“You're an idiot.” Mia huffed. “He's an idiot. You both suit each other.”
“Mia, what are you doing?”
Erik watched his sister give him a beady, judging look before scoffing. “I'm trying to figure out how in all of Erdrea you both haven't been falling all over each other. Me and the whole crew have been wondering how you both aren't already shagging.” She narrowed her eyes. “You aren't, right?”
“No!” Erik pinched the bridge of his nose. “If It were that easy, I'm make sure you don't win the stupid betting pool.”
“So you do know about that.” Mia's voice became flat. “And you're not sweeping El off his feet because...?”
“I do have class, you know.” Erik returned her tone of voice. “Piracy doesn't equal whatever the rest of them are doing.”
“So you're playing as some noble and trying to charm El the proper way.” Mia barked out a laugh. “You could give him some daisies and he'd be instantly falling at your feet. He's a country hick, they don't need fanciness, thank Yggdrasil for that.” She rolled her eyes. “If anything, he's better at playing prince charming with how he's showering you with gifts and such.”
“He's been making shit for me and the rest of the old party ever since I gave him that forge.” He crossed his arms. “Stop making it look like I'm some gold digger.”
“Aren't we all?” Mia simply flipped her braid over her shoulder. “But I suppose El's aiming to be something more meaningful.” She smirked before raising a curious eyebrow. “But seriously, what are you waiting for?”
It wasn't hard to think all of the times that Erik and Eleven shared intimate moments. Many of them were innocent enough, easily brushed off like when one or the other would wake up too close to each other. Their preference for each other was a natural thing as they gathered more members of their party. Everyone barged into their journey that it was only natural that they would gravitate to each other.
But there lied the problem, that their closeness, their status of best friends, made it very obscured on how Erik could get Eleven's attention.
Erik just gave a frustrated sigh in the end. “Come back to me later on that, I'm still playing nice and trying to figure out how to get over the brick wall that El is.”
Mia snorted. “You have until your stupid birthday, after that, I'm telling El your pansy feelings and then we'll have to change the bets on how long it'll take to get you guys to shag.” She smirked. “If that's a problem too, then I'll be taking drastic measures.”
“What the actual fuck, Mia.” Erik groaned and massaged his temples. “Why are you getting involved with my sex life now? You hate hearing anything about it!”
Mia flicked some invisible dirt from underneath her nails before narrowing her eyes. Erik narrowed his own back knowing that he's stepped on his sister's toes again. She always gets like this if she thinks he was holding back on her.
Not that she was wrong.
“Why.” Her voice took command of the conversation. “Why wasn't I told your prince charming was really a prince?”
Sharp eyes matched each other, both holding the turbulent seas that could snap into storms at any moment. A pair of wolves staring each other down from their respective territories.
“That.” Erik suppressed the growl that threatened to come out. “That is none of your business.”
“Oh, don't be like that.” Mia scoffed again breaking the tension. “Prince charming is a wet paper bag when it comes to us, crumbled when I asked him. I would appreciate it if surprises like that stop popping up though.”
“How the hell did it come up in the first place?” He felt his fingers twitch and his shoulders tense even more. “He hates talking about it.”
“Who do you think I am?” Mia just gave a wolfish smirk. “I'm not you, yeah, but I'm also your sister. He likes me.”
Erik felt himself relax more as he rolled his eyes. He sure as hell knows that she wasn't above pulling her knife on Eleven, but Eleven also could defend himself from his hellion of a sister. She may have gotten better, but she's not that good yet. There's no way Mia was threatening enough for someone like Eleven to loosen his tongue.
“Sometimes, I regret that you're too much like me.”
“What? Ew!” Mia stuck out her tongue. “You're the walking gay disaster! The both of you!”
“Hey, watch it.” Erik threw a gold coin at her. “You're more invested in my sex life than I am.”
“W-wha?” Mia immediately went red-faced and screeched. “Y-you bastard! No I'm not!”
Erik settled combing his fingers through his blue spikes as the conversation passed. His nerves still tingled at the bit of information that Mia wasn't telling him. Something akin to foul play, an omitted fact from a story but not something that would hurt his own.
Mia, as much as Erik hates to admit it, was a little too capable in interrogating men to tears. Ferreting out secrets and determining who's safe was her main job. And she was also very good at keeping trouble in the dark. Good at keeping it to where it would never get the chance to see the light.
It took a while to get used to her brand of work, a string of internal denials before accepting that she was growing into her own. Even now when he looks at her, a woman with a mean streak as far as the open ocean, he still could hardly believe that she grew as well as she did.
Because in the back of his mind, Mia was still stuck in her teenage self with that cursed necklace.
She was now his shadow now, despite Erik giving her the freedom to cut away, she still chooses to stay. Purposely let their blood run thick after everything was said and done. When he came back older and different, when she was able to get a proper look of him, Mia stuck to her usual grace and adapted.
Nightmares may still plague him but he couldn't deny what's in front of him. Time stilled for her as the world changed, but her ever calculating, greedy mind was fast at jumping at opportunities. The only thing he could say was that he was glad that he was able to grow into herself even if it wasn't the life that he wanted for her.
He could never take that choice away from her again.
“Don't bully, El.” Erik cut through Mia's insults that she was still sending his way. “That's my job.”
She scrunched up her nose. “Until you say something about your pansy feelings, there ain't no way I'm not going to be nosy. Glitter bang literally told me your pansy ass was tripping over yourself because of El's pretty face.”
“'Glitter bang'?” Erik narrowed his eyes and his mind flitted through all the people he knew. “Who the hell- wait, you've met Sylv?” His eyes narrowed. “When the hell did you meet Sylv?”
“Ha!” She busted a gut. “You thought of him as 'glitter bang' too!”
Sometimes it hurts that she was too much like him.
“I'm serious, Mia. Where and when did you meet Sylv?”
“I ain't telling!” She gave an impish smirk. “I will say that I owe the walking circus show a punch to the face.”
“He called me 'dear'!” Mia growled. “Who the hell does he think he is calling me 'dear'?!”
Erik couldn't help but stare before bursting out laughing himself. “No, yeah, we're definitely related.”
He ruffled her hair as more insults were spat his way for the offending action. Even if this wasn't the life he wanted for her, seeing her happy and rambunctious was good enough for him.
The life of crime and blood was only for a select few, but they all made due for this life.
And with this life, he's going to live it to the fullest now that there was the one thing he wanted most within his grasp again.
“Heavens above, I'll turn this whole ship into a trap if you don't stop reminding me.”
Erik looked on bemused. “See? Invested.”
Mia shrieked before pouncing with her knife out.
Charming Eleven was easy. It wasn't hard to get that pretty blush onto his face and it was certainly not hard to get him stammering with a flirt or two. He also made it too easy for Erik to get close for him to run his hand through his long hair.
He takes full advantage of it too. Twine the strands of copper and bronze between his fingers, feel the silky slide as they fall seamlessly back into place unruffled. It was mesmerizing in a way as before he only had his thoughts in wonder. Now, he could take his time as Eleven simply lets him.
Those encounters were always when Eleven was working though. When Erik couldn't bare to watch the long locks teeter too close to the flames and hot steel. When his neck was bare on rare days he would ditch his turtleneck, the sweat would line and trail down it. Eyes focused and uncaring for the potential casualty, it fell to the pirate captain himself to ensure that Eleven's hair was secured and dignified like the rest treasures he collects.
And even now, as Eleven keeps his attention on his work table with small chains and jewels in his hands, Erik wonders if he was only humouring him.
“Mia has you working like a dog, hasn't she?”
Eleven shrugged. “I wouldn't say that, it's certainly more interesting than fixing up blades all the time.”
“But wouldn't you want to wear the stuff you make?” Erik traced his thumb down Eleven's clothed neck. “You should make yourself more clothes, make yourself more normal shirts and blouses. You need to stop wearing these stupid turtlenecks.”
“I like wearing them.” Eleven shot an amused glance towards the pirate captain. “And I do have normal shirts, thank you very much.”
“You never wear them.” Erik chuckled. “How you haven't gotten heat stroke yet is beyond me too.”
“Something about my fire magic.” Eleven shrugged. “That I'd be more resistant to the heat or something.” He looked up at Erik questioningly. “You know this.”
Of course he knew, there was very little of Eleven that he didn't know. The man holds his heart on his sleeves and wasn't afraid to show it, but it was only to a select few.
And further down, Eleven lets Erik prod his mind further. Lets him guess his thoughts with a pin point accuracy to where it makes him wonder even more. But then, Eleven himself was empathetic enough to read Erik's own cues.
Their friends said it often enough, that they could read each other's minds. He knows it isn't true when Eleven looks at him with the same doe-eyed smile as he was doing now.
“Sure, but I can still complain.” Erik said easily. “It gets hot in here, I get hot looking at you.”
Eleven flushed and scowled. “Really?”
“I'm serious.” Erik grinned. “You really need to ditch the turtlenecks.”
“I like them, I like them now like I like them every other time you keep bringing this up.”
“And I'll keep bringing it up until you don't.”
As much as it was easy to charm Eleven, to put the pretty, pink dusting on his cheeks, it was just as equally hard to get a good read on what exactly was properly affecting him. That with all their bantering and hair tugging, it was hard to know what was getting under that poker face of his. Too many mixed signals that get in the way of knowing.
His possessive displays have been straightforward enough. He actually thinks nothing would get through Eleven without him actually declaring his intentions and shoving his tongue down his throat.
“You know, with you hunching over all the time now, your back and neck must be killing you.” Erik said offhandedly. “You can set yourself up for more days off seeing as the only thing you do nowadays is pile more work on yourself.”
“I could say the same for you, captain.” Eleven huffed. “I always see you running around when you're out of your quarters. If not then, Johnson is always saying that you worry too much.”
But he wasn't deterred. Easily finished tying off the hair he was taking his time with, this time with a blue scarf that was coloured similarly to his hair. An easy claim to let the crew and even outsiders know Erik's intentions.
Mia still laughs at him at how cliche he was.
“It's not that I worry too much, more that I don't get to see you enough.”
“You visit me almost everyday.”
Eleven looked up again and that pretty dusting was back, something nervous lined his voice that only made Erik smile.
“It's not like before though, when we're always back to back.” Erik let his hands feel down Eleven's biceps. “I miss that.”
“O-oh.” Eleven turned away. “It's not- It's not like you're not already dragging me out when we hit land. Do our usual like before.”
“I suppose.” Erik simply continue his hands down Eleven's arms until they reached the other's hands. “But I miss going out with you.”
Leaned in behind Eleven while grasping the very still hands that were tediously busy before, Erik smirked at how easy it was to rile him up. Easier now that he's discovered that apparently him being forward wasn't forward enough.
And isn't that a lovely surprise?
“Just because things are different now doesn't mean I miss my partner.”
His words were innocent enough, tone empty of his earlier flirting because he really did miss his partner.
“T-then just ask then.” Eleven stuttered through his own frozen form. “It's- It's not like I'll s-say no.”
Maybe there was hope for Erik's pursuit after all. He just needed to step up his game.
“Okay then.” He smirked. “Follow me down underground at our next anchor point, I'm getting you out and about from your room.”
“I'm expecting to walk out with gold and more, El. Don't disappoint me.”
Erik pulled away letting Eleven be bewildered at the change of pace of the conversation. Let the other simmer on what just happen because Erik now needed to plan accordingly to what he's discovered. Hold himself back now because he wouldn’t be able to now if he didn't stop.
The coming weeks were going to be fun.
He's forgotten how much of a blast it was to take Eleven gambling. The looks on everyone's face has him in a perpetual state of glee.
“Is this the reason El was thrown in the dungeons with you?”
Erik smirked at Johnson. “Nah, everything he does is legal, but he is blessed in a way.” His eyes went back to Eleven happily putting down his bets. “But it wouldn't surprise me if he did get thrown in jail for it.”
“Captain, he's pulled off a win with just a pair!”
“That's not our problem.” Erik snickered. “Just make sure to keep a close eye on the other players, will you?”
Poker was Eleven's favourite game, the sweet country bumpkin came from a village that absolutely dominated in the card game. When they were helping Cobblestone get back on its feet, Erik remembers being lurched sideways and up when the villagers wanted to celebrate the reconstruction. Finally pulling a reason why Eleven was so good in smiling through his losses and substantial wins.
Erik will admit that he likes the smooth skills Eleven has in gambling. A doe-like innocence before he sheds his skin for something more dangerous.
The look on Mia's face was priceless.
“Captain, your pearl there probably convinced the pit boss in rigging the game for him.” Johnson looked distressed. “There's just no way!”
“Trust me, when you've met El's people, this is tame.”
“'El's people' as in there's more like him?!”
Bright sunny grins and hard working? It wasn't the picture that Johnson and the rest of the crew was probably picturing but it's not like Erik wasn't going to fuel that misunderstanding. He nodded with a raised eyebrow knowing that this can only make the misunderstanding even more hilarious.
And he knows that Eleven knows about how the crew thinks of him. Erik's long passed in falling for the innocent act, he wasn't going to correct anyone if Eleven wasn't.
But it still made him laugh that his crew built this imagine of Eleven as some kind of unwitting guy who ended up with a criminal tag on accident. Made a quiet living with his head down until Erik saved him.
They weren't wrong, but they were also wrong.
Just that the Luminary, Hero of Erdrea, was mistaken as some kind of self made fraudster because of some bad luck on his part.
Which also wasn't technically wrong.
“Captain, how is your pearl so...” Johnson struggled to find his words. “How is it that you were able to snatch him up first? He could've struck out alone too.”
Erik gave a grim smile at that. “Wouldn't be able to tell you that. After our adventure together on the main lands, you'd think anyone would be up to snuff on surviving alone. Even given the chance to start clean even.” He glanced at the sunny smile Eleven gave at all the agitated players around him. “Well, maybe not clean seeing as the world is kind of after his head.”
“What did he do?”
Erik blinked realizing what he said before shrugging him off. “Let's just say he wore his stupid hood and cloak for a reason.”
“And he's not needing it now?”
The glimmering lights hit Eleven's long locks just right to where they almost sparkled gold. Held up in a rapidly familiar braid by Erik's decorative scarf with Mia's handy work by the looks of it. What did sparkled gold were the earrings that Eleven was finally able to put in with Mia's insistence. His sister keeps insisting that he owes her one when she dragged Eleven to get his ears pierced, because then Erik can really break through Eleven's thick head.
Eleven's ears healed nicely and Erik couldn't help but feel a sense of possessiveness wash over him when the earrings were nearly identical to Erik's own.
And following the hair down, Eleven still wore his turtlenecks that hid and outlined everything of his body. He still wore that glove that hid his mark, Eleven long admitted it being stylized from Erik's own favourite pair. Only this time, Erik's own mark was stitched proudly onto the back where the world can see.
“El's different looking now, but it's not a bad different.” Erik eyed at the devious gleam that the sunny grin couldn't hide. “One of us and mine especially.”
With that in mind, he stalked up to the poker table. No one dared to stop him, not even the bouncers that stood guard nearby. They all simply stared, forms tensed at his sudden movement but he ignored them all. Nobody here was stupid enough to get in his way when he wasn't there to pick a fight.
It also helps that everybody can clearly see his intended target.
The shifting air also alerted Eleven before looking up to Erik.
“Oh, captain!” Eleven beamed at him and Erik internally sighed at the loss of his name. “Are you here to play?”
Erik eyed the cold ale by Eleven's side and wondered how many drinks it took for it to put the rosy tint across his face. The still devious gleam in his eyes told Erik that he'd also be running his pockets before graciously giving them back the next morning. As if they still have the same shared funds from their adventuring days.
They sort of did, only this time Erik was in charge of the money.
“Nah, just wanted a close up of you and your stacks.” Erik slid onto the bench and into Eleven's space. “Maybe even make you lose something.”
His arm easily encircled Eleven's waist, Erik appreciating the solid feel of muscle. He pressed his side flush against Eleven's before eyeing the other players in a flash of a warning. The stiffening forms made the pirate captain grin, teeth shown off like a shark's.
“Er- err, captain!” Eleven stuttered and Erik took it in with all the delight. “What are you doing?”
“Not like anyone's complaining.” Erik smirked up. “And I just said I wanted to see you lose.”
“I do lose, captain, I just know when my luck goes bad.” Eleven nervously shifted and rearranged his cards before taking a drink. “You know this.”
“Yeah I do, that's why all the shitty luck you have is compensated by the unbelievable finds even when we don't go searching.” He twirled the braid between his fingers. “That doesn't mean anything when you're playing cards though, I just want to see you lose.”
“You should buy-in, captain.” Eleven held a deceitful light tone. “Maybe I'll lose then.”
“Nah, just don't get too distracted, eh?”
It was almost too easy to get Eleven stuttering and out of focus now. But there was that passive-aggressiveness that's challenging Erik in response to his advances. It made the pirate captain excited knowing that Eleven was an equal that can deliver so easily.
And the tone just now made him wonder how that would sound like in a different context. The innocent act was seen through and the predator that Eleven truly was made the surrounding people even more wary.
His crew already knew, but the rest of the underworld didn't. And as much Erik knew Eleven could protect himself, he didn't need boastful idiots thinking they could take Eleven on and possibly destroy the building. He actually liked this place for being as subtle as it was.
And the patrons here knew when and who to try their luck.
“A wolf in sheep's clothing, huh?”
Erik didn't bother hiding the satisfied, shark grin. Just because the Eleven was hiding from the light of the world didn't mean its shadows shouldn't know who he belonged to. That Eleven was his, that Erik was more than willing to stake his claim at that moment to tell them all on who exactly they have to go through if they want trouble.
He likes to think that the only reason why his infamy was a slow spread was because he wasn't an idiot and showed off his power. Kept to a down low in gathering his resources and carefully aiming on who he's targeting. But the little that did get out was enough.
He still eyed the rest of the players as Eleven shifted again to compensate for Erik's weight.
But although it was easy to stake his claim, he wishes it was just as easy to get Eleven's oblivious head to notice his advances faster.
Taking a glance back at Eleven, the rosy blush was reaching down passed and into the turtleneck. A careful blank countenance that Eleven's long mastered before they met was on. Something that Erik only saw when they faced something particularly troublesome. An expression that was expected to see in a poker game instead of his sunny smiles.
“Say, El.” Erik deliberately leaned closed to his ear. “You haven't gotten the chance to visit my quarters yet, have you?” He made sure his words were quiet and face just as indifferent. “Want to change that?”
The purring tone with the combination of words made Eleven jerk. His cards flew revealing his hands.
The round hasn't officially started but all the players had their cards. The dealer looked at Eleven who glared at Erik before pushing all his chips in.
A daring move that Erik couldn't help wickedly grin at. A jump in appreciation all around by him and everyone watching because of how everything played out. A risky play where lesser men would demand a new deal of cards.
In too many stuns of awe as the remaining cards were dealt and revealed, Eleven still won that hand with a flush of hearts.
That Yggdrasil damned luck was showing but he'll also take it as permission to take her favourite leaf.
Not that he was asking anyways.