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Ebbing the Depths

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It started out with a scarf.

It was tied into his hair to hold it back from where he was forging. It held it all back more securely than the hair ties Mia keeps torturing him with.

The scarf was a familiar red, the same scarf that was usually tied on Erik's right arm on the outside of his coat. But now it was tied into a low ponytail while intertwining in a short braid to keep it from falling out at all. Held it up all day and it was just as easy to pull apart.

Much more better than the little hair ties. Almost every single one of them were lost in the molten, hot steel of the forge. It was also harder to not to take care of the scarf when Erik was the one to give it to him.

It's just decoration anyways, it looks better on you.”

Eleven can still feel the gentle combing of the fingers as Erik did his hair. A talent gained from doing his sister's hair for years before, a far cry from Mia's manhandling.

It was also a heart skipping moment where his feelings came back in full force. A sudden thing where it took Eleven sideways because he thought he was finally over them.

When the party split, when he said his goodbyes, the one he shared with Erik felt a little more permanent than the rest. They never said a proper goodbye, but they also never promised to meet again. The distance that the pirate kept was deceptive, nobody was the wiser on how dark Erik's past exactly was except for Eleven. Without anything to tie him down anymore, Eleven let him go knowing that Erik wouldn't betray the trust that they had by falling too far into crime.

Maybe it was because that he himself experienced the corruption from the highest authority that his own views in good and bad were skewed. That Erik's petty thieving was just an entertainment value that he lets him get away with. It never occurred to Eleven to not keep quiet about Erik's criminal status or try to deter him from it. The man saved his life while the king betrayed the trust that was invested by his mother.

Eleven owes Erik in more ways than one so everything just fell into place. Just let things happen, just let everyone do their own thing really. Nobody was ever restricted from doing what they wanted once they reached into a town or village.

And somehow that was all Erik needed to call him partner.

It's embarrassing now looking back that Eleven used to be one of the people that swooned at the sight of Erik. He never did it so blatantly but he knows he's stared longer than normal when he could get away with it. He's been fish bowled in his little village for the entirety of his life before getting slammed into the dungeons, so nobody can blame him for falling for Erik's roguish charms and exotic looks.

He didn't know if it was good or bad luck that his world saving adventures didn't let him linger too long on his feelings. Too many things happening all at once, back to back without any real time to take a break from it all. The most reprieve they've gotten was probably when they were at sea. Weeks that stretched to reach to new places they haven't been before.

So yes, he liked being at sea, if only because it was the only time they weren't rushing about. The sense of stability and peace, however short, was something he learn to love quickly.

The slow rocking of the ship coupled happily with his sleeping habits too.

“El! I can't believe you're still asleep!”

Eleven jerked awake in his hammock as everything in his room rattled at the force Mia slammed open the door. The first thing that came into vision were the chucks of iron scraps and papers on the floor. A small project set aside to see if he could create something without a recipe.

His eyes swept over to where Mia stood and she huffed at him. Stomped over before giving a tug on his hammock for a small swing.

“I don't know how you can make sleeping on one of these things look so comfortable.” Mia pushed this time. “It's not fair that you can make your own pillows.”

“It's because it was uncomfortable that I made my own pillows.” Eleven yawned before looking out the port hole. “Is it that late already?”

“We're docked at Gondolia, remember?” Mia's frustration was prominent. “Everyone's already out and running around in town and you're just here lounging!”

“I don't need to go out, I've got everything I need.” Eleven buried his face back into his pillows. “Not like we're going to sail back out in the next hour.”

“Fucking- El!”

This time Mia pulled the edge of the hammock straight down. The immediate tumbling of everything on it was on the floor in the next blink and Eleven yelped at the pain in his elbow and side banging against the wood below. Tears pricked at the sharp, electric pain that made his nerves cry from his elbow to his fingertips.

Squinting open his eyes, he saw heads peek out from his doorway. His fall attracting the very few that was left on the ship at the commotion.

“Mia.” Eleven groaned. “Why?”

“You're making yourself into some kind of hermit crab.” She crossed her arms. “And I want to go shopping. You need to get out, I need a mule.”

“'Mule.'” Eleven echoed pitifully. “You mean cache. I should've never brought up that story.”

“Oh please, I'll actually be spending gold too.” Mia prodded him with her foot. “Thanks for the idea though, now get up and get ready! You got ten minutes!”

She left like she came in, a whirlwind of energy that vibrated at the thought of scouring the market stalls for anything good. There was also snickering at his door as Eleven stayed on the floor to gather his wits a moment longer.

He didn't mind any of it though, he liked the simplicity that his life has become.



-Line Break-

“There's never anything interesting these days.” Mia complained. “So boring!”

Eleven sighed. “What exactly are you looking for?”

They've went up and down the length of Gondolia multiple times now. Mia has been searching for something, but Eleven couldn't tell exactly what. She stopped and peered through multiple different things, trinkets and other knickknacks that didn't relate to each other.

At first he thought she was just spying out what to steal, seeing her defeated and sulkily eating cake made him rethink that.

“Erik's birthday!” Mia growled shoving another forkful of cake into her mouth. “It's coming up soon!”

“Wait, birthday?”

Mia looked at him in surprise. “He hasn't told you?”

“He's never mentioned it.” Eleven bit his lip. “We never really celebrated that kind of stuff out on the road.”

And now he feels awful, that Erik was his best friend and he didn't even know when his birthday was. Years went by and it never occurred to Eleven to ask even when a birthday did come around and well wishes were given.

“That does sound like him.” Mia grumbled. “He probably didn't want talk about it. We actually don't know when our birthdays really are. We just picked a date.”

Guilt weighed even heavier.

“That makes it even worse that I haven't ever thought to ask.” Eleven was now sinking into his seat. “What kind of a friend am I?”

Mia looked at him strangely before scoffing. “What do you mean? Almost every other week is his birthday since you came onto the ship. You made more of his favourite coats, and in different colours too! I went into his room the other day and found those Black Dragon hide sheathes for his daggers!”

“He asked!” Eleven defended feeling a little embarrassed. “And his old ones were falling apart, how could I not? I'd do the same for everyone!”

“With Black Dragon hide?”

“I- I- He-” This time Eleven knows his cheeks were full on red. “He's the captain, my best friend, so what if I give him special treatment?” He looked at her pointedly. “I give you special treatment!”

“But not like every other week Erik though.” A creeping smirk was on her lips. “But I guess that's only natural.”

The knowing look in her eyes made Eleven pray that she wasn't as perceptive as she makes herself seem to be. But the nosiness she has didn't make him too hopeful. Mia was definitely Erik's sister in that regard, being able to know almost instantly if there was something on his mind.

But unlike Erik, she was far less kinder about it. Eleven imagines that this is what it felt like to have that deviousness fully turned on him. To be fully taken advantage even when Eleven knows that it's not half as bad as what the rest of the crew has to deal with.

And it wasn't as if Erik was nice either, he proved himself mean-spirited plenty of times. It showed enough with Veronica, he certainly didn't warm up to Jade or Rab after a while due to the stunt they pulled when they first met in Octagonia.

And when he didn't have to act like he was just a thief, he dragged Eleven off to whatever underground society that existed just so he can show off a little bit of the world that he lived in. It was just knowing and wanting to explore a little bit more of it that got Eleven into trouble in Puerto Valor in the first place.

But regardless of unfortunate encounters, he enjoyed himself. He liked that the unfortunate life of a criminal that he was forced to bear at the time had some benefit. He liked that Erdrea seemed a little bit bigger even if it was on the other side of the law.

He never participated in whatever hustling that Erik did, but it felt good to know that Erik trusted him to watch his back. The thrill was something similar when he first pulled his pranks and graffitied the walls of Cobblestone when he was younger. Only they'll won't be easily forgiven like everyone was wholly willing to do with him.

Eleven liked that though, the daring feeling even if it wasn't him doing the talking. The scuffles that they managed to walk away from fueled that excitement. To be able to laugh off the experience and watch Erik's eyes glimmer in satisfaction at the weight of gold he managed to get from the more valuable items he's sold off.

Mia sighed. “As much as it's fun to tease you, it still doesn't solve the present issue.”

Eleven mulled before an idea popped in his head. “How about other cities? Like Gallopolis? I'm sure there's definitely stuff there that don't make it here. I know merchants have a tough time hauling large shipments through the desert even though it's only a few days away.”

“And how exactly are we going to do that?” Mia crossed her arms. “We leave in a few days. And I never really been to any of the more inland cities.”

“With Zoom, of course!” Eleven smiled widely. “And I can take you around, no one will notice we're gone if we only take a few hours.” A thought suddenly crossed his mind. “You probably only want to take a couple to be honest. It's hot and Erik didn't do too well because of the heat.”

“Whoa there.” Mia held her hand up. “Slow down. What's Zoom?”

Eleven blinked before laughing sheepishly. “It's a spell that lets me travel all around Erdrea. I used it plenty of times with others, so you'll be fine.”

“Wait a minute.” Mia narrowed her eyes. “You mean to tell me you have a spell that lets you travel the world instantly and you want to laze about in bed?!” Eleven shrunk under her glare. “I can't believe you, you lazy bastard!”

“Mia, please.” Eleven nervously looked at the people looking at them. “People are staring.”

“I don't care!” She raged. “Another thing Erik kept from me, got any other surprises before I beat the shit out of him?!”

“I- I don't know?” Eleven shrunk even more. “Maybe?”

“You're lucky I blame Erik more than you.” Mia growled. “It's not fair that he keeps those kinds of things to himself!”

“It's not look he's asked me.” Eleven tried. “And I haven't needed to use it for a while now.”

“That's because you're too busy lounging like a cat!” Mia took another bite of her cake. “Fine. Whatever. We're going to Gallopolis tomorrow, but I sure as hell don't want to go back empty-handed.” Mia narrowed her eyes staring at him. “For all the jewelry you make you don't wear much of it.”

“What?” Eleven blinked, unsure where this is going. “I mean, I guess? I wear necklaces and bracelets, nothing too loose though.”

“Never thought about getting your ears pierced though?”

“I did once?” Eleven looked up in thought. “Erik did it but I healed it over with a spell when I got hurt. I decided to wait until there was more time for me to let it heal naturally but I guess I forgot.”

Mia gave a pleased grin. “Let's go get your ears pierced then. Oh, better yet, let's go shopping for earrings, that'll definitely open up options for Erik.”

“'Open up options'?” Eleven tilted his head. “Does he want more earrings? I can make him some but he seems attached to his gold ones.”

“Sure. That.” Mia shook her head. “I wonder about you sometimes. But gold earrings, that's a start. You can match with him since you can't seem to stop thinking about him.”

Eleven sputtered and barely squawked out denials as she dragged him out of his chair and into the streets. His heart hammered at the renewed rush of feelings that he didn't think would sprout like it did. That the utter delight to having matching anything with Erik made his ears go red. The anticipation that followed immediately made Eleven dread at what that meant.

He was going to suffer another few days internally swooning like an idiot.



-Line Break-

Eleven will never claim that he knew everything about Erik. Best friend aside, he's learned that it was better to let the past be until it was voluntarily spoken up by the person themselves. It was a fact that Eleven learned unintentionally when he wanted to keep his own past under a lock and key.

It was nothing compared to Erik's story, but Eleven understood that there were things that were meant to be untouched. Silence may not be the best way to heal, but it was the way they wanted to heal. Let their problems stay unique to the universal ways of letting them get better.

They never talked about the nightmares that kept them up on some nights, the best that they knew was a silent shoulder to lean on. An offer that they both learned to take when those nights get a little too long.

So with their tendency to live in the present and keep the past away, it didn't really surprise Eleven that Erik had a hidden talent or two. The man still held on to his habits and kept his life quiet like a well worn secret. Truer than any other thief and emulated the dragon side of his jolly roger well in squandering and hoarding them closely. Instinct to keep the past where it was.

But it was still nice to learn a piece of it. A pleasant surprise that Mia shared in her excitement.

“I didn't know Erik could play the harmonica.”

“Nothing too fancy but he played this little beat up thing before- you know.” Mia waved off the memory. “I'm pretty sure he lost it.”

Apparently Gallopolis had a music shop. It sold a large variety of instruments that they make of their own. Despite all the sand and heat, the dryness of the desert was ideal in handling the wood in most instruments. It was easier to control humidity or so they say.

It shouldn't have been a surprise since the circus was in town. They were their biggest buyers and customers, constantly going in for any maintenance, repairs, and replacements. Their specialty, again unsurprisingly, were flutes and other wind instruments. Seeing the various flutes out on display put a sense of nostalgia in Eleven.

The craftsmanship on the grand pianos, violin, and guitars were also something to be admired. Inspiration for his own creations.

“I found it!” Mia gave a victorious shout. “El, look! It's almost perfect!”

Eleven walked over to where Mia was pointing at and saw a shine of gold and silver before recognizing the harmonica. The wooden innards was complemented nicely by the silver frame and golden accents. A careful vine-like design that was indented and gold-leafed in at the edge of the frame distracted the eyes well. They prevented them from looking at the pegs that held everything in place. Golden pegs that were flushed with the surface and actually added to the design.

Why something like this was hidden away and not in display boggled Eleven. Harmonicas are hardly a delicate instrument that people wouldn't think to handle with care. He's seen the few and none of them had the design that this one had.

Solid but elegant.

“It's beautiful.” Eleven eyed the gold and silver. “And the materials are good quality too.”

“Of course they are!” Mia huffed. “I'm not cheap, I sure as hell won't spend cheap!”

But ripping people off and stealing wasn't a discount itself, Eleven wryly thought. Not that Erik didn't do the same. It amazed Eleven sometimes in how similar the siblings were to where he just started treating her as a smaller, more brattier version of Erik. He was actually pulled aside by Johnson to stop spoiling her so much.

It was too late for that, and she was an adult now, by Cobblestone standards anyways. Eleven already gave her daggers to use fully, and she was plenty responsible despite being a brat. He finds it a little ridiculous that she needs an escort, but then Bench said it was to make sure that she was the one that didn't stab somebody.

Which was fair, but still a little over the top. Especially when everyone on the ship was pro-stabbing.

“I'm going to ring this up.” Mia then frowned. “Do you think they can do more engravings on this thing?”

“I don't see why not.” Eleven eyed the instrument. “It might cost more though. I'd do it, but I don't have experience with something like that.”

“Shame, but like hell I'd let you touch it.” She stuck her tongue out. “It's my present, go get your own.”

A sigh escaped Eleven and ignored the tingling sound of the shop's bell that signal another customer entering. Mia's antics makes him wonder what was the end goal to what all she doing right now. She wasn't subtle in the slightest and it makes him anxious at when she'll corner him.

There wasn't any doubt that she wouldn't, not after yesterday's failed shopping trip.

There was a loud gasp from behind them, Eleven didn't even get the chance to turn around fully before he got the wind knocked out of him. His whole body jerked in panic and even more so when he was picked up and spun around.

“Oh, darling! You're here! I almost didn't recognize you because of the hair!” Hearing Sylvando's voice didn't calm Eleven's raging heart when he was set back down. “Everyone has been worried about you!”

“S-sylv.” Eleven felt a nervous shake go through his hand as he clenched at his chest. “You scared me.”

“You?” Sylvando put a hand to his hip and pointed accusingly. “You scared us! What was running around in your little mind of yours disappearing like that? The only thing that kept our princess from going out in a manhunt was your mother reassuring us that you were okay.”

There wasn't much Eleven can say, he hadn't thought about meeting any of his old friends. Dashed those thoughts after the disaster he had left in Heliodor with heavy shoulders. A part of him was quite thankful that he's hadn't had any confrontations with them while he was away and that in itself made him feel even more guilty.

So he just froze there, unable to say what and why under Sylvando's awaiting gaze.

“Hey now, wait a minute, you showy bastard! You can't just accuse El out of the blue like that!” Mia snapped in between them and bared her teeth. “I don't know who you think you are pointing your finger like that, but I hope you're not too attached after I cut it off!”

Sylvando shrieked at the near miss of Mia's dagger. He clutched his hand close to his chest and just stared wide-eyed gaping.

“Mia dear?”

“'Dear'?” Mia raised her hackles along with her offended pitch. “Who the hell do you think you are calling me 'dear'?” She spat. “My big brother stabbed bigger men for lesser reasons and you think that's okay?!”

She was honest to Yggdrasil going to stab Sylvando. She was going to shank him in a music store.

Eleven felt absolutely loved but still surged forward to grab her wrist and put her behind him as fast as he could.

“Mia, please.” Eleven struggled against her. “He's one of our friends, Sylvando, remember?”

“Hell no!” Mia raged even more. “But I will remember him being rude and all too touchy for anyone's liking! Let me at him!”

Eleven jerked at the force Mia tried to jump out of his arms but still held on. “Sylv, please apologize! Mia, he didn't mean it like that!”

“Like fuck he didn't!” She hissed. “Literally minding our own damn business and he has the fucking nerve to mosey in like he we weren't having a proper fucking conversation. And what the hell kind of right does he have looking at you like he's your mom? Fuck off, you two-bit, laughing stock!”

This was probably the first time that she's been angered so badly. The mortified shock on Sylvando's face, whether from the dressing down or the profanity, or most likely both, said it all at how effective her words got to him. Eleven could only bow his head and wish that he had a free hand to rub his face with. If only to relieve the absurdity he was feeling.

But he would take the absurdity over the impression of a locked up deer he was doing earlier. He was thankful to Mia for that at least.

“Sylv...” Eleven desperately pleaded with his eyes.

The jester bit his lip before relenting. “Oh, fine, I was pretty rude, wasn't I?” He sighed. “I'm sorry, Eleven, I'm sorry, Mia. I let my head get the better of me. Let me treat you both to make it up?”

“No way!” Mia stuck out her tongue and held Eleven's arm tight. “You're not going to seduce El here when we're here for my brother.”

“Mia!”

“What?” Mia scoffed at Eleven's scandalized look. “This was your idea and you're still moaning about not knowing what to get him.”

“Do you have to say it like that?” Eleven sighed before looking up at Sylvando. “Sorry, but she's right, we can't stay for long or else Erik will get suspicious.”

Disappointment flitted on Sylvando's face but he moved on to a curious and almost something sly. “For Erik, huh? You've been traveling with our elusive rogue then?”

“Well, duh.” Mai jumped in once more. “Can you imagine El traveling alone? He's literally one, doe-eyed smile away from taming a Chihuawyrm to give to Erik.” Mia lit up at her own words and turned up to Eleven. “You should do that.”

“What does that even mean?” Eleven groaned into his hands. “Why are you like this?”

“Oh dear.” Sylvando gave a little giggle. “I see that they're both the same since they were traveling with us.”

“To hell and back, of course they were.” Mia scowled. “All their stories and the only thing that they got going for them is that they're good at making money together.”

“They are really good at doing that aren't they.” Sylvando said with a suspicious tint. “They always said it was because they go off treasure hunting on their own time.”

“It's true!” Mia huffed. “After the first time they went of scavenging, they crowded themselves over the stupid forge. Erik helped eyed which gems were the best while El here just made shit.” She crossed her arms. “I made sure I was never left behind again after that. I don't care how much you both want to secretly snog, you're not leaving me out of jewel hunting!”

“Mia!” Eleven flushed. “We're not like that!”

“I know!” Mia growled. “I don't know what's so hard about getting together when all those stupid floozies can shamelessly hang off of Erik's arm. I don't understand how you're not shamelessly hanging off of his arms.”

Eleven's jaw dropped at how blatant Mia just dropped that. Especially in front of Sylvando of all people. Every word she's said made him flush red deeper and deeper until those fluttering feelings were almost too overwhelming. The longing feeling of wanting to hang off of Erik's arms made it even worse. That he wanted to keep the well sought after bachelor of a pirate captain to himself.

And Yggdrasil's guiding light, Erik wasn't even interested in being in a relationship. He's made that clear multiple times and he highly doubts he wants one with his best friend. All his jealousy at the floozies, as Mia calls them, were unfounded. His own ridiculous mind working itself up because he couldn't get over his own feelings.

“Come on, Mia. We need to hurry up before it gets too late.” Eleven desperately changed the subject.

“Tch!” Mia huffed. “Fine, whatever. But seriously, stop wading in the shallows and get rid of the stupid floozies.”

“I- I have no idea what you're talking about!”

Mia was already walking away not listening leaving him was Sylvando. The quirk in his eye brow and the upturned corner of his lips was all Eleven needed to figure out the fastest way to runaway. The jester was probably the next worst person to figure out his unrequited feelings.

“So, Erik, huh?”

“Sylv, please.” Eleven bit his lip. “There's absolutely nothing going on.”

“Darling, please, everyone knows you've both been dancing after each other the moment we all laid eyes on you both.” Sylvando chuckled. “I honestly thought you two were already a couple with the way Erik was so protective of you when you both first came here.” He eyed Eleven up and down. “You certainly look like you've been in his company for a while. I absolutely love the hair.”

The reminder of the scarf still so delicately weaved into his hair had him a little more shy. Honestly much better than the utter embarrassment that Mia managed to unearth. Much easier to hide that flush when he was calming down from the previous ones.

“It's nothing much really, this is better for just traveling than gearing up for monsters.” Eleven shifted his eyes downward. “Just old-fashioned exploring.”

Which was what Eleven was just doing seeing as he didn't actively involve himself in the raids and other shady dealings that are happening at the auction houses right now.

“Darling, the only thing that turtleneck is good for is keeping you warm and showing off your form.” Sylvando smiled slyly. “There's no shame in admitting that you're trying to attract his attention. Especially with that familiar looking scarf and that utility belt of yours. Or are they still Erik's.”

“I made them!” Eleven bristled and felt the indignation weigh on him. “They're mine and I like them. And it's not like Erik even carry around his tools much anymore.”

Sylvando put his hands up in surrender. “I'm only teasing, honey. But you really have changed a lot in the past couple of years. But I suppose it's nothing that our princess has to worry about.”

A twinge coiled tightly in Eleven but held strong against it. “There's nothing to worry about in the first place, it's not like I go looking for trouble.” He said knowing it sounded a little petulant. “I've actually stayed out of trouble for a long while now.”

There was a moment that Sylvando took to truly look up and down Eleven again. Give a critical eye to truly take in the changes that Eleven has embraced.

“You do know that Dundrasil is being rebuilt right now?” Sylvando said deliberately and Eleven turned away. “Rab especially wants you to get involved, with you being her prince and all.”

“I'm not a prince.” The words came out just like before. “I'm no king either.”

“I got it!” Mia stormed into their space again with a victorious grin. “The old man tried to snipe up the price but I got it down real good!”

Another save by ever whirlwind that was Mia and Eleven gave her his full attention. “Please tell me you didn't threaten him.”

Mia scoffed. “Oh, please, I just needed to drop that we knew the two-bit act here and was real quick in leveling out the prices.” She gave Sylvando the side eye. “I bet a lot of these instruments aren't up to quality.”

Sylvando gasped. “The maestro here would never cheat out his customers! Everything I've bought and came in here with was loved and well cared for!”

“Hpmh! You'd be surprised, glitter-bang.” Mia was completely unapologetic. “Now come on, El, we got to get back before Erik starts getting suspicious. I don't need him snooping through the ship and find this particular prize. And you still got to find your own too!” She turned to Sylvando. “Well, nice seeing you, glitter-bang!”

In terms of speed, Mia could easily reach Erik's level of agility in a couple of years if he lets her catch up. She was already naturally faster than Eleven, nimbler too and even more so when she easily ducked and jerked his arms and out of the store with sheer momentum alone.

And the moment they stepped into the sand and blazing hot sun, it only took a single, secondless glance to realize what Mia has done.

He only heard the tingling of the store bell once more before hearing the tail end of Sylvando's shouts. The weightless feeling of Zoom already sending them up high and away from the desert lands. In the distance, he could see a billowing cloud of sand near the Celestial Sands. They were leaving at a rather good time to avoid that.

But to leave Sylvando as he did, the same way he fled Heliodor, made him feel like he had rocks tied to his feet.

He felt pathetic and is pathetic in every sense of the word.



-Line Break-

“So, a prince, huh?”

“Mia, please.”

“A long, lost prince to a fallen kingdom that's being rebuilt is settling his time by being a pirate.”

Eleven squirmed under Mia's scrutinizing gaze. “S-so what?”

She narrowed her eyes. “If I didn't know you as well as I did, I would've chained you down and watered you until you confessed whatever secrets you keep keeping to yourself.” She huffed with crossed arms. “If Erik didn't like you as much as he did, I would've doubled down on how fast I could tear into you.”

It's always a wonder why Erik and the rest of the crew needed to keep a mindful eye on Mia. She was still loud and scrappy as she was when Eleven first met her, but now there was a dangerous edge to it. Something more purposeful and sharper intent, like a well aimed dart.

It's all fun and games when playing with a board but it's another when you strike the player's ire.

“I never was a prince.” Eleven quietly said. “Maybe when I was born but I'm not made for that life. I'm barely hero material as it is.”

The death grip he had on his pillows were most definitely snapping the feathers inside them. If the hammock wasn't so finicky to work with, he'd be hiding under the covers as well.

But he supposes that it could only help in preserving what little dignity he has in front of Mia.

“I should've stabbed the circus act.” Mia finally broke the silence. “I should've stabbed you in order to stab him.”

“Mia!”

“I mean it.” She snapped. “He accosted you and started babbling on like some soap box opera. And don't make excuses for him, even he admitted he was being rude!” She glowered at him. “Friend or not, it's common courtesy to ask about the weather first before slinging a body like a rag doll like he did with you. Ugh, I really wish you didn't stopped me.”

“He's only worried.” Eleven sighed. “And I can only imagine how he'll react with the way we left. I'll probably cause more trouble for you guys because of this.”

“No.” Mia bared her teeth. “No. You are not going to mope and you are definitely not going to leave this fucking ship.” She drew out her dagger and approached Eleven with a restrained intent. “I watched my brother mope about and I couldn't figure out why until you came along. I certainly won't let you put your head into your ass when I know for a fact that your lawless marriage is only nonexistent because you both can't get over yourselves.”

“We're not like that!” Eleven cried out. “I don't-”

Mia rushed forward and it felt oddly to feel the blade he created be brandished against him. The edge felt paper thin against his neck, colder than ice in the heated room where the forge still emitted some kind of heat now that he's been using it on a daily basis. The sense of danger was there, but it felt muted.

His danger senses were skewed and always felt muted. Unless someone else was in trouble, he didn't feel fear when looking at claws, blades, or magic that were against him. But Eleven felt that the moment of being stunned from being knocked into the wall behind him was the reason his danger senses were muted this time around.

“Lie to me.” Mia snarled. “I dare you.”

Eleven doesn't understand how Mia can reduce him to a state of cowering. But then, she was Erik's little sister who looked and even acted a little too much like him. Sea-blue eyes that were too keen for their own good, wild in the sense of freedom. Both were unbound to the rules of society, Erik even more so because he was the one to show Eleven how easy it was to bend the rules.

And what a world to be in, that all rules were easily manipulated. That rules were just suggestions to keep order amongst the good folk as Erik would say.

He wanted to prove to Erik he wasn't just part of the 'good folk', that he was his own person just as Erik was his own.

That's probably how his infatuation started before it turned into something he couldn't get rid of.

“Why does it matter so much if I like him or not?”

Mia gave a triumphant smirk. “Why wouldn't it?” She got up and dusted herself off. “He may be the captain of this ship, but it's my job to make sure no funny business goes on when he's busy. And the thing between you and Erik is so hilarious that it hurts to watch.”

Her footsteps were loud against the wooden floorboards. Boots falling louder to command attention, this was the first time Mia was channeling the authority that Erik held on a daily basis.

It was almost scary, when Eleven thinks about it, that she simply lets the crew coddle her. Took full advantage of it if only to keep the dogs barking in anxiety. Knew that Erik was simply handing her the leash instead of it being the other way around.

“And as funny as it is to watch you two trip over nothing, I still got to make sure there's no foul play.” She looked over her shoulders to him. “I'm the one that has to make sure the barnacles are separated from the clams. And I have to make sure the clams are making the pearls.

“There are literally worse people that Erik can get with.” Mia put her hands to her hips. “I rather you than some downtown worker that wants to get lucky. The fact that you're so loyal to give up the cushiest life anyone can get for Erik is all I care about.” She then sharply turned around and looked down on him. “But I swear I will gut you like a fish if you leave this ship because of a good conscience. We're pirates, don't insult us!”

He wanted to say that he didn't want to cause them trouble. He wanted to say that they were the last people on Erdrea that he wanted to cause trouble for.

But then, that was his good conscience talking and Mia didn't want to hear it.

Eleven straightened himself from where he was sitting. “I don't- I don't understand how my feelings matter in that.”

“Oh for the love of-!” Mia tightly gripped her dagger in frustration. “It's like you're asking me to stab you! This is me. Giving. You. Permission. Permission to jump and fuck him!

Eleven squawked out loud and there was no way that nobody within a three room radius didn't hear her say that. He heard various thuds and clattering objects all around from hitting the floor through the walls.

“Mia!” Eleven covered his face with both his hands.

“What?! I mean it!” She growled. “Ride his dick, plow him into the ground! Hell, go kidnap a priest and tie the knot!”

“Dear Yggdrasil, have mercy on me.” Eleven whimpered. “He doesn't even like me that way!”

There were more clatters and thuds from the other rooms but Eleven chose to ignore that in favour of getting the blush on his face under control. Imagines flitted like gnats that he couldn't swat away.

He never noticed the blank look of disbelief on Mia. He also didn't notice how her grip tightened around her dagger even further as her wrists twitched with temptation.

What she did do was drag his sorry form up by his collar with fury lining her eyes.

“You have until his birthday to shove your tongue down his throat.” Mia spat. “If not, you'd better prepare a treasure so spectacular that he shoves his down yours.

“And I swear, Yggdrasil won't save you if you decide to leave this ship. I'll be the next world ending apocalypse if you stiff him like that.”

He swore her eyes flashed green and it drove that fear into him more.

It was only exemplified by the squeak that came out of his mouth in response to her words. The frantic nodding he did didn't help either.

“Good boy.” Mia unceremoniously dropped him. “I expect to be impressed.”

She walked out without another word knowing full well that Eleven had no choice but to deliver. That everything was going to be just fine if he did followed through with his feelings. That it was almost expected for him to just kiss him.

There was no way that doing those things would be okay.

Those thoughts got Eleven fumbling over his feet and immediately swung to Mia's alternative suggestion. A desperate attempt that was spawned from the ultimatum and the stress of the day.

He has various treasures. They might not compel Erik to kiss him like Mia said, but they were still treasures that were held in high regard within the various kingdoms that held them.

To be fair though, he would've completely forgotten about it if Queen Marina didn't ask about them. All the treasures that he and his party scoured for and obtained in their journey, still sat hidden away in his little bag.

The Mermaid Queen was more amused when he became flustered and tried to pull them out to give back. But she was more than willing to let him keep it as it belong to him more than it did to her and her people. That the path to Yggdrasil should stay with the Luminary.

Although he feels guilty about not giving back the rest of the treasures to the kingdoms that still stand, they were also not asking for them back. And quite frankly?

He was a pirate now. And he didn't want to give anything back.