind of liking for this man. He was infamous for a reason, and one of the most influential men in all of Aldelis, rivalled only by the terrifying Regus Sanguis, who sat at the very peak of the hierarchy.

Dionysia looked truly happy at that, and she beamed. "Thank you, your highness."

"Of course. I'll inform Erin as soon as possible, and we'll go ahead with things as soon as we can. I am sorry for everything Soren put you through." Corvus dipped his head to Dionysia sympathetically.

It's all fake. His smooth-talking bullshit won't work on me.

Corvus turned to Smock now, his body language becoming much tenser. Smock stayed relaxed, not giving away any signs at all of any kind of stress or worry. The Sanguis stared for a moment, assessing Smock, before speaking. "Smock, Captain Undying, Vex Tailor, Yuwo, Daniel Quiz, Copper, Haley Smit, and a name I won't share in front of this sweet girl. You have lived quite the life, haven't you? And every time, you have found a way to be quite a... difficult rat to digest."

Smock looked at Corvus, his mind racing. He knows my name? How the fuck? "Yeah. What of it?"

"I'm just curious, first of all. Why is it you've spent so much time agitating us?" Corvus asked, giving a small smile.

"Well, curiosity killed the cat. Or... snake." Smock shrugged, kind of proud of himself.

"And dissatisfaction allowed it to sink its fangs in deep, so why don't you bring it back with the opposite?" Corvus suggested.

"My secrets are buried deep, and I don't really wanna dig 'em back up right now." Smock responded, eyeing the man.

"You really are the difficult one. How curious." The tall man nodded just a little.

"Just a question, since you're throwing so many at me..." Smock leaned forwards a little, smirking. "Do you guys really eat from a golden platter?"

Corvus sighed. "Common misconception, but that's adorable."

"Oh, what do you eat on? Soren took that differently." Smock mused, tilting his head just a little.

"Soren is a bit too much. Most of the time, actually. It's a waste of money. We use wood, or sometimes stone, if you really must know." He answered, then he cleared his throat. "I do... have some answers for you, if you have anything serious to ask, but only if you'll speak to me about what I ask."

"I'm really not much of an interesting lad. You ain't gonna get anything juicy outta me." Smock shrugged.

"Oh, is that true? Because I recently found myself finding out something very fascinating about those wings of yours." Corvus rest his head on a palm.

"What of it? Some of you Sanguis guys have wings too." Smock replied, but he had a feeling this was about to go downhill. "You guys really have a thing for wings, don't you?"

"Your wings," Corvus continued, "have changed a little, have they not?"

Smock didn't hesitate to respond. "They do that every Winter."

Corvus frowned. "It's the beginning of Summer."

"...Ya see, I didn't realise in this place." Smock knew exactly what the man was talking about, but he was definitely going to deflect it best he could.

"Stop playing with me. I know what your little wing trick represents, and I want to know why they've changed, and increased in number." Corvus demanded, and all of a sudden it dawned upon Smock that the only other person who had seen all six of his wings was Axel.

Is he betraying me still? Is he just trying to get close to me to hurt me? This is fucking weird. It doesn't make sense, but how else would Corvus know?

"Respect your elders, Corvus." He tried to shrug off the thought, hoping his humour would make him feel a little better about the idea of being betrayed by the one person who knew so much about him and his past.

"Stop deflecting. I want to know who you're bonded to."

 

Dionysia was looking at them both in extreme confusion, and Smock turned to look at her. "Can we at least get Dionysia outta here? Somewhere nice, preferably? Away from here? I mean, she does have a wife to go see."

Corvus turned to look at the girl, and he sighed. "Fine. I'll allow her to leave, but she's staying here until Erin arrives. I'll be sending a message to her very soon." With that, he stood up, very quickly took her outside, spoke to a guard and then came back. He sat back down, stared at Smock, and let out an agitated breath. "Well then?"

"Dunno, I was drunk." Smock answered convincingly, and in truth he had been a little drunk.

"I highly doubt that." Corvus chuckled. "The first step is submission, and I am inclined to believe that you wouldn't submit to just about anybody. You must have wanted it, and they must have been powerful enough to perform the ritual. So I'll ask again: who are you bonded to?"

Smock leaned back, his hand on his chin, feeling around where there used to be a beard. "To be fair, I was drunk when it happened."

"For fuck's sake- but who?" Corvus repeated, his head in his hand at this point.

"Forgot the name. I was that drunk." Smock shrugged, watching as the man got increasingly more frustrated.

"You would likely be around this person daily, considering you've spent a LONG TIME on a GALLEON with about SIX PEOPLE." Corvus couldn't stop himself from yelling at this point.

"Lad, I was drunk and in a bar when this happened." Smock argued. "The person is long gone."

"Well if you really don't know, show me your brands and I'll figure it out. I'm sure you could do with a reminder, if you can't remember." Corvus hissed.

"No." Smock said simply, staring straight into the eyes of the other man.

"Do you want to protect their identity?" he asked, crossing his arms in agitation.

"Nah mate, I don't like being undressed around your kind." Smock chuckled, but he had a feeling he wasn't getting through to the man.

"Do you take me for a fool?" Corvus growled, and then he raised his brows. "You probably do, actually. But I'm not, and I am certain you're being ingenuous with me about this. I know you weren't in a bar, because I have seen you both before and after the brand, with very short periods inbetween."

Now Smock's suspicion of Axel was growing a little stronger, but he refused to fully shift blame just yet. "See, you've been watching me. It's kinda creepy."

"I think you'll find I haven't." Corvus hummed bitterly. "But someone else has."

"You just confessed to it, lad." Smock retorted.

"I have seen you, but that doesn't mean I was watching. Still images are valuable." He argued.

"Doth he protests so much." Smock rolled his eyes, leaning his elbow on the chair's armrest. "Why are you so interested, anyway?"

"Because I have a creeping suspicion that one of my sons has made yet another mistake." Corvus muttered.

Smock laughed, huffing in amusement. "You think I'd be branded by one of your sons?"

"I would barely call him a son. No, I disowned him long ago, but I think I should have gone through with killing him in truth." Corvus frowned.

"You should consider that for the rest of your children," Smock suggested, raising his brows.

"There is a reason I cast him out and not the others." He hissed.

"Yeah yeah, whatever. I don't wanna hear about any family drama." Smock waved it off, not really interested in hearing about Axel's daddy issues from the other side of the situation.

"I think you'll find it may be of interest to you. You see-" Corvus started, but he was cut off by the sound of a loud explosion from above. He groaned, getting to his feet.

"Looks like your castles are having a bad Summer, bud." Smock smiled, and he followed as Corvus charged out of the room and made his way upstairs.

 

Smock was tempted to step on the tail feathers as they walked, finding the idea of Corvus being in pain very amusing, but they were in the throne room sooner than he realised.

In the middle of the room was a Goblin who was currently pinned beneath Soren's foot, their hands completely blown off, leaving chunks of flesh and blood on the carpet beneath them. Smock stared at the scene, a little confused. "What did the Goblin ever do to you?"

"It brings a message, father." Soren ignored the pirate's remark, and he offered a slightly bloodstained letter.

"Is it about the other castles?" Smock quipped with a smirk, only to yet again be ignored completely.

Corvus opened the letter, scanned over it quickly, and frowned. "Looks like we can be expecting a... visit from that infectious worm. Please ask Regus to be present for this - perhaps this time we can kill him for good. Or make him do it himself, which would be far easier."

Soren laughed bitterly, crushing the Goblin's skull beneath his foot. Smock sighed. It was easy to figure that it was Axel, but sending a letter? He could just come in and announce his presence, and it'd be far more dramatic and give him the element of surprise.

Smock looked at the two, and for the first time was listened to when he spoke. "Does Regus know about this?"

"That is none of your business." Soren snapped, and then Corvus chuckled, shaking his head.

"So he doesn't!" Smock feigned shock, grinning.

"No, he doesn't." Corvus confirmed, and he straightened himself up. "And he doesn't need to."

"Oh come on, we all know daddy dearest is pulling the strings." Smock remarked, enjoying the way that Soren fumed at the statement. Before anything else could be said, he quickly added, "And we all know that the children are just waiting to take over."

"They would be, if they had that kind of power." Corvus chuckled, and then he crumpled the letter in his hand. "Soren, get the guards to clean up the... mess. You will come with me, and we'll decide what to do with Princess Undying over here."

"At least someone addresses me as a lady." Smock put his hand to his chest melodramatically, but he had a bad feeling about the way Soren and Corvus shared a conspiring smile.

Soren looked at Smock, a somewhat excited smile upon his face. "Axel will be very upset. If he ever finds out, of course."

Corvus sighed. "Don't tell him."

Smock eyed them both, suspicious and slightly unnerved by some sort of gut feeling he had. "Don't suppose there's a bathroom round here?"

Soren just laughed. "Of course, but you'll be coming with us when you're done. Guards, prepare the main interrogation chamber."

Chapter Text

"On second thoughts," Corvus said as they were walking, "I don't think we will let you in the bathroom."

Smock stared at the man, slightly dismayed. "I gotta do my business, bud."

"Actually, I know for a fact that you do not." He hissed, earning a confused glance from Soren.

"Not that kind'a business. I need to get into something more comfortable." Smock argued, but he watched Corvus shake his head with a rough chuckle, and knew he wouldn't be going into that bathroom or changing out of this dress.

So they changed course, heading down a different flight of stairs with walls lined with weaponry. Smock stifled a sigh, then he cast silent image and off the illusion of him walking went, leaving the real subject standing on the stairs. Silent as he could manage, he walked back up the stairs, trying to time his steps alongside those of the others to hide the noise.

Once he was out of their sight and earshot, he bolted for the closest room, hoping it could provide some safety and preferably a change of clothes.

He realised after a moment that this was a tower, and that the spiralling staircase upwards was most likely his best bet at finding bedrooms, which meant clothes and hopefully Dionysia.

 

He dashed up the stairs, holding up the dress as not to trip on it, and he was greeted by two guards.

Without waiting for them to speak, he tried to cast a spell, but he was unable to use any harmful magic it seemed, so instead he split the skin of his arms and he stretched out the black substance in his body, wrapping it around the guard's throats and watching as their skin started to rot and they struggled to breathe.

Once they dropped to the ground, he continued forth, bringing the substance back into his arm and holding it for a moment, closing his eyes and taking a breather. He thought through what he was going to do and why he was doing it, then he opened his eyes with a burning vengeance and set course upon the hallway with the fanciest doors, figuring that'd be the Sanguis family's wing.

There was silence behind most of the doors, but he heard footsteps in one, and without considering that it might be an enemy he swung open the door.

The startled yelp of Dionysia caused him to pause for a moment, but once she saw who he was she let out a relieved sigh and approached him, wrapping her arms around him in what appeared to be defeat.

"I'm scared." She whispered.

"I know." He patted her back gently. "Let's get you outta here. Do you trust me?"

"I don't have much of a choice." Dionysia answered with a soft smile.

"Good enough." He shrugged, then he picked her up and made towards the window.

She looked at him, then at the drop outside the open glass, and she widened her eyes but had no time to protest because Smock threw her out of there, opening a portal and hoping upon every God he'd ever met that she'd land on the ship or somewhere near Axel and the others.

 

Right. Now I can get dressed. Smock headed straight for the wardrobe in the room, fishing through it for something he'd wear, and it appeared that these were the clothes of a hunter for there were straps and camouflage pelts hanging up alongside simple dark brown shirts and black trousers. Smock wouldn't complain, and he pulled out the most comfortable things he could find. He closed the door to the room, then the wardrobe, and got undressed.

He quickly brought his body back to its regular form, minus the beard (which he unfortunately couldn't restore with his power), and got into the clothes, enjoying the feeling of soft materials against his skin. He looked at the dress, hummed thoughtfully, and then charged out of the room and down the stairs.

I need to get out of here. He considered the window again, but it might be too loud to open it again and he hadn't took flight in quite a while. The Sanguis family seemed much more in-tune with their birdlike features, so he reckoned they'd be able to catch up with him with ease. They'd probably be expecting him to fly out, too, so that exit was scratched out. He realised that the only other option was the front door, since everywhere else was a window.

Smock sighed, and opened the door to the tower.

 

In the throne room was a congregation of people, all of which Smock was certainly not expecting to see, especially not so soon. Axel was staring down Soren with the most threatening glare he'd ever seen on him, and the others were behind him. Smock watched, enjoying the confrontation, not alerting anyone to his presence.

"Where is he?" Axel demanded, grabbing his brother by the collar and staring directly into his eye.

Soren just smiled, running a palm through his own hair to even it out. "Let's see... Captain Undying is in Neanos, probably burning down my 'stupid castle' as we speak."

Axel's eye full-on twitched, and he threw his brother to the ground, turning instead to the threatening presence of his father.

 

Smock saw Axel hesitate, fight back his tears, and approach the morbidly tall man, staring up at him resentfully. "What did you do?"

Corvus smiled, leaning down to his son's level and putting a hand on his shoulder. "I can see you've been working on what I told you to do when you were little." He grabbed Axel's wrist, picked it up, rolled down his sleeve and examined it. "You really should just follow through, dear."

Smock stared, in slight disbelief at Corvus' public display of cruelty, and immediately cast another silent image, his illusion appearing behind Axel. Corvus froze, then he threw Axel's arm to the side, causing him to flinch in pain, and he attempted to stab the illusion. When the blade went straight through it, he realised his mistake, and Smock - who had positioned himself appropriately - flew forth and fly-kicked Corvus in the back of the head.

He received a cheer from Voyage, who was deeply entertained, and the others stared in shock at what just happened.

"You should really respect your elders, Corvus." Smock muttered darkly, then he stepped away from the injured man and grabbed Axel gently. "We need to go."

 

Axel was silent, staring down at the floor, and he pulled away from Smock's touch. "No." He laughed quietly. "No, I've been waiting to do this for far too long."

 

Axel approached his father, grabbed him and picked him up, and then swallowed everyone in the room into a portal, dropping them in front of the biggest city in Aldelis, standing on the raised platform in front of the palace that was the head of the Sanguis operations.

Everybody gathered to see the commotion, and after clearing all of his friends from the platform (all but Smock), Axel used his magic to freeze his father in place and he gazed at the man with cold eyes before raising his voice. "That's right, gather, everyone. I have quite the show to put on for you all."

A murmur spread across the crowd and more people started to filter in, marvelling at the sight of the most powerful man they knew frozen in place by the reject of the Sanguis family, the one whose name was spread far and wide as the failure, as the one who the Serpents didn't want.

Axel, once he was satisfied, looked over the crowd. Smock wasn't sure whether he should stop this or just let it happen. "Now, father," the Changeling hissed, turning to the man, "I don't suppose you remember this little trinket."

He fished out a small bracelet from his pocket, and Corvus' eyes widened. "Stop this right now. Listen to your father."

"Father? You disowned him." Smock retorted, and he felt the cold glare of the patriarch settle into his skin.

"For good reason. Axel, stop this before you bring destruction upon this world. You're going to kill innocent people, this is going to cause war-" Corvus protested, but before he could continue the bracelet was slipped upon his wrist.

"You overestimate your importance, dear father." Axel purred, then he beheld the crowd with a grin. "Well then, Corvus, why don't you take out your blade?"

Unable to fight back the movement of his muscles, the man reached for the weapon.

Smock decided to interrupt, his voice dangerously silky as he spoke. "Axel, make him confess to his wrongdoings first."

The Changeling laughed bitterly. "Oh dearest father, won't you tell this wonderful crowd about all the things you've done?"

Corvus shook his head desperately, but words started to fall from his mouth. "I abused my children." He began, reaching up to his chest to try and stop himself with his free hand, as though grabbing at his heart might redeem him of the filth upon his soul. "I killed two of them. I murdered my family members, and innocent people. I'm a thief, a heretic, a-a-" he choked back his words for a moment, but Axel nodded for him to continue, "a child-murderer, a rapist. I'm a bad, bad person, and I'd do it all again. And I wish I'd have done it all so much sooner to Axel so he would have died at my own hands."

Axel laughed, revelling in the horror of the crowd. "You're missing out a few things, but that will suffice."

Wings spread, Smock turned to the congregation of people. "Dearest people, you may not know me by this name, but I know you. The Sanguis family has lied to you, taken from you, and above all, abused their own. Do you think they deserve to have Aldelis?"

Uproar filled the air, filling everyone's ears with shouts of anger and threats directed towards Corvus and his family. Smock smiled victoriously, and he turned with a nod to Axel, who smiled affectionately before looking at the blade. "Corvus, cut out your tongue. I don't want to hear another word from your filthy mouth."

Corvus raised the blade to his mouth, and before he could protest, he pushed the blade straight into the wet muscle. Blood started to pour from his mouth, dripping down his chin and all over his regal clothes. He dropped to his knees, in pure agony, and let out a pained noise that sounded awfully inhuman. He took a few moments to regain his grasp on reality, and when he did he lunged for Axel, poising the blade over the man's heart.

Smock looked at Corvus, bitter and full of hatred. "You should use your own magic to end yourself."

The man lifted his hands, the red sparks of magic starting to arise, but Axel stopped him. "Oh no dear, I have something much better in mind."

 

He pulled his father closer by the collar, stared into his eyes with pure malice, and grinned. "Drop the blade, take your hands and tear yourself open."

"Wait a moment." Smock instructed, and Corvus' horror as he processed what he was about to do to himself, given far too much time to think about it. Smock turned to the crowd, opened his arms, and asked one simple question. "Well should he?"

This time, however, the crowd was frozen. They were in disbelief over the command, and he assumed they hadn't expected for Corvus to actually be killed, and before they could even regain the composure to answer, Axel impatiently shoved his father into the middle of the platform and let out a venomous laugh.

"Go ahead and show everybody all of those ugly black spots on your soul."

 

Corvus immediately dug his nails into his clothes, fought at them for a while, and then ripped them open. He shot a pleading look at Axel, a final shot at trying to free himself from his fate, but the Changeling only smiled at his father as the nails clawed deeper and deeper into his skin, clawing at them ripping off small pieces and then bigger ones until there was a cavity in his chest. Black smoke started to arise from the bleeding hole, and Corvus gasped and screamed in agony as he tore further and further, his entire stomach on show and his bloodied insides exposed. He dug them all out, ripping it further until his entire torso was a mangled mess, and finally he grabbed his heart, which was covered in a black, inky substance, and tore it from its place behind his ribcage.

Axel, satisfied, took the heart and then placed his foot upon his father's back and pushed him off the platform. He examined it, and then crushed it in his hand, letting the black-red blood seep all over his hands and clothes. "Pitiful."

Smock looked at the body. People were scurrying to get closer, to see the man ruling Aldelis reduced to a torn-apart corpse, and others screaming and shouting in horror. People were trying to yell for Axel to leave, to leave Aldelis, or to die and to atone for the sins he had committed. Others were cheering him on. The air was a mess of noise, people on all sides of opinions shouting out, but Axel heeded none of them.

The pirate looked across the crowd, and once again spread his wings. "With death comes new life. Did Corvus deserve this, or was it just inevitable? I would like to tell you a story. I knew from the moment you were all born that you were destined to die." He was met with confused glances, others scared, and a very small collection of people dropped to the ground to pray. "I've seen your names and I've crossed them out. I've guided you to the other side." Whispers spoke of his role, the Angel of death, and fear started to spread. "But I'm not someone to fear. I didn't fall because I disobeyed. I fell because I allowed it to happen, because I knew lives would be lost from my own mistakes. And I fell, not really knowing what to do.

"Am I free? I asked myself. What is my purpose? And it wasn't 'til I spent time down here that I realised that your lives are not just a timeline. But a string of multicolours, stretching far into the horizon. And it's magnificent. You can reinvent and change yourselves. You can fix your mistakes, and you can be mortal, something I'll never be.

"Many of you fear me for the lives I've lived, but once I met a woman and... she was beautiful. Her voice could calm waves, and scorch the terrors of monsters. And she was taken from me. The Angel of death, made to help people with grief, made to go through it.

"My battles with the Sanguis family were never personal. I saw the terrors they did to you, and I wanted to give you hope, but they took my Ellamia. And I understand. I'm done hiding. And I hope you are too." He paused for a moment, and he looked once more over the crowd, who were divided. Some were fearful, others amazed, others horrified. Some were crying, others were still praying, and a few looked up at him with hope. Some cast scornful gazes towards him, but especially to Axel. "The Angel of death is close to finishing his dance."

Chapter Text

Smock turned to Axel, and he saw the man staring emotionless at his bloodied hands. He could tell that there was a lot going through his head, but he was silent. Smock grabbed Axel's shoulder, approaching him and speaking with a soft voice. "Let's get out of here."

So they did. Axel got down from the platform, looked at the body, now a feast for crows, and he parted the crowd with his mere presence, walking past them with his eyes trained on the ground. Smock stayed close to him, feeling the tension radiating from the man's body.

They kept walking, on through streets where people had crowded and were talking as they passed. The people fell silent when Axel walked through, and murmured 'the Angel of death' when Smock followed. Word had spread quickly it seemed, and Smock was fine with that. They entered Axel's portal that took them back to Schofengen.

Smock looked back at the crew, who were following close behind, and he watched their features. They were experiencing a whole array of emotions. Wiccan was thinking intensely, Jüdischer was holding Ophelia, who was beyond shaken. Oh no- I scared Ophelia. His eyes wandered to Mariquita, who looked very suspicious. Voyage seemed to be completely unaffected by the whole ordeal. Kilmorne was nowhere to be seen - looking after Six, he assumed - but Liayra was walking with Ophelia, trying to help comfort her. Nassbera and Mouse were missing. Axel's kids were walking together, and he caught them talking about whether they should comfort Axel. Then it hit Smock. The kids saw all of that.

 

When they reached the dock, Axel sat down on the cold shore, and Avian came to sit next to him. They were silent for a few moments, and then she took one of his hands in her own. "I'm sorry you've been hurting alone for so long."

Axel remained silent, looking at the icy water in front of them.

Avian touched his arms gently. "Please don't."

"I-I..." he started, then he took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I've been there too, dad." She hugged him, and Smock couldn't help but feel something akin to sympathy. "Back when I really struggled, and after mom died, it was all I knew. But you'll make it through this, okay?"

"Okay." Axel was holding back a sob, and Smock watched Avian. This kid is wise. She met his eyes, and then looked at her father, and then back. Smock gave a soft gaze of assurance, hoping it was enough to show he'd try to help when he could.

The two stayed on the shore for a while, and whilst they did so, Smock turned to the crew, gathering them all in front of him. "Are you guys okay?"

A few glances were exchanged, some confusion and some uncertainty, before they nodded unanimously.

"I'll understand if you don't want to be a part of the crew anymore." He said, making sure to soften his tone. He didn't want the offer to come off as a threat.

Ophelia, who was still shaken, looked around and then gave Smock a soft smile. "I-I think I speak for us all when I say we're in this for life."

"But after everything, after learning about who I am. After... that whole thing-" he started, but was interrupted by Angelus.

"We're staying." He smiled, and the crew cheered quietly in agreement.

"Well, if you're sure, then I guess we'd better stay low for a while." Smock looked over them, a little proud but also a little scared for their wellbeing. "And I need to speak to some family."

Liayra laughed softly, and then she joined Smock up at the front. She patted him gently on the shoulder. "Do what you gotta do, we'll be waiting for our Captain to return. Anyone else wanna head onto the ship?"

A few people followed, and the remaining few were Axel's children, Wiccan, Jüdischer, Hikari and Mariquita. Smock looked at them thoughtfully, and then he remembered he had his wings out. There wasn't much point in acting as if he had to hide them now, which was half-reassuring, but he still put them away, figuring they were of no current use.

Felix frowned a little when he saw them go. "But they were so pretty..."

Smock chuckled softly. "You'll see them again."

Excitement briefly flashed on Felix's face, and he smiled to his brother before casting a glance towards Axel.

Smock took a breath, and then he turned to the original party. "You guys should get back on the ship. We'll be back soon."

The four looked at each other and then started towards the ship, Wiccan giving Smock a soft pat on the shoulder before continuing.

 

The kids approached their father, all hugging him and telling them they loved him, and although he remained silent Smock saw his muscles relax just a little. He walked over to the Changeling, sitting down with him and leaning on him. They stayed in the quiet for a while, watching the icy tide lap gently against the snow-covered sand. After some time, Axel took a shaky breath and hid his face, his shoulders tensing back up. The kids exchanged concerned looks, then they turned to Smock.

The pirate pulled Axel closer and hugged him tightly. Avian looked over them both. "Maybe we should... go? He might calm down better if he can actually talk to someone, and..." she smiled to Smock sweetly, "he trusts you more than anyone else."

Without waiting for a response, the three stood up after joining the hug for a minute, and left Smock and Axel alone on the cold beach.

"Your children are wise." Smock said gently, and he got a very small chuckle in return.

"They take after their mother." Axel smiled sadly for a moment.

"I wish I'd met her." Smock commented, squeezing the man gently. "She sounds very lovely."

"She was." Axel agreed, wrapping his arms weakly around the pirate and burying his head in his shoulder. "I'm sorry for dragging you into all of this."

"Ehh I was already in it. Better to have allies to have done it alone." Smock shrugged, not minding the way that the other cried against his clothes. The warmth of the tears on his shoulder was refreshing. "It isn't your fault."

"I know you won't say it back, and you don't have to, but I want you to know that I-I love you." Axel muttered, lifting a hand and running it through the other's long hair.

Smock held Axel's face, looking him in the eyes and smiling softly. He kissed the man on the cheek, and hugged him tighter. Axel froze, but then he buried his face again and continued to sob. Smock hoped that was a good reaction. Knowing Axel, any show of affection would probably make him feel at least a little happier.

When the Changeling had calmed down a little more, he pulled back and pressed his forehead to Smock's, just closing his eyes for a minute and breathing with him. It was a strange feeling of oneness, not quite completion but something similar, and in truth he wouldn't mind staying like that for a while, but Axel straightened up his bloodstained clothes, tugged at the cuffs of his sleeves, and then stood. "We should get back to the others."

Smock got up alongside him, examining Axel's demeanour for a moment. The man was still a little tense, and very fidgety, but overall seemed much calmer than he had been. "Sure. I got a lot of explaining to do."

Axel chuckled quietly, looking at Smock with affection, and he approached the pirate, grasping his hands. "Thank you."

"Yeah yeah, whatever." Smock laughed, and he allowed Axel to softly kiss him on the lips before the two moved on and joined the crew on the galleon.

Chapter Text

When they returned to the ship, Axel was surprised by the lack of questions they received. He was unsure whether they were trying to respect Smock privacy or whether they were scared, but either way he was kind of glad, because all he wanted to do was go back with the pirate and rest.

But, of course, Smock had other plans. "I'm setting course for Pirate Island," he announced as he confidently took the wheel.

"Why are we going there?" Wiccan asked, hooking his foot on the ropelift to the crow's nest.

"I did say I needed to meet some family, and I figured it's time you meet them as well. Especially 'cos, you know," he gestured towards Ophelia, "Ellamia." He stopped, looking at the crew and their nervous glances for a moment, before adding, "Ehh you'll love them, they're great."

He rubbed the back of his neck gently, and Axel caught him continuing under his breath, "And I really gotta see them... got things to say I can't say over letter."

Axel held his breath for a moment, looking at Smock stomach, and he couldn't help but approach and place a hand there, resting his head on Smock's shoulder. "You're not stressed are you? Is everything okay? Do you feel okay?"

"Yeah, I'm peachy." He answered, and Axel immediately assumed he didn't understand exactly what was being referred to, but he hummed in satisfaction anyway, feeling very protective all of a sudden.

Something about knowing his unborn child was there, alive, waiting, made him want to protect Smock at all costs. I'm... scared? Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of?

And then his mind rocketed back to Aurora, and the words 'possible miscarriage', and he wanted to erase it all from his memory. They had been lucky, but the thoughts still haunted him when he remembered, especially now that a mistake could effect the baby.

"Where's Dionysia?" Smock interrupted his thoughts suddenly, and he twitched a little in surprise. "I didn't throw her outta the window for nothing."

"She's- hold up, what?" Axel looked at Smock, extremely confused. "How'd that work?"

"Oh, there was no magic inside the castle so I threw her out of the window and cast a portal as soon as she was falling." Smock responded, shrugging as though this information wasn't something completely new to the Changeling.

"But you don't have that power." Axel squinted.

"Yeah, but you do, and you're bonded to me." Smock, not so helpfully, added.

"...Why didn't I know about this, I-" Axel stepped back, looking at his hands. "I need to update the books! This is awful, they've missed out so much information."

"What books?" Smock asked, and Axel wondered whether he should answer that question.

"...Nothing." Axel murmured, totally not suspicious at all, and he took a breath.

Smock turned his head to look at the man, raising his brows. "Don't tell me there's Archangel books out there."

Avoiding the question completely, Axel pointed at Smock. "You've still got that makeup on, dear."

"What of it?" Smock turned his gaze back to the ocean, and Axel admitted defeat and decided to hop through a portal into the hallway outside of Dionysia's room.

 

After a few moments of calming his nerves, he put on his usual grin and knocked on the door. He heard footsteps, then the door was swung open and he greeted Dionysia with a small wave.

"Hello dear, I was wondering if you had the time to run me through what happened whilst you were gone." Axel stepped into the room (upon invitation, of course) and took a seat on the wooden chair beside the bed.

"O-Oh... you want to know... everything?" Dionysia asked, resting her hands on her knees shyly.

"If that's alright." Axel smiled softly, dropping his grin in an attempt to comfort her, for he saw a familiar kind of pain flash in her eyes.

"Well, Smock really made Soren angry. He kept acting like this maiden, and he didn't like it, and then he went away and... some things happened, and then we got there, and Smock was insulting your father-"

"He fucking what?" Axel had to stop himself from shouting, but he reminded himself that Corvus was dead and couldn't exactly enact any form of revenge.

"Yeah, and then he ratted out Soren, and Soren was really scared, and then we went to this room and he arranged for me to marry Erin-"

"He fucking what?" Axel repeated, his head in his palm. "You're marrying... Erin?"

"Y-Yes, is that... a problem?" Dionysia asked, nervously fiddling with her dress.

"No, of course not, i-it's just... I'm surprised. Erin... she... gave you an arrow, did she not?" Axel enquired, and the girl looked as though her heart froze for a second for she went deathly pale.

"You know about that?" she asked, and then she shook her head. "I can't tell you about it, I'm sorry. I-If it's any comfort, I'm sure I can tell her we don't need it once we're married!"

Axel sighed after a few moments. "...Forget I mentioned it. Continue."

"U-Um, okay. Well... after that, he started asking Smock about his wings and who he was bonded to and all that stuff... it was weird." Dionysia shrugged, clearly (and thankfully) having no idea what that was all about. "Yeah, Smock kept dodging all his questions and making him really mad, and then Smock asked them about what they ate their food off of, and it was super weird. I was taken out of the room after that though, and then later he came to me and threw me out of the window and I don't know what happened after that."

"I see." Axel hummed, and he waited a few moments, putting the timeline together in his mind. He had one missing piece, however, and he had a feeling it would be unpleasant to bring up to her, considering the way she dodged it. "When you say 'some things happened', is that referring to..." he searched for the right words, "I can sense that there is... one more life aboard this ship than there was before."

"Oh." Dionysia's colour came back to her, but this time she was far too red, and Axel felt his heart drop for her. He thanked the Gods that he didn't have a soul, for he would have no doubt started to cry alongside her if he'd have had that extra piece of humanity to boost his emotions.

He swiftly took her up in his arms, holding her tight and as comfortingly as he could. "I can't take back his actions, but I can make sure he doesn't do this to anyone ever again. He wouldn't be the first Sanguis to fall this Summer."

"...What?" Dionysia sniffled, and she pulled away from him, wiping her nose.

"Corvus won't be bothering anyone any time soon. Ask Smock about it." Axel muttered, but he couldn't help but feel a little proud of himself. Revenge, of course, for the time that bastard dumped the explaining onto me.

"...Oh." She hummed, and then she straightened herself up and looked out of the round window in her room.

"If you must talk to anyone, confide in Mariquita. You two seem close, and she will be of much better support than I." Axel patted her gently on the head. "You're doing your best, remember that."

She nodded, but clearly she still wasn't feeling all that great, and Axel couldn't help but feel a little guilty for bringing up bad memories. He grabbed her hand gently, and thought for a moment. It was getting dark, and he had an idea to boost everyone's spirits. "Come with me, dear. I have a feeling Smock eill be wanting to see you. You'll feel so much better afterwards."

 

He led her up to the top deck, keeping a careful eye on her in case she began to feel any worse, and when they got up he couldn't help but glance to the sky. He paid attention this time to the sunset, and whilst he was distracted, he heard the cry of "Dionysia!" from Smock, and before he knew it the two had embraced.

Smock patted her head proudly. "I told you. If there's one thing I learned from being a pirate it's how to escape."

Dionysia laughed quietly. "Yep! I don't know when a pirate would have to throw someone out the window, but it worked, so I'll give it to you."

Smock chuckled, looking down at her with his usual grin and squeezing her tightly. Axel watched them with a smile, until the sound of bright and joyful music filled the air. He whirled around, searching for the source of the noise, and his eyes settled on three people all playing in unity. Felix had a flute, Voyage a lute, and Ophelia a lap-harp. It was clear when they played together that the three were talented and able to adapt to each movement and change in the songs they created on the spot.

 

Axel noticed Liayra tugging Kilmorne by the arm, and then she dragged him into an open space they joined hands and started to dance. The Dragonborn took a moment to ease up but when he did the two were laughing and prancing about together. Upon seeing this, Six dragged Avian over, who laughed and happily hopped about with the Kobold.

Axel couldn't help but smile. Avian has spent so much time getting to a place where she feels happy and confident with herself. He looked proudly over the dress she was wearing, Aurora immediately springing to mind. If only she could be here. She'd be so proud of her, of her transition, her progress as a person... He looked to the sky with a smile and let out a mutter, quiet enough that nobody else heard him. "Aurora, if you can hear me, I want you to know she's happy now. Our girl made it out alive."

 

He watched as more and more people joined in with the dancing. Smock was sitting on the side of the ship, watching with a small smile at it all, and Axel considered going and sitting with him, but was dragged away from the idea - quite literally - by Angelus. He swiftly regained his footing and joined in with the quick dancing, holding his son's hands and smiling at him.

"Angelus, you must warn people before you gallantly sweep them off their feet." Axel joked.

"You're my dad, it's different." He grinned. "Besides, you would never just start dancing on your own, so I had to take matters into my own hands."

"Your mother would have killed you if you used that kind of ominous language around her." Axel laughed, and he anticipated the switch in partner that occurred immediately afterwards, where he joined hands with Kilmorne.

 

The Dragonborn man seemed pretty relaxed as he spoke to Axel. "So, the Angel of death? Your boyfriend's got quite the title, if that's true."

Axel didn't even get caught up with the notion of them being boyfriends. He'd already accepted that much in his own mind. "It's true. Az-" he had to cut himself off. "-Haley has a... complicated past. But don't be afraid of him because of it."

"I'm not." Kilmorne assured, smiling warmly. "If anything, I'm honoured he's our captain, even if I don't fully trust him yet. I'll talk to you more about it later."

"That's a good choice. I'll see you then, dear." Axel grinned, and he got a laugh in return from the other before they yet again switched. Gods, I've forgotten how on-your-toes this style is.

 

Next came a face Axel had certainly not expected to see, one that filled him with genuine panic for a moment until he saw how genuinely cheerful the man looked. Valerias, in his wingless and tailless form, had come to dance with him, pink hair bobbing as they went.

"Val, you're-"

"Not angry at all." Valerias giggled, his eyes bright. "Don't even worry about it. The others are pissed but you're a great friend and I ain't leaving you over this soul shit. You and me are tight."

Axel grinned, feeling a little pang of joy. "That's good to hear. It's good to have friends like you."

Valerias winked. "Good to have friends like you too, you loopy fucker. Drop by and I'll spill some tea on that 'Valas' guy you wanted to know about."

 

Swirling to take the hand of his next companion, his mind fluttering with excitement, Axel was met with Billy. He didn't take the boy for much of a dancer, so he figured someone had probably dragged him over too.

"Hello, dear!" he greeted the wizard enthusiastically, looking at him with a smile. "We haven't spoken in some time. How are you?"

"I've been learning to sail," he responded happily, "and I was wondering if you could teach me some more about the reality magic?"

"Sure thing." Axel smiled, summoning forth the boy's reality magic so he could see its current state. The markings under his skin glowed fully, complete and without fade. "You're doing excellent. As soon as I have the time, I will show you what I know."

"Thank you, Axel." Billy grinned, and then they moved once more.

 

He made a few more rounds in the dance, then he took a break to catch his breath, looking back at Smock and considering joining him once again. He decided against it for the time being, since he had an idea, and it was best he waited.

 

Whilst he was standing around, the night grew darker, and the band kept playing. He listened to the music, proud of his son's talent, and watched the dancers continue on. Their styles changed more than once, and the group flowed through many different dances, until the night calmed and they settled into a slow dance.

The stars were glittering above them, and the ship was illuminated in the soft light of lanterns. The orange glow settled over everybody softly, casting a calm and phantasmagorical atmosphere over them all. A gentle chatter came to rest in the air, and Axel made his way towards the band, where he swapped Ophelia's spot in the band for Valerias, and he took the Sea Elf's hands gently, pulling her into the dancers. He slow danced with her across the deck, and he watched her expression of confusion for a moment before deciding it was about time for him to talk.

 

"I'm sorry about everything I put you through." He started, and saw her get a little red in the face, clearly mad that he'd started apologising again, but he continued before she could speak. "Kelkas didn't deserve anything that happened to him, and neither did Ellamia. And truly, I am sorry. I hurt you, and I hurt a lot of others, and I accept that now. What I did was foolish. Someone wise once taught me that... I can't win back lives by taking others. I care about you very deeply, Ophelia, and you don't have to forgive me, but just know I'm sorry."

The woman hesitated for a moment, then she caught her breath and clutched his hands tight. "It wasn't your fault. I was just upset and angry, and I'm sorry for the things I said. And I forgive you."

Axel fought back tears, allowing himself to smile. "I don't deserve that kindness, Ophelia. You're more than welcome to hate me."

"How could I hate you after everything?" Ophelia insisted. "Even after what you did, you are one of my closest friends, and it's in the past now. I forgive you."

Axel pulled her close, hugging her as they stepped, before twirling her around and allowing Jüdischer to take her hand. She giggled in delight, looking at the Changeling with pure joy for a second before continuing to dance with her lover.

 

That was when Axel let out a sigh and decided to leave. He made his way up to the top deck, beyond the wheel, and to the back railing. The music was quieter from up here, and he had a gorgeous view of the ocean. He saw a sea serpent bare its back and weave through the waves, its scales shimmering a gorgeous blue-green. They're all down there, dancing. And I'm up here, and I will stay up here. What a waste of a lovely night.

He gazed up to the sky, his eyes sad. He leaned on the railing, wincing in pain but not adjusting his arms, not caring that it hurt. He heard the sound of boots walking up behind him, and he recognised that particular gait, the specific sound that the heels made on the shoes, different to the ladies' shoes.

 I don't deserve this angel.

"What are you doing?" Smock asked quietly, no aggression in his tone but instead just genuine confusion. How am I here with such a beautiful man?

"It's a wonderful night tonight." Axel mused, standing with his hands behind his back. He looked awfully regal in the lantern's soft orange glow, but he was frowning when he spoke. He should be with her.

"Is... something wrong?" the pirate seemed a little concerned, and when he picked up on it he took the man's face and pressed their foreheads together.

"I can't compete." He said, closing his eye before he could shed any tears.

"With who?" Smock asked, clearly growing even more perplexed. I can't compete, I can never compete.

Axel fell silent, and he wrapped his arms hesitantly around Smock, holding him tightly for a few minutes before he took a step backwards. He clutched the pirate's hands, then reeled him in close, pressing him against his chest. "Dance with me."

Smock paused, looking at him with wide eyes. "I usually take the lead...?"

"There is no need." Axel smiled. "Let me."

 

Flustered, Smock allowed Axel to take the lead as they slow danced across the top deck to the music, swaying and stepping, synchronised. The Changeling closed his eyes, allowing his senses to guide him, aware of every single movement he should be making even without sight. He felt truly at one with his angel, as though the world had become still for just a moment and he could die happy knowing that he'd gotten this chance.

"May I call you Haley?" Axel enquired softly, opening his eye to look into the other's.

"Sure." He agreed with a shrug, and Axel immediately smiled.

"Such a lovely name." He praised quietly, lifting one hand to run it through Haley's hair. "My Haley."

The other smiled softly, and without thinking he let out a soft murmur. "My Serpent."

Thrilled, Axel's eye brightened, and he leaned in to kiss the man on the lips. They kissed until Axel lost his breath, and after that they continued to dance for a while until Haley seemingly grew in confidence.

 

"Let's liven this up." The pirate grinned, leading Axel up onto the railings. He got his footing, braced himself, and then he smirked right back. "Still think you can dance?"

"Oh bring it on." Axel joined hands with the pirate, and instantly they began to dance, their steps swift but calculated, each landing perfectly on the wood and not slipping once. They fought to take lead, each exchanging control, until Axel went in to dip Haley. The pirate disappeared into a black shadow in his arms, and he immediately stood up and whipped around.

"You take lead in the bedroom, I take lead when we dance." Haley reached forth to twirl Axel around, and the Changeling laughed, fluently returning the action, feeling the swirl of the man's coat against his legs.

"I'm sure I can challenge that."

"You can try."

 

The dance got progressively more and more aggressive, though it somehow still remained ultimately graceful, until finally Smock spread his wings and grabbed Axel.

The two soared upwards, the Changeling clinging to Haley, until they reached the cross-section of the mast. The sails were drawn, and Axel looked down. They were quite high up, and the movement seemed to have caught the attention of the dancers below.

"Still certain?" the pirate grinned, and once more the two began to dance.

"I won't give up so soon." Axel laughed, swinging Smock around in the air and landing him on the edge of the mast, smirking cockily. He hadn't had this much fun in a long time.

They were growing more daring with each step until Haley spread his wings and soared into the air, partaking in all kinds of air acrobatics. Axel thought for a moment, unsure how to combat that, until he remembered he could shapeshift, and he jumped off the ship, changing form into a huge, graceful dragon, black wings tipped with a pale red, and he spread his wings and beat them backwards, facing Haley as the cool Summer breeze blew against them. The Angel was not at at deterred.

 

Axel wove around Haley, the waving tendrils on his wrists and tail flowing in the air. He was the very image of elegance, but so was the angel, using the huge body of the dragon as a stage, weaving himself around and brushing his wings against the other's red-black scales. Haley swirled about his neck as he somersaulted in the air, the two moving together, a gorgeous display of grace and beauty.

 

They came to a brilliant finale, Axel releasing a splendid burst of energy which exploded in the sky like fireworks, and he threw Haley into it. The Angel spread his wings wide, all six of them, illuminated by the light behind him, before looping backwards, and then, returning to normal, the two descended, having declared it (for now) a tie.

 

Yet when they arrived on the ground, Haley took Axel's hand and dipped him with a grin before twirling the Changeling around and declaring, "I win."

Chapter Text

A few weeks had passed since the night's dance, and Smock had been experiencing an entirely new dilemma.

 

You see, Smock had been waking up with a certain feeling in his... lower regions. Axel had told him it was something called 'morning wood' and he had afterwards been (again, a concept recently introduced) 'jerked off' and subsequently had a small but enjoyable orgasm before getting up for the day. Smock was extremely embarrassed by himself, unsure why this had happened or why he was feeling this way, and he tried to go about his life as if nothing had changed.

Axel had immediately headed for the desk, as he always did in a morning, to write letters. When Smock stumbled over, hazy and half-awake, he glanced over the man's shoulder. He was writing to someone called Kallisto, a name Smock didn't recognise at all, and had opened the letter with 'I apologise for the great period of time in which I have been absent from the union. I intend to return soon, though I am currently at seas. I am certain you have heard the news of my father' and at that point Smock stopped reading and decided to get dressed.

 

A few days later, he'd gotten up in the morning with the same feeling, but he hadn't alerted Axel and instead decided to try go about his day as if it wasn't there, but it was a feeling he was having significant trouble getting rid of. He considered setting himself aside and trying to sort it out without Axel's help, but he couldn't stop himself from craving the man's touch, and the feeling of having something inside of him.

He'd eventually decided, because there was no way that he would be caught asking for Axel to bed him, that he would wind the Changeling up best he could, and try to be provocative.

He figured out very quickly that this was easier said than done, because Axel had grown a tolerance for Smock's shenanigans, and didn't react when he tried to insult him, so he had to step it up a little.

 

Smock, upon entering the bedroom once more, had taken off his coat and approached Axel's desk. "I'm going to steer the ship."

Humming in acknowledgement, the Changeling scrawled something down onto the parchment and turned around to look up at Smock. He looked over the pirate's form before standing up and getting close to him. For a moment, Smock froze, and then he pulled himself even closer to Axel, hovering his lips above the other's.

When Axel leaned in for a kiss, Smock formed a shadow of himself, and slipped through the door, leaving the man to let out a small sound of dismay and then grumble something under his breath. If I keep on like this, maybe he'll do something? That's how it worked the first time, right?

 

He travelled up to the wheel, and greeted Ophelia on his way up, making sure to give away absolutely nothing. He was silent as he steered, his mind wandering back repeatedly to his little craving, and he kept lingering on it.

Eventually, Axel joined him up on the top deck, the light no doubt giving him trouble, so Smock hummed in thought and leaned over the wheel just a little, acting very casual and not saying a word. He felt hands ghost over his hips for a moment, before Axel let out a thoughtful 'mm' and opened a portal under their feet.

 

Smock stopped himself from smirking and he whipped around, glaring at the Changeling with as much of an intimidating look as he could muster. "I gotta steer the ship, asshole."

"You know what you want." Axel hissed, and he pressed his body against Smock's, grabbing his wrists tight and leaning close to his ear. "And you will stay right here and let me use you, Azrael."

Smock felt a sudden thrill run through him and he stared at the man, wide-eyed and innocent. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You've been trying to tempt me." Axel flexed his fingers, digging them into Smock's skin.

"To do what?" he pushed, putting on the most unknowing expression he could muster. 

"You want me to fuck you." He chuckled, tilting his head and biting softly into Smock's neck.

"Why would I want that?" Smock asked, "You're the sexual person."

"Our mornings suggest otherwise, sweetheart." Axel purred, running a hand down Smock's front and resting it under the band of his trousers.

"That's your fault," he argued, stopping himself from making any noises at the touch or the bites, "a-and that's 'cos the bond and- you... like sex."

"Then tell me," Axel snaked his other hand away from Smock's wrist and into his hair, caressing it gently before tugging hard and bringing the pirate's head close to his own, "why you're acting like this, because I think we both know you're trying to re-enact that first time."

He tilted his head, staring like a deer mistaking candles for headlights, "What first time?"

"You know what I'm talking about." Axel brought his hand down further, touching every spot except the one Smock really wanted.

Fighting back a whine, he looked away from Axel. "Yeah yeah, whatever. I need to go steer the ship."

Smock pushed Axel away, turning to the door and starting to walk towards it, but he was stopped by a rough growl of a sentence. He froze up, unable to take another step, unsure of how exactly to react when Axel spoke. "Are you disobeying your command?"

He turned again, looking at the Changeling, his innocent facade faltering for a moment before returning. He gazed at Axel, then back at the door, torn between his options. On one hand, he did have a command to follow, but on the other he wanted to see how far he could push the man.

"Come back here." Axel said with a voice too soft for his manner.

Smock went to take a step, then he stopped. "Yes, I am disobeying."

And then he walked away.

 

He felt pride welling up in his chest, because holy shit I just disobeyed a command, and truthfully he was thrilled. Not only that, but he knew that Axel would be even more worked up than he was before, and that was great.

He made his way up to the wheel once again, and was met with the (understandably) confused crew. Smock shrugged, looking over them with a nonchalant "What?" and then he continued. At the helm was Ophelia, who let out a somewhat alarmed noise and stared at his neck.

"What happened?" she rushed over and put her hand on the bite, staring with concern into his eyes. "What did he do?"

"Oh, me and Axel had a bit of a talk." He answered, and she didn't seem to be buying it but she hummed anyway and backed away.

"...Looks like it." She murmured, and then she took a spot at the side of Smock.

"Fiiine, I've been winding Axel up." Smock admitted, resting his hands on the carved wood of the wheel.

"Oh." Ophelia seemed to be lost for words, and she cleared her throat. "...Noted. I... don't suppose you'll... be... walking? For the next day or... something like that?"

"...What is that supposed to mean?" he asked, casting a side-glance her way.

"W-well... when... Axel gets wound up, he um..." she waved her hands in front of her, trying to find the right expressions. "Gets rough?"

"I'm the Angel of death, if he wants to fight I'm sure I can take it." He watched Ophelia's expression shift when he said that, and he wasn't quite sure what it was supposed to mean.

"No.. not... not fighting. Uhm... how do I put this lightly?" she drummed her fingers against the railing subconsciously. "I mean in the sense of... him bedding you?"

Smock couldn't stop himself from going really fucking red, and he tried to hide the mild alarm in his voice. "How do you know about that?"

"It's kind of obvious." She offered, looking at him in confusion.

"But... wouldn't that hurt baby top of his head?" Smock wasn't quite sure what just came out of his mouth but it happened.

"What?" Ophelia squinted. "You're a guy, you can't get pregnant."

"I'm an Archangel, anything can happen." He shrugged. "Plus, I have both. And... isn't it normal for... boy mortals to get... pregnant?"

"What has Axel done?" she murmured, her head in her hands.

"He made a child." Smock answered, kind of confused about her reactions because he was sure this was pretty normal.

"Smock, l-look, most boys can't... don't... they... pregnant isn't, something they get because- they can't, and they don't have the right... All the other guys on this ship can't get pregnant, it's a girl thing." Ophelia tried to explain, stuttering like crazy.

"...He did not tell me that." Smock said quietly. "...I thought you guys knew."

"No, we didn't." Ophelia sighed softly. "It's fine, but I am just... very confused."

"To be honest, when I first got here all of you mortals confused me." He shrugged in response.

And then a new voice joined the fray, and Smock cursed himself for not noticing someone approaching them. "Yes, yes dear - Ophelia, excuse us please, and you're absolutely right about the walking thing."

 

Smock didn't have time to protest, because almost immediately he was plunged down into yet another portal. This time, he fell on his back onto the bed, and Axel angled his fall so that he came to stand beside the bed, straightening out his clothes and clearing his throat.

"Don't try any of that shadow travelling shit, Azrael." He hissed, and Smock let out a soft 'hmph' and went to cover his face.

"Woww, you get wound up so easily." He hummed beneath his hands, and he let out a soft noise as weight settled on top of him, and pressure settled on his throat.

"Shut the fuck up." Axel's teeth once again sank into his neck, over and over.

"Careful with that, don't swallow any black shit." Smock advised, reaching up to rest one hand in Axel's hair and the other between his shoulder blades.

"I won't." The Changeling said softly before switching his demeanour completely, nails digging into the skin beneath them. "You're my Haley, understood?"

Hesitating for just a split second, he stopped himself from smirking. "Yes, my Serpent."

Axel froze for a moment, gazing at Smock who was staring very innocently up at him. A hand wove down into the pirate's underwear, fingers pressing inside of him and flexing, sending small shivers of pleasure along his spine. Axel's other hand slithered down from Smock's throat, taking away his clothes and exposing his lower half, giving his hand more flexibility to fuck him. Smock let out soft moans, his mouth agape, and he couldn't help but open his legs just a little.

The Changeling took this as encouragement, quickening his hand's movements. He used his free hand to claw at the underside of Smock's thigh, effectively cutting into it and causing the black substance to drip down onto the bed, searing through the top sheets like acid.

Axel didn't care, however, even if the liquid was also burning into his own fingers, and then Smock decided he knew exactly what to do, and he shadow travelled underneath the bed, stopping himself from snickering mischievously.

He heard a groan of frustration and dismay from Axel, which made everything even more worth it, and he curled his limbs in closer, making sure he wasn't close enough to be dragged out. He summoned his wings, deciding his next course of action should be to fly away.

Axel's shoes were the next thing he saw, and then his elbows, and then his face. He'd laid down beside the bed, his eyebrow raised and his grin still upon his face.

"Don't you want me to use you, Azrael?" he sneered.

Without thinking, Smock shouted out a confident "Yes" before realising what he'd done, and covering his face with his wings.

"Then come out, and I will." He rest his head on one hand, staring with a mixture of threat and lust.

Smock didn't answer, staying still and uncovering one eye to watch the other. He was getting very excited, and the whites of his eyes were draining into an inky black, his hair doing the same, reverting back to its angelic state.

Axel furrowed a brow, confused and slightly concerned, watching Smock smile. "Come on sweetheart." The man cooed dangerously.

"Do you really get wound up that easily?" Smock smirked, and then he realised he must have misjudged the distance between himself and the edge of the bed, because hands grasped his shoulders tightly and dragged him from beneath the bed.

Axel's hands wrapped around Smock's ankles, and a pain shot through them as a strong red cylinder formed, holding them apart. It took a moment for Smock to register that he couldn't move them, and when he did he let out a soft breath, realising just how exposed he was like that.

Axel smiled, satisfied, and picked Smock up, placing him back down on the bed and dragging nails over the sides of his thighs. Within moments, the Changeling had undressed Smock completely and the other hand was tracing the feathers on his wings. He was slotted between Smock's legs, hovering above him. The pirate let out gentle sounds of satisfaction, enjoying the feeling of his wings being touched.

Seemingly considering this a victory, Axel let out a soft chuckle. "That was easy. You can be so very pathetic, sweetie."

That struck a nerve, and Smock stared at the other, not quite sure what to say. It brought back a few memories which he quickly shoved aside, focusing on the pleasure. Axel must have noticed something, because after a moment he leaned in close and let out a gentle whisper of "I love you" before connecting their lips.

The kiss was gentler than he'd expected, and one of Axel's hands moved from the wing to the side of his face, caressing him gently and waiting a few moments, monitoring something (Smock assumed it was his expression, or breathing, or body language). When he was satisfied, he continued, and Smock was fine with that - he didn't feel much different, thankfully, and the pleasure was clouding any possible thoughts anyway.

Axel moved his lips down, kissing the spots on Smock's neck that he'd formerly bitten, and he sucked on the pirate's collarbones, leaving dark marks that likely wouldn't fade for a while. He whined, watching the Changeling, enjoying the feeling of lips on his skin.

Next, the (royal) cunt, returning his fingers to where they had formerly been inside of Smock, leaned further down and tentatively ran his tongue over the pirate's nipple, watching eagerly for a reaction. He swiftly gave one, however, letting out a sharp gasp. He was unexpectedly sensitive there - it wasn't something that he was exactly familiar with - so he couldn't hold back the sounds he made when the man's tongue started to swirl just a little, and then more, until finally he started to suck gently on the soft skin, finger fucking him at the same time and releasing all kinds of explosions of pleasure throughout Smock's body.

Axel continued like that for some time, then he hummed and lifted his head, kissing Smock's chest, and he stopped there for a few seconds, his eyes open, staring at the deep scar running from Smock's collar to the side of his ribcage, under his arm.

Weakly, Smock let out a soft murmur. "What?"

"Nothing, sweetheart." Axel quickly said. "You're doing so good."

Smock couldn't stop himself from absolutely beaming at that, and he widened his black eyes, excited. Axel watched, and he smirked.

"Adorable." He chuckled, starting to take off his own clothes. "Such an innocent, good Angel."

Smock whined again, reaching up to run both of his hands over Axel's shoulders thankfully, unsure how exactly to express his appreciation of the comment. The Changeling, once he was undressed, wasted no time in pushing his dick into Smock, and didn't hesitate at all to start fucking him.

The pirate clung to Axel, wishing he could kick out his legs or do anything with them to try and react to the immense bliss he was in, but the sensations seemed amplified like this, and he wanted more. He tried to gently rock his hips back against Axel, and ultimately he ended up gyrating them hard, chasing every little sliver of satisfaction that he could.

 

Axel let out a stuttered breath, then he slammed his hands down on Smock's hips, holding them down and seemingly pushing himself to his limits, combining hard and rough into a perfect mixture, dragging loud moans from both of them (but mainly Smock.)

With his mind hazy from the overwhelming sensations, he almost didn't notice a soft murmur from the man, a small command of, "Say it."

Smock had to think for a moment, but there was only one thing he could imagine that Axel wanted, so he took a breath and then alongside a moan he responded. "My Serpent~"

Axel hissed possessively, shooting forwards and biting down into the brand on Smock's shoulder. "Again."

"M-my Serpent," Smock whined, and he threw his head back, all of the sensations becoming more than just overwhelming. He was close.

"Again." Axel demanded, snaking down a hand to jerk the pirate off, the other finding its way to one of his wings, adding even more feelings to the mix.

"M-my-" he started, then a gasp interrupted him, and he grasped tight at Axel's skin, "My Serpent-"

He swore he could feel his legs shaking and the pleasure burst throughout his body, exploding like fireworks under his skin, burning away the world as though it had never been around them in the first place. It felt as though stardust was scattered across his skin and the skies themselves had collapsed. Smock wasn't sure he'd ever felt so much bliss. And before Axel could even command him again, he cried out a shaky breath of "M-my- my Serpent!", losing himself in satisfaction.

Axel continued for a few more moments before stopping, huffing from the physical exertion, his head resting on Smock's chest. The two breathed together, the sensations very gradually fading into a soft kind of happiness, leaving them entwined for a while. Axel used his magic to get rid of the bar holding Smock's legs apart, then he pulled away, gentle as ever, giving the pirate a very soft kiss as he did.

 

When Axel stood up again, he threw on some baggy trousers that he found in Smock's wardrobe, and then returned to the bed, laying beside Smock and resting his head on the Archangel's chest. "You did amazing."

Though Smock's eyes were returning to normal, and he wasn't quite as submissive as he was before, he still felt excitement ripple through him at the praise and he smiled. He closed his eyes, breathing slowly, and when they opened again there was no more of the inky substance in them.

They stayed like that for a while, until eventually Axel started tracing the scar on Smock's chest. He pressed down a little, and hummed in curiosity at the strange way it felt (hard, as though beneath it was actual brick, or something of the sorts) and at the depth of it. It was like a canyon on his otherwise smooth skin.

"What happened?" Axel enquired, gazing at it inquisitively.

"What?" he said, and then he realised Axel was still tracing the scar. "Oh. It was a training accident."

"Can you tell me more?" the Changeling asked, looking up at Smock and caressing his face with his free hand.

The pirate looked away for a moment, weighing out the options he had, and then he sighed. "We had to train - because of the armies we led. Archangels trained together. We had to set an example, whatever. And plus, we matched each others strength - it was a fair fight. I was... fighting Michael that day," he noticed the way Axel's eye widened just slightly at the name, but he didn't interrupt, so Smock continued, "and... and I got distracted. I let my guard down, and he got me good."

"Why were you distracted?" Axel asked, and then he quickly added, "And... how did it scar you? Aren't you Archangels only really able to be hurt by your own weaponry? That Angelic stuff - it seems strange you'd be fighting with it, since it could kill you."

Smock wondered for a moment why Axel knew that, and he cast his gaze towards the desk, where various books sat - some about Archangels and Angels. He frowned just a little, and he tried not to let his mind wander far enough into the memories. "He was saying some stuff to me, and it was... distracting, after some uh... words." He paused for a moment, then he chuckled. "Michael always knew what to say to get what he wanted."

"You can say that again." Axel retorted, then he caught himself before he said any more and cleared his throat. "I-I mean, from what I've read anyway. Seems like an asshole."

He eyed the Changeling for a moment but didn't make his suspicion apparent. "Ehh, I got brave. I got what I deserved."

"You shouldn't have been attacked with one of those weapons, though. It's the only thing that could have left this." Axel insisted.

"I..." Smock hesitated. "Michael... saw that I hesitated... and he summoned his weapon. He... got me, but he didn't stop, until it went all the way through and I was on the floor. Even then, I don't think he would have stopped until the others got involved."

Axel flexed his fingers, then clenched his fist tight before releasing it and drumming his fingertips on Smock's chest.

"W-well Raphael started healing me, and Ariel got between us, and it mustn't have been that bad because I was back to work in a few minutes." Smock smiled softly. "I was very busy as an Archangel." And then he added, quickly, "Especially when Demiurge came around."

The Changeling still seemed to be focused on the severity of the injury, and he traced it again. "That should never have happened." He murmured.

"Oh no, it's fine. Me and Michael had a talk about it afterwards." Smock assured, but that only earned a scoff from the other.

"And let me guess, he blamed you."

"He... didn't just say that. He kind of told me-" Smock started, and then he stopped himself, deciding against sharing that much. "It never happened again."

"Oh he didn't." Axel snarled, flexing his fingers again. White magic sparked in the roots of the flowers composing his arm's arteries, and Smock finally figured out that it seemed to be what happened when the man got angry.

"Didn't what?" Smock asked, confused. Ohh please don't... please don't say that he knows, or figured it out. Did he figure it out? How?

"This is all too familiar." Axel shook his head, then he leaned his upper body across to hover over Smock, cupping his face in his clawed hands. "I am so sorry you went through that. And I fucking swear-" he took a breath, closing his eye.

"It's fine, it's fine!" Smock insisted. "I was made to be used. But you weren't."

"Don't even try to excuse it." Axel got close to Smock's face, staring at him with blank eyes.

"But Michael was right... I did fall in the end." Smock argued quietly, and immediately he saw a mixture of emotions replace the former emptiness. Guilt, anger, sorrow, vengeance. Somewhere along Axel's body, a flower - white clovers and a black rose. 'I promise', but also something about hatred, and death. "Ehh, well, enough outta me. My family is... a bit of a mess. All of us."

"I can relate." Axel sighed, and then he moved so that Smock's nose rest in the crook of his own. "But don't agree with that bastard. I... know him well, and all he does is manipulate. You didn't deserve that. He was never, and when it comes to the point, never will be, correct."

"Well, at least I learned one thing from him." Smock sighed, looking at Axel with a breath. "Outcast team, woo..."

"That was... thrilling." Axel said sarcastically, and he let out a soft laugh, returning his head to where it had been on Smock's chest.

The two laid there in silence, enjoying the peace, until suddenly Smock had a rather alarming thought.

"Wait... can I get pregnant again?!"

Chapter Text

Sure enough, Smock was in quite a deal of pain when he got up. He groaned, rubbed his backside (and then groaned again 'cos it was pretty tender), and then decided to get dressed. He threw on something casual, completely forgetting about the bite marks on his neck, and he made his way up to the helm, where he once again met a rather done-looking Ophelia, who didn't even ask this time.

They stood in silence for a while, until suddenly there was a flash of light. Smock squinted, then when the light was gone, his eyes focused on a very panicked - and very familiar - Archangel. He turned, staring at Gabriel with wide eyes. He hadn't seen the Archangels in... what, forty years? And he was more than certain that this could not be anything good.

"Gabriel, what-"

"OH DEAR." The alarmed Angel yelled, flapping their arms frantically and making all kinds of swift movements that in all honesty were kind of putting Smock on edge. "Oh no, it really is you. Ohhh no, Michael- Oh NO."

"I- What? Gabriel, calm down, explain-"

"NonononoNO this is BAAAAD." They curled in on themself, backing into the outer railing and hyperventilating. "He was right and I don't know what to say oh dear oh goodness I need to go-"

The Archangel disappeared abruptly, leaving Ophelia and Smock standing in confusion and leaving the railing with a few seared spots. He gestured to the railing where the Angel had been, turned to Ophelia, and let out an exasperated cry of, "What the fuck?"

 


 

It was a calm day in Gore, and the mountain palace was quiet. It was rare for such a day to come by. Regus was seated upon the throne, looking completely and utterly done with the demands of his visitors, and he eventually dismissed them with a mutter under his breath of "Bitches." Soren was standing at his side, nervous because Gods my grandfather is too powerful, he could kill me right now if he wanted to, what if he does the things father did to me? but he hid it behind his usual soft frown.

After some time, Soren saw that there was nobody else to tend to, and he turned to his grandfather, trying to hide the fear in his eyes. "G-grandfather, may I be excused?"

Regus hummed, then he nodded. "Go ahead."

 

Soren walked away, as composed as possible, and once he was out of everybody's sight he took refuge in a corridor and rest his back against the wall. Business with Regus was terrifying, because at a single displeasure he could do anything he pleased - he'd seen the way people bowed at his feet before, and the way he used others, and the way he could shape them to whatever purpose he needed. Regus was by no means afraid to get his hands dirty, but he preferred not to, and he used his magic more indirectly, through items and such.

Soren knew more than anyone how scary Regus was. He'd seen it all - when Corvus had gone away for some kind of business, Regus had taken care of him, and the things Soren had seen went unrivalled, even darker than the sides of Axel's magic that he didn't even let Smock witness.

Once he'd calmed, Soren took a breath and started to walk, making for the meeting room. It was usually calm there, and the room was extremely spacious, giving him a place to stretch his wings and relax. He took a seat on a soft chaise set beneath a painting, leaning against the side and draping his wings over it, letting out a deflated sigh.

 

There were a few minutes of silence, and Soren was certain that he could fall asleep like that, until suddenly he heard a very soft whisper in his ear. "Hello, Soren."

He jumped out of his skin, staggering backwards into the open space and flaring his wings in reaction. Startled, he took a deep breath, zoning in on the being who had seemingly materialised beside him. He had long, white hair, beautiful and wavy, and gorgeous but judging light grey eyes. He showed no emotion, appearing with utmost composure. Six wings sprouted from his back, brown at the membrane and a shimmering emerald green tonation to the feathers. They seemed to channel light like stained glass and for a moment Soren was entranced, and even a little jealous, feeling pitiful with his ticked wings with hues of brown, orange, grey and white, some black flecks among them. In comparison, he felt painfully dull, and he tried to regain his confidence. "Are you a family member? Can I help you?"

"Do I look like I'm related?" the stranger raised a brow, speaking monotonously and taking a couple steps closer. "No, fortunately and unfortunately I am related to someone else you know."

"I-I know where this is going." Soren shook his head. Not more Archangels. Regus told me to stay away from their kind. "What do you want?"

The Angel tilted his head, staring at Soren. "To talk business." He examined the man, then he hummed. "Do you know who I am, or is it just a guess?"

He hesitated, then looked away. "A guess."

"Well Soren Sanguis," the stranger straightened himself up, then bowed dramatically, clearly common with the correct etiquette, "I am the Archangel Michael, the warrior Angel."

Soren regained his confidence very quickly, everything he had learned returning to him. He bowed in return, flaring his wings out at his sides to show utmost respect and submission to a superior. "I should really be the one performing the formalities. It is a pleasure to have such an honoured guest, why don't we sit down and talk?"

"That is what I suggested, lead the way."

Soren gestured to the chaise he had formerly been lounging upon, grabbing a chair from around the table and pulling it to sit just in front of it. "Please, take the comfortable seat. Let's get straight to business."

"An enemy of my brother is a friend of mine. I want an ally." Micheal started, clasping his hands together. "You know Axel: I'm assuming you know what makes him tick, and I know Azreal, or whatever he calls himself these days. I've heard some whispers, especially when you caught him that one time. The reports said a pregnant woman, did they not?"

"You're correct."

"Well I've been digging, and a pregnant woman isn't so far from the truth." Michael watched the way Soren's eyes widened, and then the way he leaned in. This Archangel... I see why Regus is wary, but I am truly fascinated.

"This is brilliant. I suppose I'm correct in assuming this child would be... immensely powerful." Soren suggested, tucking his wings in tight to his sides.

"Precisely. It is your brother's and mine combined; this child would be very powerful, perhaps even more so than your grandfather and the Gods." Michael folded his hands.

Soren closed his eyes thoughtfully for a moment, then he reopened them, curious. "Fascinating... I imagine you're thinking of using this child, or perhaps... using multiple of these children."

Michael smiled. "I like the way you think, Soren. Yes, our brothers could finally have a use... if we play the game right."

"I love where this is going. I can wrap my brother around my finger so very easily. Do you have any suggestions for a... course of action?" Soren enquired with a soft smirk in return.

"Perhaps."

"Good. I trust you to have an exceptional plan in mind."

"It's a deal, then?" Michael extended a hand, red magic swirling from his palm, shrouding the room in a dark crimson haze. Soren was unfazed, having seen things much more terrifying, and without any fear at all he reached back out and shook the hand. It was cold - cold enough to distract him from the pain that shot through his wrist. Blood seeped from his palm and combined with what he assumed was Michael's, and then the magic flowed back into them both, and then the Archangel retracted his hand. "Well I mustn't stay for long, but I look forward to working with you."

"As do I with you. It had been delightful, Michael."

 

The Archangel didn't say anything else, disappearing in a flash, and leaving Soren to stand, bewildered.

 

He cleared his throat, decided it was about time to retire to his room, and once he got there he got into some of his more comfortable clothes and opened his curtains, staring out at the sky. Upon the mountain, the view was endless, and from Gore even the ocean was visible.

Soren folded his arms behind his back, spreading his wings and staring outside. The sky was overcast, and then a storm began, violent and enraged. The Sanguis hummed, brooding, and he clicked his tongue, listening to thunder break and watching the lightning strike.

"What a stunning sight, Michael."

Chapter Text

Soren had helped the new scribe out on his first day of the job, sending out the invitations with the red ravens once the storm had passed. He couldn't stop thinking about Michael and the deal they'd struck, and part of him felt so very wrong for accepting, and he had a dreadful feeling that this was the beginning of something truly terrible.

He found his way to his grandfather and, his voice quiet, he leaned in to speak. "Regus, I must confide in you something."

"Go on." The elder Sanguis hummed, drumming his fingers against the armrest of the throne.

"I... met with the Archangel Michael today." Soren cleared his throat, trying to ignore the lethal look that Regus gave him. I know I shouldn't have. I'm sorry. "S-so if you see him around, it's my fault-"

"If anything happens to you," Regus hissed, a sound he would only ever show around the children, who he knew were far too inferior and afraid to ever challenge his authority or use his emotion against him, "then it is entirely your fault. Don't come crying back to me."

"I won't." Soren said quietly, and then he excused himself and decided to prepare the meeting table.

 


 

As soon as he received the letter, Axel had insisted they set course for Estan. He refused to elaborate on why, other than the fact that is was urgent, and he had thereafter consulted Valerias for what seemed like advice. Smock was no fool, and he could easily tell from the way Axel was acting that this was a family matter.

Smock didn't consider himself any kind of expert when it came to body language, or when it came to Axel, but he knew the nervous fidgeting and stutters could only come from news of them.

 

They travelled for a week before they arrived at the dock, and Axel had to do a lot of sweet-talking to get Smock to come along, but eventually the two - and Axel's children - set off for the palace of Gore, neighbouring the one and only Solstheim. The Sanguis Palace had a great flight of stairs weaving around Gore Mountain to climb in order to get there, but Axel didn't want to waste their energy, so he portalled them to the top.

 

Smock wasn't really all that afraid of the Sanguis family. If anything, the supposed 'war meeting' would be amusing. He doubted any of the family knew much about military strategy, considering Regus had been the one to originally seize the throne and they'd kept it since then, so it would be amusing to see them again.

Upon approaching the door, they were met with two Changeling guards who barred their path with long, sharp spears. "Halt, criminals. You have no entry to the Sanguis palace unless you are prisoners."

Axel groaned quietly, pulling out his invitation. "Nice to see you too, cousins."

The guards inspected the letter suspiciously. "It must be stolen or forged. You don't fool us, Axel Sanguis."

"Fine, go get one of the fools to confirm." He shrugged, leaning back on his heels when one of the guards left. He turned to look at his children, smiling a soft and reassuring smile and approaching them each in turn. Smock watched him do this with curiosity. He straightened up their clothes and stood back. "You are all looking fantastic. Upright, dears. Smile-"

"You're never fully dressed without one!" the children giggled joyfully, and then Axel approached Smock.

 

"You look... so pirate-y." He murmured, looking over Smock with a thoughtful gaze.

"Ehh, don't care. Kinda the point." He shrugged, but he didn't stop Axel from taking off his hat and brushing fingers through his hair. The Changeling pressed a hand to Smock's chest and sighed softly.

"Handsome as ever, though." He hummed, and then he gave Smock a very gentle kiss and turned back to the gate.

 

The guard returned with an unfamiliar Changeling, who was dressed in clothes with not only serpents but wolves decorating them. He looked at the group, analysing them but not giving anything away in his expression. The wolves - this is Canis. He's the thirdborn and a prick. Rumour had it that he was planning to take the throne from his father. From what I know, he's dangerous, but I shouldn't be too worried.

"Brother." Canis hummed, looking down at Axel, who seemed just slightly intimidated.

"Canis." Axel cleared his throat, edging just a little closer to Smock. "We were invited for-"

"I know." The older man cut off his brother and then turned to the guards, waving his hand dismissively. "They may enter. Come on, little brother."

 

The group proceeded, Smock taking up the back of the group so he could watch over the children, and after crossing the throne room and going down a hallway, Canis told them the meeting room was there and entered, telling them to take their time if need be.

Smock didn't need any time, of course, so he kicked open the door a couple of moments afterwards, deciding that it was about time for a dramatic entrance.

 

"Aight kiddos, let's-" he started, and then his eyes landed on an all-too-familiar bunch and he swiftly retreated into the corridor, slamming the door and trying to fight back the panic in his chest. "I can't do this."

Axel immediately saw what was going on, and he guided Smock and the kids into a side-room. He sat down his children in one of the large chairs (which each room in this place seemed to always have an abundance of), told them to wait, and brought Smock into a room attached to that one.

 

Smock was overwhelmed with dread and he stopped breathing completely. Black tears forced their way from his eyes. His ears were pounding. The room around him was shifting. His mind was racing. His hands were shaking. His entire body was shaking.

Axel kept his distance to begin with, and he said a soft, "Breathe", before getting a step closer to Smock. The pirate began to hyperventilate, which didn't calm him at all. "Follow my chest."

As had become usual now, Axel gently rest one of Smock's hands on his chest, starting his breathing fast and then gradually calming it. He eased Smock into a slow pattern, inhaling and exhaling in a controlled manner at last. The two were quiet for a few more moments, then Axel got closer again, and them pressed his chest to Smock's.

Shaking his head, Smock frowned. "The Archangels... I can't do this."

"I know it's scary and I know you don't have a good past with them, but you're safe with me." Axel promised, pressing their foreheads together.

"No, no I'm not. I-I can't be." He argued, closing his eyes and focusing on following Axel's breathing when once again he started to panic.

"If they do or say anything, I will make them wish they had never spoken." He said softly, running his free hand over Smock's back gently. "I've got you, sweetheart."

"Okay." Smock sighed, but in truth he didn't really believe it. Nevertheless, he changed his form, knowing he had to look as official as possible when he walked in there. This is serious business.

He reverted into his Archangelic form, summoning forth his wings, and he took a deep breath, keeping close to the Changeling, not wanting to go back into that room.

"Trust me. I've got you." Axel murmured again, and he gave the gentlest kiss to Smock. He looked over the Archangel, then smiled. "You look gorgeous, my love."

 

After a few more moments, they returned to the children, and then to the meeting room. Axel took his hand, then entered the room once more.

Smock looked over the other Archangels, taking a seat next to Axel. Gabriel, Chamuel, Raphael and Jophiel, and Ariel. Where's Michael?

Smock wished he could have felt something, anything, but he just felt numb.

 

At the head of the table sat Regus. There was a spare seat at his side, and two beside that, making up the only empty spaces along the huge table. The eldest Sanguis cleared his throat, looking over them all. "We are waiting on two - possibly three - others. As soon as they arrive, we shall begin."

Regus conducts himself very well. Smock saw the way that the children all watched him as he spoke, respect and fear radiating from them, and even the Archangels seemed to cower just a little. I know he's powerful, but it's... weird to see my siblings cowering like that.

 

Some time passed in hushed murmurs, until the door opened again and everyone fell silent. Smock's eyes fell upon two familiar figures, one with the wings of a barn owl and the other with six, coloured like wood and emerald. He wasn't afraid of Soren, but the moment he laid his eyes on Michael he felt the world stutter around him.

This can't be good. This can never be good.

He squeezed Axel's hand again, and got one in response, which comforted him just a little. The two newcomers took their seats at the table, leaving only Regus' neighbouring chair empty. The patriarch opened his black and red wings, spreading them wide and making himself look much bigger. "Begin."

Immediately, Michael spoke. "Youngest brother, you have finally arrived. It's been a while."

Smock's emotions nullified almost instantly. "Yes it has."

"This is not a family reunion." Axel snapped (at Michael, of course) and turned to Soren. "This is a war meeting. Corvus is dead-"

"Stop speaking before you embarrass yourself, little brother." Canis interrupted, and he sat upright in his chair. Smock wanted to strangle him already. "I am best suited to the throne. Soren is immature and unmarried, and Clari is a woman. Aside from them, I am the eldest Sanguis. I am married, with children who would make perfect heirs, and I have sufficient experience in being King."

"Are you saying a woman cannot rule?" a pretty lady swiftly protested from across the table. Smock assumed she was Clari. "Mother was more terrifying and powerful than father ever was."

Soren drummed his fingers against the wood of the table. "The throne is my rightful inheritance. I've practised ruling, and finding a wife will be an easy task."

"Don't be so certain." Another voice hissed, a girl, and soon people started to argue. They were ruthless, insulting one another and arguing their rights.

 

I don't think all of these people will make it out alive.

Canis seems to believe he's entitled by experience, so accusations of the opposite might get under his skin. Clari is clearly a feminist, and understandably so. Soren is the rightful heir to the throne, even if he lacks the power and experience. All of the Sanguis family have a clear distaste and hatred for Axel.

 

Smock was silent for a long time, but eventually he decided that the children looked awfully bored, so he leaned closer to them. These kids don't wanna be here, and neither do I. "Alright kids, if we gotta run, go for the door behind us. We're the closest to it."

They nodded all together, and then Avian sighed. "None of these guys deserve the throne."

"Nope." Smock agreed, and then he smiled. "Soren's so full of himself."

Felix laughed quietly. "He always has been - he totally deserves to be put in his place."

"I'm gonna ruin him." Smock chuckled quietly, looking at the man with malice. Soren held himself tall and was now murmuring something to Michael. The Archangel must have returned something satisfying, because Soren immediately smiled at the response and sat back up straight. These two must be working together. Why would Michael go to such a weak mortal?

 

And, almost as if he'd read Smock's mind, Michael appeared behind him.

He didn't jump or react at all. This wasn't all that far from normal: it had happened more than once in Heaven. Axel was distracted by the debate that was happening, so he didn't really pay attention when Smock stood up to greet his superior.

"Azrael. It's been such a long time." Michael's tone was a pure grey. He stood tall over Smock.

"It has." He agreed passively, unsure what else he could even say at that point.

"Tell me," Michael said, "did it hurt when you fell?"

Smock looked away, trying not to think about it. I failed my Queen. "Not really.

"Good. I wouldn't want my dearest little brother injured." Michael smiled coldly, extending a hand to touch Smock's clothes, above where the scar ran. "Without me to protect you, either... Did you miss me?"

"I did, Michael." He answered quietly. Of course I missed him, he's... such a good guy, isn't he?

"Good. Lucky for you, your big brother is back to keep you safe. I couldn't ever expect you to do that alone." Michael said softly, and Smock froze. He didn't like being told that, but Michael was always right, so maybe he was just a fool for thinking he ever had any kind of control over his life, or any kind of safety from danger. After all, he was the weakest of the Angels, wasn't he? "Don't look so downtrodden, it's okay. I'm here for you again."

Michael brushed a hand against Smock's cheek gently, and that was when Axel finally turned.

 

The Changeling immediately stood up and got between Michael and Smock. "Stay the fuck away from him."

"But he's my family." Michael said calmly. "I have every right to speak to him."

"You don't treat him like family." Axel hissed, looking back at Smock, concerned.

"Axel, it's fine. He's good." Smock insisted, touching the man's shoulder gently.

Axel didn't sit back down, though. Michael hasn't done anything wrong, I don't get it. "Don't play the fool with me, Angel."

Michael stepped around Axel, swiping Smock to the side and putting himself between the Changeling and his bonded. Michael's form shifted slowly, retaining his colours but changing into a striking resemblance of Ellamia. "I'm family, who are you to him again? Except, let's see... the man who killed his wife and our sister-in-law?"

Smock wasn't quite sure what was happening exactly, and he didn't feel like he was even on the same plane of existence as the others anymore. He felt nothing at all, and part of him felt like that was right and that he wasn't created to feel emotion. Michael smiled, then changed his form once more, into a Tiefling this time with a graceful and slender figure. "But she's not the first woman you killed."

Axel looked up at Michael, a frown upon his face, and plunged a dagger very suddenly - so suddenly that Smock barely saw the motion - into one of his brown and green wings. Who was that? Why did it upset Axel so much? "I won't succumb to your mind games."

Michael didn't even flinch, returning to his original form, silent as white liquid trickled down from the wound in place of blood. Back on the table, everyone was still arguing, noise filling the room and drowning out what was going on between the three. Smock didn't know what to do. On one hand, he wanted to stop Axel and protect Michael, but on the other he wanted to jump in and tell Michael to get away from his bonded. The warrior Archangel looked ultimately bored. "Nobody cares about you."

"You and me both, buddy." Axel chuckled darkly. "But at least I'm not a cheap whore who has to turn to mortals for allegiance."

"I'm not the whore here." Michael gazed back at Smock, smiling. "Such kind words you say. I did get the inspiration from a brother of mine."

"Don't bring him into this. We both know he's the better of you two, and he will always be more free than you." Axel drew back his dagger, clutching it tight.

Michael flexed his wounded wing, then drew it in close to his body. "If that's true, then why is he here when he obviously doesn't want to be? It seems to me that you're controlling him even if you don't realise it. You want a relationship with him, of course you do, but do you think his emotions would be genuine? After all, you are controlling, and whatever you subconsciously want is what he will be."

Axel's eye twitched just a little, and he clutched the blade even tighter, turning to Smock and saying in a very soft voice, "You're free to leave, then." But Axel wasn't done. He looked back at Michael, his tone returning to its former malice. "You clearly don't know him that well if that's what you think. You're trying to manipulate me, and you're trying to manipulate him. You're trying to say whatever you can to snake your way into our minds." He took a breath and looked back at Smock for a moment to calm himself. "Well I'm smarter than that, and he's smarter than that, and you will never know anything of feelings. Who would ever want someone like you, after all?"

"Azreal, is it true that if your bonded wanted you to have feelings for them," Michael turned to his brother, unfazed, "you would?"

Smock froze, looking at Axel sorrowfully and giving a very small nod. He didn't know what to do - he had the chance to leave, but he couldn't bring his feet to move.

Axel chuckled softly, raising his brow. "Funny you say that, you know, because while I do feel for him, all I wanted him to be was happy. Not in love with me or anything like that, just happy. So try again, sweetheart."

Michael opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by the sound of the door swinging open and Regus standing up in his chair.

 

The elder Sanguis clapped his hands together, and he raised his voice above the crowd, bringing silence almost immediately. "Calm down, children! We have a very important guest. Lucifer, please, take a seat beside me."

Lucifer? Smock's eyes widened and he turned to stare at the newcomer. He was just as they said he was in the tales - tall and slender, short and wavy red hair, scarlet eyes but his pupils were shaped like a goat's. Two small horns protruded from his forehead, above his brows, and he was extremely handsome, despite a series of deep scars beneath his eyes. He looked across the group, raised a brow, and smirked in amusement. "Wow, the family really went to shit when I left."

Smock was halfway through his shadow travel, and the other Archangels had already tried to leave, including Michael, but Regus brought them all back into place with a flick of his wrist, smiling. "No, sweeties - come meet your older brother."

Gabriel looked as though they were about to faint. "Fuck no."

The other Archangels turned around to glare at them immediately, and he got a sharp whisper of "Have you lost your mind?" from Ariel.

Lucifer seemed not to care and he sat down next to Regus, towering at about seven foot, taller than everyone at the table. Smock felt deeply inferior, and even more threatened. Axel guided Smock back to his seat, then turned back to Michael and gave him a threatening glare.

Michael seemed to not care, but he returned to his seat anyway. The seating arrangement meant that Soren was seated to the side of Lucifer, and Michael to the side of Soren, and the tension between the two older Archangels was radiating strongly across the entire room.

Smock knew that tale, too. Michael had fought Lucifer in a brutal battle before he fell, and won, earning him the reputation of the Archangel who defeated the Devil himself. Nevertheless, Lucifer was all smiles, and showed nothing of his bitterness.

 

Silence spread across the table for a moment, then Lucifer groaned. "God, I came here for some entertainment."

Michael suddenly excused himself, taking Soren out of the room without another word. What was that all about?

Lucifer watched them go, then relaxed in his chair. "Whew, Michael was a bit tense for me. Anyway, how's it going? Don't think I've met you, youngest brother. What's been happening?"

Smock froze. All eyes were on him and he wasn't sure quite how to react, but after a moment he remembered Michael had left and he exhaled loudly, speaking this time in Celestial, as he so often did with his siblings. "Oh it's been fuckin' crazy. I was a pirate and I had a TON of lives, and then I was drowning for three years, and then I met this fucker again," he gestured wildly to Axel for a moment, and then his energy got the better of him and he climbed atop the table, strutting from top to bottom as he spoke, "and then we almost fucked, and then we fought, then he got fuckin' sad."

Everybody was staring at him in horror and confusion, especially the Archangels, who had never heard Smock curse in his entire existence. Lucifer was having trouble containing his laughter, and was banging his fist against the table, absolutely losing his shit.

"Oh, and it gets better." Smock continued. "Then he BRANDED me, look-" he pulled down the collar of his shirt and pointed at the top of the woven serpents, "-and then I burned down this fucker's castle-" he pointed to where Soren had been sitting, "-and then I freed some kids, and made a speech and basically became a hero to the people. It's fucking wild."

"I fuckin' love this guy!" Lucifer wheezed.

"THAT'S NOT EVEN THE WORST OF IT!" Smock waved his arms. "Then SOREN TRIED TO CAPTURE ME, and get this - he kissed me, cos he thought I was a woman, then I went to his castle and I met Corvus Sanguis who was their dad, and then he threatened me, and then I threw Dionysia out of a window to save her, and then Axel LOST HIS FUCKING MIND and ordered his father to rip himself apart and it was REAL edgy, and then Gabriel showed up outta nowhere and here I am now."

 

Everyone was silent now, just staring wide-eyed, until Lucifer stopped laughing and took a deep breath. "Damn bro, sounds like you've had a great time. This Axel guy sounds like an absolute riot too, that who you were sitting next to?"

Smock looked back at Axel, who was clearly blushing, and he jumped back down into his seat, slinging an arm around the Changeling. "Yup."

Axel cleared his throat and leaned in close to Smock. "Uh... you do know that the entire Sanguis family speaks Celestial, right?"

Smock wanted to fucking die. "Please don't tell me the kids can too?"

Axel looked at his children and smiled. "Thankfully not."

Smock, regardless, started smacking his head against the table, embarrassed beyond belief. Axel quickly stopped him, holding the pirate up and patting his back gently before looking back out at everyone on the table.

"Language." Jophiel said softly.

 

"Anyway, we were at territory discussions." Axel swiftly moved them on, looking across the group and glaring at Michael as he returned with Soren. "Regus has declared that Gore is neutral territory and his."

The chatter stirred once more, plunging them into noise, and Smock zoned out for the rest of it.

 


 

The meeting went on for a while longer, this time with no disruption from Michael, and then Regus dismissed everyone and they took their leave.

Before Gabriel disappeared, Smock tried to get some information about why in the world Demiurge had chosen two Sanguis family members as his Oracles, but they were too hurried and left with a quick apology.

Feeling a little defeated, Smock, Axel, and the children all left. Axel didn't give him any time to linger and speak to Vague or Erin, and said that he wasn't going to let him spend another moment in the same room as Michael, so he went along, rather deflated.

"Why are you so wary about Michael?" Smock asked after some time, and Axel seemed to tense.

He let out a sigh. "You can't see it yet, but he's manipulating you, sweetheart."

Smock shook his head. "No, he would never do that."

"I'll talk to you more about it when we get back." Axel sighed, and he turned to his kids, putting on his strongest smile. "I'm very sorry about all of that... I had to bring you all along so you'd be updated on wartimes, I promise you won't have to come to any more meetings again. I... can't promise so much for you, Haley, but I'll do my best for you."

The pirate just let out a sigh and held Axel's hand as they walked back to the ship.

Chapter Text

Upon the conclusion of the meeting, Soren quickly excused himself and Michael, not sticking around to see what might result from him speaking with Lucifer (and, more significantly, because he was sick of his family), and even more importantly, because apparently Michael didn't know what wine was.

Soren was beyond shocked by that and had swiftly insisted that they must drink together.

"I do not need to drink." Michael repeated after being told that everybody 'needs a drink once in a while', and Soren had rolled his eyes at that, amused.

"God, come on, let loose. Try it out." The Sanguis man said, dipping in and out of the kitchen to take two wine glasses, and then he continued, checking behind him every so often to make sure the Archangel was still following. Eventually he tired of this pattern and just grabbed Michael's hand, knowing that as long as he felt it there he was still in his company.

"I do not need to 'let loose', I am actually a liquid already." Michael responded, and it hit Soren that this guy was immensely inexperienced with mortal phrases. He was also very confused.

"Woah what do you mean? Can I see?" he asked, stopping and turning around, staring at Micheal inquisitively.

"Oh, I see you are not used to Angel biology. Well we are simply a liquid soul controlling what you call a 'skin'. We don't have organs - well, some: we have the eyes but they are useless most of the time. We also have the reproduction system but they do not work. Other than that, nothing else." Michael explained rather casually, clearly not realising how much information this was for Soren to process. "And I suppose you saw it when your brother stabbed me."

"Can I touch it?" Soren asked, excited, and he moved towards Michael's wing, where the white substance was leaking.

"Not unless you want your skin to melt off." The Angel responded, watching with calculating eyes.

"I don't care, I wanna touch it." Soren stared at the substance, intrigued, and ever-so-gently brushed one hand over the wing, steadying it, and pressed the other into the wound.

 

Almost instantly, ice crept up his arm and electricity crackled beneath his skin. He swiftly retracted his hand, staring at it in interest. The ice hadn't hurt him at all (he had a natural immunity), but the electricity had prickled in his veins and they were throbbing ever-so-slightly in pain. Had he kept his arm there any longer, he reckoned he may have been left with some sort of scar. Soren stared at his arm for a while, then turned to Michael. "That is very interesting! You have a fantastic combination there. It must be very useful in battle."

Michael just hummed, and then the two continued walking.

 

Soren led the Archangel down into the wine cellar, where he let out a relieved sigh and started observing the bottles. "There's a wide selection," he mused, "I'd recommend Tashlutan Amberthroat and Winter Wine, would you like to try them?"

"I... don't need to drink." Michael reiterated as Soren took one of the bottles and filled his glass.

There was a great deal of the beverage remaining, and he really wanted Michael to give it a chance, so he tilted his head and let out a soft. "C'mon, please?"

The Archangel stared at the drink as though it were trying to intimidate him and was failing miserably. "...No."

"Please?" Soren asked again, drawing his wings in closer to his body to make himself look much smaller.

"Fine." Micheal sighed, extending an arm to take the glass that Soren had poured.

Soren grabbed a bottle of Tashlutan Amberthroat whilst he was there, and then he hummed to himself for a moment before deciding to extend an offer. "I'm probably going to have to start moving out of this palace soon, so... might I be able to bother you to uh... have a drink in my room with me?"

 

Micheal looked at him, then let out yet another sigh, and then the two started on their way to the room.

Soren was ecstatic; it had been forever since he'd actually had willing company. He wasn't sure if Michael was exactly willing, but rather 'compliant', but it was something better than nothing, and honestly? He was lonely. Soren wanted someone to talk to and just be with.

The two arrived at the room and Soren immediately dragged two seats to his large window. I'm going to miss this room, even if there are some horrible memories attached to it. At least in Bermuda I'll have a sight of all of Aldelis.

Michael sat down beside him, crossing his legs and gazing out at the view whilst taking a sip of his wine. He hummed at the taste, and Soren turned to him hopefully. "Do you... like it?"

"It is interesting." The Archangel answered thoughtfully. "I can see why you mortals would like it. I could drink more of this."

Absolutely thrilled that his new 'friend' liked the drink, Soren smiled brightly and he leaned back in his chair, letting his wings drape lazily over the armrests. He didn't think twice about how vulnerable he was there, or how exposed he was to this Archangel who, no matter how many times he told himself they were friends, could just have been planning to kill him all along.

But Michael didn't kill him. It didn't seem like he wanted to, and he was thankful for that.

 

They finished their drinks quickly, and whilst Soren was refilling their glasses he turned to Micheal. "Why did you choose me? I'm... worthless, and you're an Archangel. I know I have power, but... I don't understand."

Micheal was silent for a moment, as though he had to think about it, and insecurity sank into the Changeling's heart. He looked out at the view and lifted the drink to his lips, but before he drank he heard the other speak at last. "The future King should not doubt his own worth."

Soren drank, and he couldn't help but smile. "I appreciate that confidence, especially from such a powerful Archangel."

Clearly a man of few words, Micheal just hummed in response, continuing to drink. They got through another glass, and then another, and then Micheal put away his wood and emerald wings. Soren stared in confusion, and tilted his head a little.

The Sanguis furrowed his brows. "Why'd you put them away? They're pretty."

"Thank my God for that." The Angel hummed in an extremely condemning voice. Then Micheal took a sip of his drink, and he leaned back in his chair. "Why do you still have your wings out? There is no need."

"I can't put them away, really... and I know my wings aren't nearly as nice as yours but geez, no need to rub it in like that..." Soren sighed, truthfully feeling very hurt. Another person who doesn't like them... maybe I should just cut them off.

"Actually, your wings are rather practical. Owls are strong flyers and their wings are designed to make their flight silent, allowing them to stalk and sneak up on prey." Micheal leaned in close to the other, reaching to grab his chin. When the fingers came into contact with his skin, Soren blushed and widened his eyes, unsure how to react to the foreign feeling of something nice. "They are also the birds of wisdom. To some, they are harbingers and omens of death. They are not to be underestimated, and are excellent predators. And Barn owls in particular symbolise strength above adversity, and power." He stared into Soren's eyes. "I was made only to please my creator's visions. In their eyes I am just a thing, a show horse if you will. The Archangel life if not what you think."

Brushing his long, white hair over his shoulder, Soren tried to fight back his tears, but he didn't win the battle and he started to cry. His black-blue mascara began to run over his cheeks and he didn't wipe it away, knowing that would only make it worse.

Micheal raised a brow. "Why are you crying?"

"Nobody's ever said anything nice about them before... hell, your little brother... he helped to hurt and break them once." He said slowly, closing his eyes. "A-and I'm sorry it's like that. You're more than just 'pretty', they shouldn't underestimate you."

Still holding his chin, Micheal hummed. "I know he did. My youngest brother has always been quick to the chase. He is no fool, though he may act one. It is a disguise; he lures you in and makes you underestimate him, so you believe he is not a threat, and once he gets you where he wants he attacks. I should know: I trained him. I feel as though you have seen it already when you kidnapped him. He saw your insecurities and used them. He has an eye for them." The Archangel pulled away his fingers, and Soren stood up to go and wipe his face clean of his makeup, taking his wine with him. "Though I am surprised nobody has said anything nice about your wings before. Owl wings are very useful. Try having peacock wings and going out in a storm - you wouldn't last."

"You're very smart. I hope you might be able to teach me your ways, Micheal." Soren cleared his throat quietly. "A-and if that was a jab at my father, I'll drink to that."

He saw Michael smirk in the mirror, and the two drank.

"So that's why he kept speaking nonsense. That's why he wasn't phased by anything; he was waiting." Soren speculated.

"Precisely. He's practised." Michael nodded.

"Fascinating." He murmured in agreement, analysing his face without the eye makeup and ultimately deciding he should just remove everything, because his cheeks were lightly exposed and looked odd with the rest of his face covered.

 

"Speaking of my brother," Micheal murmured, and he turned thoughtfully to gaze out of the window, "he became a pirate. Of all the ungodly things he could have settled for, it had to be a pirate."

"Right." Soren hummed in agreement. "He could have gone down many paths, but a pirate... and a menace, at that."

He returned once his face was clean of the cosmetics. He was naturally quite attractive, even if he didn't really feel it, and his freckles reminded him too much of mother and of Axel. He couldn't hide the shame and self-consciousness in his expression but he tried, not wanting to show Michael any vulnerability.

"He's dangerous, but he also thinks a lot like me, with differences of course. He likes to give hope - he makes himself the underdog, something only a select few would believe in, then he fights like it's a challenge when he could have won easily. Others look to him cause he made himself just like the other underdogs out there." Michael suddenly began, taking a long drink and vacantly staring outside. "Azrael was always known to be to compassionate. For his own benefit, though. Don't be deceived - he is dangerous. You think that him annoying this family is all an accident. Oh no, he planned out each interaction, each step, every move. He hated the Sanguis family from the moment he wrote your names down, especially your brother Axel. Azrael would always complain about how this one should be dead and it's unnatural. He even threatened a couple of times to just cross off all your names." Micheal let out a chuckle. "Which is why I'm surprised he ended up with your brother, though I believe it is mainly Axel's fault."

"Axel is cunning and manipulative." Soren nodded, hiding his own self-hatred behind that for his brother. "He probably wove his way into Azrael's mind. And you know, since we're ultimately working together, I'll let you in on some information too." He leaned in, pouring them both some more wine. "Nobody knows why Axel is so cast out, all apart from our grandfather and perhaps some Gods, but he has immense power. I'm much older than him, and when he was born, I noticed a change in the family. Our mother, Avalia, really wanted him dead. She talked to me, Regus and Corvus about killing him when he was a kid but Regus suggested we should keep him alive and use him. Of course, Corvus is power-hungry, so he accepted, but truthfully nobody wanted him to survive and he was neglected ever since he was just a child. He was fed until he was old enough to leave the castle and steal, which he did so alone. He lived like a street rat for a while and when he wasn't being tortured at home he was being abused out on the streets.

"We tried to give him a poisonous snake when he was older, Corvus promising the snake was an evil God and that Axel would be dead by morning. He named the snake Anjanox, and unfortunately the two ended up close. He had a half-friend, but making friends with Gods, especially one of insanity, can never be trusted. When he was older, he started to kill for food and money, seeing as we provided him with nothing, and of course - being a Changeling - he got away with it.

"A few years later, Axel killed our mother. Nobody really knows the story, but I managed to slip in on one of Vague's conversations, and it turns out he was split between dimensions whilst absorbing her power. He almost died that day, and he's said himself that 'the day I killed her was the day I learned many, many lessons'. Vague had to absorb the power before it killed Axel, which is how she came to be the oracle.

"I can't speak much on his life after he fled, but... he's a master manipulator. He knows what he's doing and he knows it very well. He writes a lot and takes notes on things, actually - he has several books about psychology and stuff like that, especially about lying and manipulation, and he can detect it easily, even if he doesn't show it. He's... tough. What he wants is affection, really, because all of his life he's had none of it. So it's as easy as complimenting him to get him to twist. The only people I've ever seen him actually be vulnerable around are his ex wife and Azrael, but to everyone else his actions are calculated and he only gives away what he allows himself to. He conducts himself excellently when upset, until he gets the chance to break down, and that is when he is most vulnerable for sure.

"In fact, that... gives me an idea." Soren hummed. He hadn't finished everything he wanted to say, but the idea was so brilliant that he couldn't let his brain wander over it. "Michael, Axel is good as ours."

 

The Archangel gave a slight smirk, tilting his head just slightly at Soren. "Our allegiance is very promising. Axel and Azrael aren't cause for worry then, I take it."

"Not at all." Soren nodded, looking thoughtfully at his accomplice. Perhaps I shouldn't have given away so much information, but... there's no going back now.

"Good." Michael hummed, and the two continued their drinking in silence.