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somewhere between the surface and the sea bed

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“This is all your fault, Misaki.”

“Mine? You're the asshole who got in my way!”

“I was on official business. If it wasn't for an idiot pirate messing up my investigation, I wouldn't be here.”

“If it wasn't for me saving your ass you'd be chopped into pieces and thrown to the bottom of the sea!”

“I don't recall asking for your help, Misaki.”

“Well, you needed it. And stop calling me by my first name!”

Fushimi clicked his tongue and turned his head, as if that might drown out Yata's irritating chatter. The ship's hold that they were currently trapped in was dank and bad-smelling, and his wrists hurt where they were chained above his head. Closing his eyes in concentration, Fushimi tried to feel around for a moment with his hands to see if he could manage to dislodge one of the needles he had hidden in his wristbands. He wasn't terribly confident in his ability to pick a lock he couldn't even quite see but it was better than what Yata was doing, which was to squirm around and complain loudly as if that would make the chains loosen all by themselves.

There were still weapons on him too – the pirate bastard who had captured them had taken away some of his arsenal but had missed at least a few of them. The easiest course of action in this scenario would be to ask his companion for help in reaching the weapons he couldn't get to himself and then using those to free them both, but that was no good when his companion was a loudmouth idiot pirate.

“Saruhiko! Hey, are you listening to me, monkey?”

“No,” Fushimi said flatly. “I'm trying to concentrate, Misaki. Shut up.”

And that actually got Yata to shut up, which Fushimi was almost surprised by. Yata had even stopped struggling and was looking at him expectantly in a way that put Fushimi's teeth on edge.

It wasn't like they were friends, not anymore. They'd stopped being friends the day Misaki had dragged him onto that cesspool of a pirate ship and made him bow his head in front of the world's laziest pirate king Suoh Mikoto. They'd stopped being friends when Yata had forgotten everything they'd said they would do together in those days when they were scrawny kids exchanging wild stories and started acting as though being one of Suoh Mikoto's dogs was something to be proud of.

Fushimi's chest itched suddenly and he wished he could reach a hand down to scratch it. Mikoto had to mark all his men – of course he did, how else could they make stupid talk about being 'family.' Somehow Fushimi had been convinced to get his skin tattooed with the mark of Homra's crew right in the spot where anyone could see it, plain as day on his chest – in the exact same spot as Yata's, something that might have meant something at the time but no longer. There were only two marks like that on Fushimi's entire body and he preferred the other one, the brand on his wrist from the day he and Yata had been caught by one of the trader ships all those years ago, the one he'd taken in order to distract their captors while Misaki carried out their plan to escape; the thick black letter 'P' that would always mark him as a pirate, easily hidden under the wristbands Captain Munakata had given him the day he'd officially joined the Royal Navy and left the idiots of Homra behind forever. That was also the day he'd pulled a hot poker out of the fire right in front of Yata's horrified eyes and pressed it against the hated mark of Homra on his chest, replacing it with a mess of charred skin.

“Where the hell are these assholes taking us anyway?” Yata apparently couldn't handle staying silent for more than a handful of minutes and was already trying to pull his wrists out of the cuffs through sheer force of stupidity. Fushimi wondered if he would shut up once he fractured a wrist.

“Shouldn't you know that better than me? You're used to spending time around lowlifes.”

“That better not be a jab against Homra, you jerk!”

“Oh? What else do you think I would be talking about, Misaki?” Fushimi laughed, feeling a rush of adrenaline shoot through his veins even though he could still barely move. “Of course I mean your precious Homra. After all, pirates are pirates. All the same type of scum, just flying different colors.”

“Homra's nothing like these bastards!” Yata said vehemently and Fushimi's smile widened.

“It's so amusing how much you believe that, Misaki,” Fushimi said smoothly. His wrists ached but it was almost worth it, to see the anger clouding Yata's eyes that were fixed only on him. Even in the relative darkness of the hold Fushimi could make out that expression anywhere. “I don't see any difference. The captain of this ship was born to hang, just the same as your precious Suoh Mikoto will once the Royal Navy catches up to him.”

“Hmmph.” Yata snorted. “As if you Blues could ever get anywhere close to Homra. None of your fancy-ass ships could get near enough to catch her even if we gave you a head start.”

“Oh? I seem to recall we blew a nice big hole in that rundown piece of driftwood you call a ship the last time we caught up with you.”

“That was because we got slowed down taking care of that merchant ship,” Yata said. “Anyway, isn't protecting ships like that the job of you Blue dogs? If those other pirates hadn't been in Homra's territory when those lowlifes caught up with them--”

“Our job is to sink pirate ships and bring pirates to justice,” Fushimi said coldly. “I suppose you wouldn't understand that, would you Misaki? You're still busy playing kid's games with those idiots who think they're somehow 'above' the rest of the scum.”

“How can you say that, Saruhiko?” Yata shook his head. “You were one of us! I thought—I thought it was important to you too, the things we promised--”

“Tch. I'm not the one who forgot those things, Misaki,” Fushimi said. “But there's no point in talking about it to you, is there? You can't think of anything beyond what Suoh Mikoto tells you.”

“What are you even talking about--” Yata's mouth snapped shut as the ship lurched slightly. “H-hey, Saruhiko, did you feel that?”

“Shut up,” Fushimi said sharply, raising his head. Yata looked about to reply but stopped as he heard the same sound Fushimi had – footsteps, descending into the hold.

“Well, well. Looks like we're here.” It was Captain Hanegawa who'd come to see them himself and Fushimi glared darkly at him. The man was a moron even for a pirate and it was almost embarrassing that he'd been captured by someone so useless.

(That had been Misaki's fault too – Captain Munakata had sent Fushimi into the port city to gather information pertaining to recent pirate attacks on civilian ships in the area, a collective of different ships who sailed under a blank flag and proclaimed their loyalty to some nutjob who called himself 'the Colorless Captain.' Fushimi had managed to get a lucky break learning about Hanegawa's crew, third rate pirates who had only recently raised the blank flag above their ship. Rumor had it that Hanegawa had met with this Colorless Captain himself and Fushimi had expected it to be an easy task to capture Hanegawa and extract information from him. Fushimi had followed a couple leads to a tavern where Hanegawa and his men were busy getting dead drunk and had assumed that the rest of the mission would be even simpler than he'd expected. If those idiots in Homra hadn't decided to interfere and set the entire damn place on fire Fushimi would have been able to pick Hanegawa off easily as he left the bar. Instead Fushimi had ended up surrounded by some very angry and slightly crispy pirates who somehow managed to mistake him for one of Homra's lowlifes even in the telltale blue jacket of the Royal Navy. Even that might not have been a problem, as Fushimi was certain his fighting skills were more than a match for theirs despite being outnumbered, but then idiot Misaki had decided to come blundering in yelling stupid bravado about 'Homra's pride.' That had been enough to call in the rest of Hanegawa's crew and Fushimi had been knocked out trying to keep Misaki from getting impaled on someone's sword.)

“Let us out of here, you bastard!” And of course Yata was yelling uselessly again, as if a criminal would be swayed to follow his orders just due to sheer volume. Fushimi rolled his eyes and resumed trying to find a way to free his hands.

“Soon enough, soon enough.” Hanegawa laughed and it just made Fushimi even more irritated. He was going to carve his name in that man's skin as soon as he could get hold of one of his knives. “Take 'em outside, boys!”

The other crew members swarmed around them and Fushimi could hear Yata yelling again as his hands were unhooked from the chain and he was dragged out of the hold. Fushimi couldn't help the automatic urge to pull back as more men laid hands on him, kicking out sharply to try and keep them away. Someone hit him in the back of the head again and he reeled, teeth gritting as he felt himself dragged forward by his bound wrists. He barely managed to keep his feet under him as he was half-pulled up the stairs and out onto the deck.

The sky was bright and blue still and the salty air was enough to restore some of Fushimi's scattered wits. He could still hear Misaki yelling and his eyes followed the source of the sound.

The rest of the pirate crew was gathered around one end of the ship and with a start Fushimi realized that they had pushed Yata to the very edge of the gangplank, overlooking the clear blue sea.

Fushimi's head whipped around to look over the edge of the deck. Just off to their left he could see a small island, the kind that were scattered all around the ocean, uninhabited, unnamed, uncharted.

So they were to be marooned, then. Fushimi smiled grimly. Trust idiots like this to be too stupid to kill their enemies quickly while they had the chance.

“Saruhiko!” Yata caught his eye and took a step forward on the plank, back towards the deck of the ship, and was driven back by drawn swords. Someone grabbed hold of Fushimi's shoulders roughly and he tried to shake the grip off to no avail, pushed and prodded forward until he was next to Yata on the plank. There was barely enough room for them both and Yata was standing stock still, as if he was worried that if he moved he'd push Fushimi off accidentally.

“Well, looks like you two be in a spot now, don't it?” Captain Hanegawa strode forward through the crowd, smiling widely in a way that made Fushimi wish again that he could reach for his knives. “Don't you worry. I'm sure your bodies'll be found...eventually.” He laughed then, as though he'd just told a grand joke, and after a beat the rest of his crew followed.

“You won't get away with this, asshole!” Yata yelled, presumably because it was Homra's way not to let life-threatening situations pass without making some kind of show of useless bravado.

“Big words from one of Homra's dogs,” Hanegawa spat. “We'll see how big those words are when you've been starvin' on that island for a few weeks. If you two survive that long, at any rate. 'Tis a shame, really, that I won't be able to see the great Captain Suoh Mikoto's face when he finds your desiccated corpse three months down the line. To say nothin' of the shame of the grand Royal Navy, findin' that blue-coated skeleton lyin' next to you.” He looked at Fushimi as he spoke the last.

“Tch. Don't get ahead of yourself, scum.” Fushimi fixed him with a cold glare, ignoring the way Yata nodded his head vigorously as if Fushimi had been speaking for him at all. Fushimi smiled coolly. “I'll have fun helping the hangman earn his boots with you.”

Hanegawa seemed to quail for just a moment, as if he'd only just remembered what exactly would happen to him if the Royal Navy found him. Whether he thought hanging was better or worse than having his ship set on fire with him still on it, which would likely be Suoh Mikoto's response to the marooning of one of his crew, that was still questionable.

“Enough talk!” Hanegawa raised a hand. “Throw them in, lads, and see if they can swim!”

“W-wait, our hands are still--” Yata started and Hanegawa sneered, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a silver key hung on a chain.

“You want this?” Hanegawa laughed loudly and then in one swift movement threw the key over their heads and into the ocean.

Fushimi took half a second to follow the arc of the throw with his eyes and then with a heavy internal sigh he threw himself off the plank into the ocean.

He thought he heard Yata yell his name moments before he hit the water hard, legs working and bound arms flailing slightly as he tried to keep himself afloat. They were in shallower waters but still deep enough to keep the ship from running aground and the water was murky with sand and dirt. He could feel the current threatening to pull off his glasses and Fushimi squinted his eyes as he scanned the sea around him.

There. The key hadn't sunk too far and Fushimi pushed himself downward, ignoring the way his lungs were already burning. He wasn't the strongest swimmer and he could feel his blue coat weighing him down – and hadn't he told the Captain that these were stupid uniforms for them to wear, honestly it was just like begging to be drowned but of course the Captain couldn't possibly be expected to not be dramatic somehow, he'd probably chosen the coats personally to match that stupid floofy hat of his – but even so he managed to maneuver himself downwards. Legs aching and arms still bound, there was no choice but to grab hold of the chain with his mouth. Almost immediately some of the water rushed into his mouth along with it and Fushimi writhed a little, eyes all but shut, trying to adjust his course back upwards. His clothes felt too heavy though, the coat and the chains around his wrists and the handful of knives still hidden on his body, and Fushimi felt a rueful smile wind its way across his face as his movements slowed and he began to sink–

–And that was when a rough hand grabbed onto his collar and wrenched him upwards. Fushimi half-choked, almost letting go of the key he had gone to such trouble to retrieve, and he could just make out a hazy figure with red hair above him, dragging him up into the light.

His head breached the surface and Fushimi flailed about for a moment, trying to gasp in a breath without dropping the key. He could just make out Yata's figure next to him, dragging him forward despite the shackled wrists. There seemed to be something just underneath Yata's arm and Fushimi thought he could make out the silhouette of a small wooden chest that Yata was apparently using as some kind of flotation assist. Fushimi lolled his head to one side to indicate Yata should take the key from his mouth, trying to keep himself afloat without dragging Misaki down at the same time.

Somehow Yata seemed to understand, body bobbing slightly as he reached his shackled hands upward. Fushimi dropped the key into his waiting hands and there was a moment of coughing and fumbling together as Yata tried to keep himself afloat and free Fushimi's hands at the same time. After a moment Fushimi felt the pressure on his wrists lessen and then disappear, shackles dropping away into the water. He tread water lightly, trying to ignore the slow tightness growing in his chest at the way the water was soaking into his coat. Even so he kept his hands steady as he took the key from Yata, numb hands sliding against the lock. After what seemed like an eternity he managed to turn the key and then Yata's hands were free and grabbing him around the shoulders, holding him up slightly as they both swam awkwardly towards the shore.

As soon as the water grew shallow enough for their feet to touch the seabed Fushimi pushed away from Yata, limping forward on his own. Misaki stumbled a few steps ahead of him and then went back, reaching for Fushimi's shoulders again.

“I'm fine.” Fushimi's voice sounded low and gasping to his own ears and he tried to ignore the way his face burned when Yata's cold hands brushed against him.

“Don't be a stubborn idiot,” Yata murmured. “We're almost there.”

Too out of breath to complain further, Fushimi let himself be half-dragged forward onto the beach. Yata's hand dropped away and they both fell forward into the sand, breathing hard.

They lay there in silence for a moment and then Fushimi heard the sound of Yata sitting back up. He turned his head towards the sound and saw that Yata had apparently kept hold of the chest he'd been using to keep them afloat when they'd first been pushed off the ship. It was unlocked and Yata swore quietly as he opened it.

Fushimi propped himself up on his arms, still not having quite enough breath to ask the question. Yata answered it for him anyway, throwing the chest back into the water with an angry yell.

“What the hell is this supposed to be for?” Yata muttered. In his hands was an old pistol. “That guy said something about us needing it and then he just threw it in...”

Fushimi reached over without a word and took the pistol from him, ignoring the way Yata snapped at him for it. He held the weapon up for a moment, examining it. A grim smile wound its way across his face.

“One shot,” he said. For some reason it seemed really funny all of a sudden, him and Misaki and the empty beach, and the pistol with only one bullet in it. “How thoughtful.”

“I don't get it, why's there only one...” Yata trailed off. “W-wait, he doesn't expect us to—to fight to the death or something, does he?”

“No, you moron,” Fushimi said coldly. “Haven't you ever been marooned before? You're supposed to use it on yourself.”

“But why would—oh.” A worried look settled over Yata's face. “Hey, wait, since when were you ever marooned before?”

“I suppose he wanted to see us fight over who gets to use it first.” Fushimi ignored Yata's question and dragged himself to his feet. His coat was still heavy with water but he felt too cold to take it off. He took a few steps down the beach, ignoring the way his body seemed to be shaking slightly. “He's a bigger moron than I thought if he thinks we'll be here that long.”

“W-wait, Saruhiko!” Yata scrambled after him. Fushimi didn't even turn around, wandering through the scattered trees and taking in his surroundings with keen eyes. There was no sign of anyone living on the island, that was certain, but Fushimi had memorized all the charts in the Captain's log book and he had a decent idea of where they were. And if they were in the middle of the trade route he thought they were...

“Saruhiko, wait.” Fushimi started in surprise as Yata grabbed his arm, staring down at Fushimi with an oddly serious expression. “L-listen, Saruhiko...I—I know you and I haven't—I mean, I know we're not....” He shook his head. “I want you to have it, okay. That shot, I mean. I'll be okay, even if I have to—even if it's slow or it hurts, I'll still...” He trailed off awkwardly and Fushimi narrowed his eyes for a moment before finally laughing.

“What's that, Misaki?” Fushimi snickered, enjoying the way Yata had started glaring at him again. “You'll 'let' me have that shot? Should I thank you for it, is that it? Do you want my gratitude, for you being such a self-sacrificing idiot?” Fushimi pulled his arm away roughly. “You can have it if you want it. I don't intend to be on this piece of garbage island long enough to need that.”

“Listen you asshole I was trying to be--” Yata stopped as the meaning of Fushimi's words caught up to him. “Wait, what do you mean? You know how to get us out of here?”

Fushimi didn't answer him, already making his way through the trees, eyes scanning the sand for what he knew he should find here. Though the Royal Navy's main priority was hunting down pirates they kept well-documented logs of other criminal activities as well, including illegal traders. And on a route such as the one they were currently smack in the middle of, there was only one thing small scrub islands like this were used for (besides marooning people, at any rate).

There. He spotted it almost immediately. Sand had been pushed hurriedly over it and there were fallen tree branches pulled awkwardly together, but Fushimi could just make out the barest hints of a wooden door. He leaned down, pushing away the sand and rubble.

“What the hell is that?” Yata leaned over his shoulder and Fushimi stepped back, clicking his tongue.

“Here, Misaki, make yourself useful and get this open.” Fushimi pointed to the door, trying to keep his voice steady. It really was freezing on this island somehow, even with the sun beating down on them, and he wondered if he should take his coat off.

“Don't order me around stupid monkey!” Yata snapped immediately. Even as he spoke he stepped forward to pull open the door. “H-hey, this is--”

“Tch. Useless.” Fushimi leaned past him to look inside the hatch. He'd been hoping for something useful, charts or decent supplies, but he supposed that was expecting too much of smugglers.

“It's all alcohol, isn't it?” Yata said. “Why's there a hatch full of rum in the middle of an abandoned island?”

“Are you that big of a moron, Misaki?” Fushimi shook his head. “The trade route we're on is a popular target for smugglers. You can find hidden caches like this on uninhabited islands all around this part of the ocean.”

“Wait, so if these were hidden here by smugglers that means they have to come back for them sometime, right?” Yata said, eyes suddenly lighting up. “So we're saved! We just have to wait for--”

“Doubtful,” Fushimi cut him off sharply. “Look at the dust on those bottles. This cache has been abandoned for some time. The Kokujouji Trading Company's been chasing down scum like this for the last few years. The smugglers who hid this are probably still rotting away in a prison cell on an island miles from here.”

“So what do we do?” Yata argued. “I'm not just gonna give up and die a pathetic death on an island like this! Mikoto-san--”

“Mikoto-san?” Fushimi snorted. “You think he'll come to save you, huh, Misaki?” Fushimi smiled widely at the way Yata's eyes narrowed in anger. “Don't make me laugh. That man is probably too busy getting drunk in a ditch to even know you're missing.”

“Don't say that kind of shit about Mikoto-san!” Yata said. “He's probably already looking for me. Better than those asshole Blues who've probably already given you up for dead!”

“Fine by me,” Fushimi said coldly, turning away. His coat really did feel too heavy, but somehow he wasn't cold anymore – hot now, too hot, and the sun wouldn't stop shining. “The smugglers may be gone but this is still a popular trade route. If I can get a signal fire going it should be easy to catch a passing ship and get them to take me back to port.” He paused, leaning back to glance at Yata. “Ah, but you can't do that, can you Misaki? After all, everyone knows what traders like to do with filthy pirates.” He tugged on his wristband, the one covering the tell-tale tattoo.

He knew he'd made a miscalculation when the anger in Yata's eyes faded slightly, becoming clouded by guilt. Fushimi clicked his tongue again, irritated, and began to walk back down the beach.

It was really stupid, Misaki still feeling guilty about that. After all this time and all Fushimi had done to make Yata hate him, it was intolerable that Yata should still feel bad about a stupid mark that Fushimi had allowed to be put on him by his own free will. It was better than that other mark, at least, and Fushimi reached up to scratch at the burn on his chest.

“Hey. Saruhiko.” Yata grabbed roughly at his shoulder then and Fushimi immediately tried to push him off. Yata's hand remained firm, however, and suddenly Fushimi found himself pushed down into the sand, Yata's hands pulling at his coat.

“Misaki, what the hell are you--” Fushimi tried to slap his hands away but Yata's grip remained strong.

“You've been shaking ever since we got on land,” Yata said, voice irritated in that fondly familiar way that set Fushimi's teeth on edge. “Just take the damn coat off already and rest a minute, okay?”

“I don't need to be taken care of,” Fushimi sneered. “Especially not by pirate scum like you, Misaki.”

“Yeah, I thought you'd say that.” Yata laughed ruefully and something in his voice made Fushimi's hands start to shake again. “Just sit there for a bit and let me take care of everything, all right? I'll go get some wood and you can start up a fire so we can dry off.”

“Tch.” Fushimi clicked his tongue and hunched his shoulders, but he stayed sitting in the sand as Yata moved to stand. “Isn't fire your specialty, Misaki? Don't tell me you delinquents don't even carry a tinderbox for times like this?”

“Mine got lost in the water,” Yata said, a trifle sheepishly. “Anyway, you've still got something, right?”

Fushimi looked away rather than answer, even as one hand slipped into of the hidden pockets of his half-removed coat.

“And then once we're all warmed up, I guess it'll be time for some fun!” Yata continued and Fushimi raised an eyebrow. Yata only smiled, glancing over at the still-opened hatch with a significant look.

“You moron,” Fushimi said darkly. “I'm not getting drunk, especially not on old disgusting rum and especially not with you.”

“Don't be such a priss, Saruhiko,” Yata said. “Come on, look at all of it! We can't just let it sit there without trying it!”

“Last I remember Kusanagi-san didn't let you have alcohol,” Fushimi said pointedly. He smirked. “It wasn't for children, remember?”

“Sh—shut up!” Yata said. “Anyway, I'm not a kid anymore, so I'll have rum if I want to. You can join me or you can sit there and sulk.”

“Suit yourself.” Fushimi leaned his head on one arm and looked away. He heard Yata sigh, followed by the sound of his footsteps moving down the beach.

Fushimi turned his head slightly to watch Yata go, rubbing at his arms to try and restore some warmth into them. He sighed and shrugged off the rest of his wet coat.

Fine, he'd start a fire. But he certainly wasn't getting drunk, no matter what Misaki said.

“Never shall we die....!” Yata sang at the top of his lungs as he took another deep drink from the bottle in his hand. It tasted a little bitter going down but there was a pleasant flush spreading from his stomach up to his face, and it even made being stuck on desert island with a the stupid monkey seem palatable.

Speaking of which, Fushimi was still sitting against a tree on the other side of the bonfire they'd built, sprawled out on his drying blue coat with a half-empty bottle in his hand. He'd been quiet and bad-tempered all afternoon while Yata had done all the hard work of dragging tree branches from around the island and liberating the rum from its hidden cache. He'd even ended up starting the fire because Fushimi's hands had been too numb to get the tinderbox to work.

That was what happened when someone joined the stupid Royal Navy, Yata supposed. When Saruhiko had been a pirate – a proper pirate, one of the dread crew of Homra who everyone knew not to mess with – he'd been fine with blowing holes through things and setting stuff on fire. Then he'd left–

He'd left–

Yata felt irritated all of a sudden and he took another drink from the bottle. He didn't know why Kusanagi was always telling him that he was too young to drink. He'd lost track of how many bottles he'd gotten through and he was totally fine, except for the heat in his face and the way the island kept spinning randomly whenever he walked too much.

“Hey, monkey!” Yata waved a hand towards Fushimi, who ignored him. “Come on, Saruhiko, stop sulking over there!” Fushimi didn't reply and Yata finally threw the half-empty bottle at him.

His aim was poor and the bottle missed its mark by a good three feet. Yata cursed and then spat in the sand, because that seemed like a proper pirate thing to do. His steps were definitely swaying a little as he stumbled over to where Fushimi sat, flopping down into the sand beside him.

“Are you ignoring me, monkey?” Yata leaned forward and finally Fushimi turned to look at him with cold eyes. His face seemed maybe a little flushed but it was hard to tell if it was from drink or just the remains of a sunburn. Fushimi had always been susceptible to stuff like that, sunburns and heatstroke and everything that pirates should be able to deal with. Yata had never gotten sick a day in his life (unless someone counted a brief bout of seasickness on their first voyage by ship, but that had been a crappy little merchant vessel and they'd stowed away in the hold anyhow so of course the trip had been a little rougher than expected. He'd still been better off than Saruhiko, who had been deathly pale the whole way and was suffering pretty badly from dehydration before they'd even reached land. If Homra hadn't taken the ship they'd been on and found the two of them huddled there together in the cargo hold who knew if they would've even made it to port at all).

“Very good, Misaki,” Fushimi said mockingly and Yata scowled at the use of his first name. No matter how often he'd told Fushimi not to use it the asshole had always ignored him. It was all right when it had been just the two of them, but once they'd joined Homra Yata'd had an image to maintain and 'Misaki' was definitely no name for a pirate. “You actually noticed something. I am ignoring you, because I'm not interested in listening to the drunken rambles of a soused pirate.”

“I'm not drunk!” Yata insisted, even as he found himself staring at his bottle of rum lying in the sand a few feet away and wondering if it was worth getting up to see if there was any alcohol that hadn't spilled out. The bonfire in front of them was still burning merrily and the flames were making his eyes feel a little sore so he looked back at Fushimi instead. “Anyway, you had some too, right? It's definitely really good rum. Well I haven't had rum before but it smelled pretty good when Kusanagi-san and everyone were drinking it and this stuff smelled good too, so I bet it's just the same. You probably don't ever get to do that kind of stuff though, huh monkey? You fancy-pants Blues probably wander around town being all uptight and arresting people for fun, right?”

“That's right,” Fushimi muttered, tone heavy with mockery. “In fact, if I hadn't ended up marooned with a moron I would be doing that right now.” He smiled widely. “Arresting fucking pirates.”

“Hmmph.” Yata slammed a fist into the sand. “I don't want to hear that shit from someone like you. You can bow your head to that fruity guy in the feathery hat all you want, you've still got that mark on you, you're still one of us.” Yata's hands clenched in the sand, letting it run through his fingers. “You're still...”

“Don't lump me in with the likes of you.” Fushimi half-tossed his own bottle of rum towards Yata. Dimly Yata thought that maybe it looked a little too full for all the flush on Fushimi's face but he ignored the feeling and took a deep drink instead.

“But you are 'the likes of me,' right?” Yata fiddled with the neck of the bottle. “Deny it all you want, monkey. You're not one of those guys, not really.”

“Better there than where I was before.” Fushimi's voice was low and murmuring, and he pulled his knees up close to rest his head on them. “You wouldn't get it, would you Misaki? I was never a part of that place, not from the moment we set foot on that ship.”

“You slipped anyway,” Yata murmured thoughtfully, staring down into the bottle. “Remember? Because we weren't used to being on the deck of the ship.”

“Tch.” Fushimi clicked his tongue. “You're remembering wrong, you drunk idiot. You slipped, remember? Because you were acting like a thoughtless moron and tried to race me onto the ship. Then when I grabbed you I got pulled down with you and we both looked like idiots.”

“Yeah, but at least we were together?” Yata laughed quietly, even though suddenly it didn't seem so funny. “And you got sunstroke the first time we went out. Totsuka-san made me take you below decks and cool you down.”

“At least I didn't almost drown in the shallows getting off the longboat for the first time,” Fushimi said. “Honestly, Misaki, what kind of idiot decides to be a pirate without learning how to swim first?”

“I can swim fine now!” Yata said defensively. “I'd just...nobody ever taught me before, okay? We can't all have fancy private tutors.”

Fushimi got quiet then and Yata winced slightly; he hadn't intended to bring that up.

“Anyway, you taught me how to swim after that so it was fine,” Yata said quickly. He paused, looking back towards the fire. “I guess I never thanked you for that, huh? Well, thanks, Saruhiko.”

“That was a long time ago.” Fushimi rolled his eyes. “Why the hell would I want your thanks now?”

“Because I wanted to thank you.” Yata shrugged. He found his eyes drifting back to look towards the fire and his whole body felt suddenly heavy. “Saruhiko...why'd you have to leave?”

Fushimi didn't reply, but his figure stiffened slightly.

“Come on, Saruhiko. We're stuck on a fucking deserted island with nothing but a bunch of bottles of rum and a pistol with one shot, can't you at least fucking answer me honestly for once?”

“I've already answered you,” Fushimi said darkly. “How many times do I have to say it, Misaki? I got tired of hanging out with a bunch of lowlife scum who won't ever amount to anything. Unlike you, I'm not a child anymore. I grew up and realized that the world was bigger than a stinking ship, the end of a hangman's noose and a brand that doesn't go away.”

Yata's eyes were immediately drawn to Fushimi's wrist and Fushimi was clearly aware of it, because he moved his hand away and pulled down the collar of his shirt instead, letting Yata see what remained of the Homra tattoo.

“This is my answer, Misaki,” Fushimi said coldly. “I don't need something like this, to mark me as another man's property. I'll make my own way, get stronger. Maybe once you've grown up a little you'll realize that too. I'm sure I can find a place for you on one of the Royal Navy's ships. We can always use someone to swab the deck.”

“Like I would ever want to join you Blue dogs,” Yata spat. The fuzzy feeling in his head was starting to make him feel a little nauseous, or maybe it was just Fushimi's words cutting through the haze and the drink. Impulsively he took the bottle Fushimi had given him and in one gulp downed the entire remaining contents. The alcohol burned going down his throat, but it was better than the burning in his eyes whenever he stared at Saruhiko. “You're not one of them, Saruhiko. Those assholes with their—their stupid rules and codes and fancy uniforms – and that guy, that Captain of yours and his dumbass hat with the big feather, what the hell is up with that? You wouldn't see Mikoto-san in a shitty hat like that.”

“Burned it,” Fushimi muttered. He'd dropped his head and was mumbling the words into his shirt collar.


“The hat.” Fushimi didn't look up and his voice was still sullen. “I burned it. Twice. He got another one.”

“See? That's why you need to get away from that guy,” Yata said. “And that stupid fancy ship of yours, that's not a real ship. Mikoto-san and Kusanagi-san built Homra with their own sweat and blood, I bet the Blue Captain got his passed down from his rich fancy parents or something. And—and--and you've got that woman as the first mate, everyone knows that's bad luck on a ship, you're gonna end up sunk one day.”

“That's a superstition,” Fushimi said. “And what do you think Anna is?”

“That's—that's different.” Yata waved a hand vaguely, not caring that he was still holding the now-empty bottle. “Anna's not a woman, she's just a kid.”

“She's still a girl,” Fushimi said. “You see? Only stupid pirates believe that kind of drivel, about women being bad luck on a ship. You probably think whistling on a ship will summon a storm, don't you?”

“D-do not!” Yata said quickly (not that he was intending to tempt fate by trying something like that, but that was totally different than believing in superstitions. And besides, wasn't Saruhiko always the one talking about being careful and stuff?). “Anyway, that's not the point. The point is, you don't belong with those Blue dogs. You belong back with me—with us, I mean.”

“I don't need to hear that from someone who doesn't understand a thing,” Fushimi said. “Belong? You think I ever wanted to belong with a bunch of stinking pirates? You know what happens to pirates in the end, don't you, Misaki?” With a sudden vicious glare Fushimi pulled off one of his wristbands so that Yata could see the bare skin below, still marred as it always would be with a thick black brand. Pirate.

“Saruhiko...” Yata swallowed hard, throat suddenly dry.

He remembered that day, of course. The memory was enough to even cut through the alcohol-induced haze in his mind, the day the two of them had been out doing a supply run for Mikoto and been caught by the Hirasaka Company. Thrown into the town jail for two days, plotting their escape, knowing that by the time word of their capture reached Mikoto it would probably be too late. And then on the day they planned to escape, the two of them were dragged out in public so that the smirking master of the ship could mark them as pirates before sending them to representatives of the Royal Navy who would be arriving within hours. Fushimi telling Yata the plan in a hushed whisper, ignoring Yata's refusals to agree to such a thing, ignoring Yata's pleas to let himself be the distraction instead. By the time he'd gotten out of his bonds and grabbed Fushimi away from the men, by the time the two of them had stolen a ship belonging to the same man who'd caught them, it was too late. Yata could still remember it, the grim smile on Fushimi's face as he clutched at his arm, in obvious pain but not willing to show it, and Yata unable to contain the horror on his own face when he saw what those guys had done to Saruhiko.

Homra'd gotten their revenge for it, of course. Three ships from the Hirasaka Company raided and sunk, the sailors sent home in rags to tell their master who had done it. Even now as far as Yata was concerned that had never been enough to pay back for the mark they'd laid on Saruhiko, that even if he set their entire fleet on fire and brought down the big stone building the company head lived in, it would never be enough to compensate for that strained smile on Saruhiko's face.

“I should've protected you.” Yata didn't even quite realize he'd said it out loud until he heard his own voice. “I promised, didn't I? When I took you away from that place. I said I'd take care of you and...”

“Idiot.” Fushimi's voice was just a whisper, the bitterness and malice from before completely gone. “I didn't need you to protect me. Don't need you to protect me.”

“Yeah you do,” Yata muttered, lowering his head into his arms. “You still don't eat your vegetables ever, do you? And I've seen you with sunburns all the time, because you don't stay out of the sun like you're supposed to. You never could take care of yourself, monkey.”

“I'm doing fine,” Fushimi said, voice sounding somehow hollow to Yata's ears. “I've never needed you to fight my battles for me, Misaki. This...” He looked down at his bare wrist. “I chose this on my own. Don't get so full of yourself as to think it was something you had any say in at all.”

“You should've let me be the one to take it,” Yata said. The air felt stale around him all of a sudden and it was hard to breathe. “It should've been me to get that mark, not you. It was all my fault we got caught and you...”

“I didn't do it for you,” Fushimi said, but there was something stiff about his tone and Yata couldn't quite bring himself to look up at him. “It just made more sense with the plan, that's all. You're too much of an idiot to use a lockpick and I couldn't reach my own lock, so I had to get off your chains first.”

“But I could've—I could've done something,” Yata said. “I could've...fought those guys off, or something. I could've jumped the guy holding the keys and gotten you free first and then--”

“And then you would've been shot in the head before you could even reach me,” Fushimi said. There was an almost practiced coldness to his voice now, as if he was performing lines in a play. Yata felt like he should have something to say about that but his head was pounding all of a sudden, spikes of pain coupled with the beating of his heart and the fire burning in his veins.

“I told you I'd take you away, remember?” Yata murmured. “I said I'd take you away from that place and then I got you—because of me, you were--”

“It's nothing, Misaki.” It wasn't quite a dismissal but it wasn't really a comfort either. “It was my choice to take this the same way it was my choice to take your hand that time. Stop crying about it like a child.”

“I'm not crying!” Yata snapped, finally raising his head and ignoring the way his eyes were still stinging. “Damn it Saruhiko, why do you have to be such an asshole all the time?”

“I don't need to hear a stinking pirate lecture me on my attitude,” Fushimi said darkly, but there was something slightly more genuine in his smile. “I got tired of hearing you cry about it the day that it happened.” His eyes darkened and Fushimi's hands inched towards his collar. “This mark wasn't the one that burned me. I never regretted it. I won't regret it.”

“Saruhiko...” Yata found himself leaning in closer. “Why'd you really leave?”

“You already asked me that today,” Fushimi said. “And I already answered you.”

“Yeah and it was a shitty answer,” Yata said. “You can just tell me the real reason, you know. I'm wanted for fucking kidnapping because of you, you could at least give me an honest answer when I ask shit.”

“You're not, anymore,” Fushimi said, almost offhandedly.


“You're not wanted for kidnapping anymore.” Fushimi rolled his eyes. “Do you ever even read the letters your mother sends you? The Captain took care of that months ago.”

“You never said – hey! How the hell do you know what kind of letters my mother sends me?” It felt strange all of a sudden, to be talking to Fushimi like they were friends again.

“Because she asked me how you were, when the Captain went to inform the constable that the 'kidnapped' child left all by himself and was under the care of the Royal Navy now.” Fushimi scratched at the dark spot under his color, the shadow where Yata knew the burn lay hidden even if he couldn't quite see it. “I told her you were still as stupidly enthusiastic as always.”

“Yeah, well, I don't need to hear that from the guy I kidnapped,” Yata muttered.

“That house was empty.” Fushimi's voice made Yata look up sharply. His voice was strangely distant and Yata moved closer again, struck by the sudden feeling that Fushimi was drifting away from him even though he hadn't moved so much as an inch. “No one's lived there for a long time, someone told me. They cut down the tree.”

“Cut down our tree, huh...” It felt a little sad somehow, and Yata shook his head sharply. “Well, we'll just have to go back there and plant a new one, right?”

“Tch. Don't be a sentimental idiot,” Fushimi said, the usual bitterness creeping back into his voice. “It was just a tree. That's all.”

“Still, it was ours, right?” Yata shrugged. “I took you away from that place, just like I said I would. how'd we end up like this?”

“We ended up like this because a moron broke in on my attempt at arresting pirates,” Fushimi drawled and Yata glared at him.

“That's not what I meant and you know it,” he said. “Saruhiko...I meant everything I said then, you know. I wanted to take you out of that place. I wanted us to go somewhere together, to do awesome things and see the whole world and everything. Didn't you want it too? Didn't you—didn't you want to see the whole ocean with me?”

“Don't ask stupid questions,” Fushimi said, his tone indicating that it was a non-answer and he knew it but he didn't intend to give Yata a better one either. “The ocean's too wide for one person to see all of it anyway.”

“Yeah, but there were two of us, right?” Yata couldn't help the sad smile winding its way across his face. “I've seen a lot of stuff, though. Stuff I never thought I'd ever get to see, when I was living in that cruddy town. I mean, it was kinda scary at first – when we stowed away on that first ship and it was all dark and stuffy and I thought you were going to...” He shook his head, letting the memory fall away. “But it's been even better than I thought it would be. Getting to sail around with Mikoto-san, exploring – it's been the most amazing thing that could have happened to me.”

“You got your wish, then,” Fushimi said acidly, the sudden tension obvious in his shoulders as he tried to look away. Yata grabbed his arm maybe a little too roughly, pulling him forward so that they were face to face, close enough that he could see the firelight reflecting in Saruhiko's eyes.

“It's not the same, though,” Yata said forcefully. “I wanted to see all that with you, you idiot! So why did—why did you have to—”

“I didn't belong there.” The words seemed to drag themselves out of Fushimi's throat, low and guttural, and his eyes never left Yata's as he spoke. “I never belonged in that place. So I left.”

“Bullshit,” Yata said. He was dimly aware that he was still gripping tightly to Fushimi's arm, that it had to hurt and if he didn't let go he was probably going to leave a bruise. But it felt like if he let go Fushimi would go away somehow, would disappear from in front of him and Yata would never have a chance to talk with him like this again. “You were always one of us, Saruhiko. You were my partner. You were–”

“No,” Fushimi said softly. “I wasn't, was I, Misaki? I saw the way you looked at him, all the time. Pirates are always chasing after valuable things to steal without even knowing if they really exist or not. I just left to find something concrete, something I could hold in my hands, that's all.”

“Saruhiko...” They were still close, so close, the smell of alcohol in Yata's breath mingling with the scent of ocean water lingering in Fushimi's hair, and the fires burned in both their eyes. “Weren't we concrete, though? We were always something real. Wasn't that enough?”

“It was always enough for me,” Fushimi said, words so soft Yata almost couldn't hear them. “You're the one who changed, Misaki. You wouldn't climb trees for me anymore.”

“The hell I wouldn't,” Yata said. “I changed? Who the fuck are you to say that, when you're the one who left me first?”

“No,” Fushimi said. He seemed to be struggling for the words, face still flushed, hands fluttering towards his collar and his wrist and all those marks on his body that Yata wanted to press his own hands over as if he could heal them with touch alone. “You left, Misaki. I've been waiting in the shallows forever. You're the one who ran out into the ocean and never looked back.”

“If I didn't look back, it's because I thought you were next to me,” Yata said, grasping for Fushimi's hands. “Saruhiko...come back. Come back with me.”

“If you're idiot enough to ask me that then you still don't understand anything.” The bitterness was back in Fushimi's voice but it was old and tired, not the rich mocking tones Yata was so used to. “I won't take a half-hearted thing. I won't be second to anyone, not with you.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Yata's eyes narrowed. “You were never--”

“I was,” Fushimi said, absolute certainty in his voice. “I always was. I could see it, even if you couldn't.”

“Then help me see it,” Yata said fiercely. “If I stop looking, yell at me until I see. I'm an idiot, so I never notice stuff until it's too late. That's why you can't stop talking to me like this. If you just keep walking away without saying anything, how am I ever supposed to notice?”

“It's not important.”

“If it wasn't important, you wouldn't have left.” Yata found himself moving even closer to Fushimi and Fushimi moved backwards just slightly away from him, both of them almost lying on Fushimi's blue coat. “I want you to come back but I'm never gonna understand why you won't if you don't ever say it.”

“It won't matter either way,” Fushimi said. “I won't go back there, Misaki. Not to that stinking ship full of morons who don't understand how the world works.”

“Then I'll steal you away again,” Yata murmured. There was a fog in his head, alcohol and fire and Saruhiko so near to him and still too far away, and he wasn't even quite certain what he was saying. “You just said that's what pirates do, right? Steal valuable stuff. So if you won't come back I'll just...plunder you, or whatever.”

“Idiot.” Fushimi clicked his tongue again. “I'm not a valuable thing.”

“Yeah you are.” It made him want to laugh, somehow, but Yata leaned forward instead. “To me, you were always...always, the most valuable thing...”

Fushimi didn't answer but his fists clenched. He didn't turn away though, firelight in those eyes that had always seemed so cold to people who didn't know where to look to find the warmth, and Yata felt his own words die in his throat. The distance between them was only a breath and it suddenly seemed pointless not to cross it, so without even another word Yata moved forward to catch Fushimi's mouth with his own.

Fushimi made a soft surprised sound in his throat as Yata's mouth pressed against his and for a moment Yata was certain that he would pull away. But a second later the hesitation seemed to melt away and Fushimi's eyes slid closed as he forcefully returned the kiss, not offering so much as a token resistance as Yata moved forward and pushed him down so that they were both stretched out on top of Fushimi's blue coat, Yata on top and Fushimi below.

“Ah...” Fushimi breathed into Yata's mouth, back arching slightly as Yata's fingers fumbled for the buttons of his shirt, hands sliding against bare skin, bodies pressing close together, neither one breaking the kiss. Yata's head was buzzing with the sudden sensory overload, with the sense of Fushimi's mouth and Fushimi's skin, hyper aware of the body moving underneath his.

The fire was still blazing behind them and burning in Yata's veins, and Yata surrendered himself to the heat.

Fushimi stirred lightly, wincing as he opened his eyes. His head hurt.

He was lying stretched out on his wrinkled blue coat and the sky above was the pale blue-gray of a barely risen sun. He shivered slightly in the pre-dawn cold, fingers moving sluggishly to button his open shirt.

That was when he realized that Yata was fast asleep beside him, one hand still holding tightly to Fushimi's.

Fushimi sat up abruptly, trying to ignore the way the movement made his head spin, and he tugged frantically on his hand to free it. Yata mumbled a little in his sleep and rolled over, unperturbed.

“I'll steal you away again.” Yata's words rang in his head and Fushimi scowled even as he pressed one hand to his mouth.

“Stupid.” He didn't even know which one of them he was saying it to. He wasn't Misaki, he hadn't drunk near enough to be able to blame his actions on the alcohol. It was just that with Yata so close to him, eyes wide and sincere, saying all those words that reminded Fushimi of when they were both young and together...he'd almost let himself believe again, that was all.

“Come with me.” He still remembered it. He always remembered it. That big empty house with what seemed like hundreds of rooms but no people at all, the steady parade of nannies and tutors and servants who treated him like a chore to be completed and then disappeared out the door without a word afterward. He was the fancy parrot, paraded out only to entertain the guests and then placed back into the cage without another look.

Every day the same, cold and empty, until a scrawny red haired kid had climbed a tree beside his window and held out a hand to him.

“Come with me.” As if Fushimi was an idiot, as if he'd so easily take any hand that was offered to him. But Yata had come back the next day and the next until Fushimi found himself staring out the window all the time, waiting for the sight of that outstretched hand. The first time he'd jumped from his window into the branches of the tree it had been exhilarating and terrifying, and Yata had caught him as he'd landed.

It wasn't as though that was something he'd cherished. It was only that his world then had been very small and Yata had made it bigger.

Fushimi reached up to scratch distractedly at the burn on his chest. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that he hadn't pulled his wristband back on and the pirate brand was still clearly visible on his bare wrist.

He clicked his tongue irritably and pulled the wrist band back up to cover the mark as he stood on unsteady legs. The fire had nearly died and he took a stumbling step forward towards it, still scratching at his burn.

In the pre-dawn light he could just make out a shadow moving in the water and Fushimi froze. He glanced back at Yata, still fast asleep, and then moved a few steps down the beach, trying to get a better look at the ship passing by the island.

There was a golden flag flying from its helm, and Fushimi paused.

He recognized that flag, of course. Everyone who sailed in this area knew about the Kokujouji Trading Company – they all but owned half the towns in this part of the ocean and even the Royal Navy had been known to yield to the decisions of the family head. Fushimi had only met the old man who ran the company once, dragged along to some formal meeting by Munakata. He'd been dead bored the entire time, listening to the two men make small talk and drink tea, but Munakata had apparently gotten something out of it because he'd asked Fushimi his impressions later. Fushimi had stated that he didn't see the point in the meeting at all and Munakata had only replied with a mild “Is that so?” and a smile before suggesting they return to the ship.

Fushimi glanced back at the bonfire. It had gone down considerably and with the way the sky had lightened the small remaining fire was probably not even visible from Kokujouji's ship, especially since they wouldn't be looking for people on such small uninhabited islands. If Fushimi intended to be rescued his best course of action would be to re-light the fire as quickly as he could, to make their presence known so the ship could come and rescue them.

The Kokujouji Trading Company wouldn't be pleased to see pirates, of course, no one whose livelihood depending on their valuables making it from one port to another had any love for the people whose livelihood was composed of taking those valuables. Fushimi had his coat, of course, the uniform of the Royal Navy, but the brand on his wrist would be a problem. Even so, that wasn't really an issue as far as Fushimi could see. Even if they took him in as a pirate there was a chance old man Kokujouji would recognize him and even if not, the coat and his word would be enough to keep him safe until Munakata could arrive and vouch for him.

He'd probably be irritating about it too, Fushimi thought with a grimace. Munakata would be sure to arrive in the most dramatic style he could manage, wearing the stupid floppy hat with its largest sparkling white feather, making small talk with the company head while in the background First Mate Awashima would hand Kokujouji's men a few coins and apologize for her subordinate's bad behavior. It would be annoying and embarrassing but still, better than starving to death on an island, better than sitting there while Misaki offered him up the pistol with its single shot. Having to stew in a cell for a few days until his word could be verified was certainly better than remaining where he was.

Yata wouldn't be so lucky, of course. Even if Fushimi tried to stretch the truth and include Yata as a comrade of his there was no way Yata would stay quiet and pretend to be a member of the Blue dogs he hated so much. He'd proclaim it at the top of his lungs instead, that he was a crew member of the pirate ship Homra, that his only Captain was Suoh Mikoto. Even if pretending to be a member of the Royal Navy would save his life Misaki would reject such a thing completely.

The pirate ship Homra and her Captain Suoh Mikoto, and Fushimi smiled bitterly. He knew that ship too, every inch of it, red sails and Yata's smile as he climbed up the rigging with ease. Fushimi standing there on the deck below, barely able to keep his feet, sick from the heat and the sun and the movement of the boat. Watching Yata run up to speak excitedly to Suoh Mikoto as Fushimi stared out into the water and tried to ignore the voice in the back of his head always whispering that he wasn't made for oceans, he was made for big lonely townhouses with empty rooms and locked doors and no open sky at all.

It was different, being in the Royal Navy, being on Munakata's ship. The sun still made him ill, the winds were still too warm, he still couldn't sleep well with the rocking movement of the boat. But he could breathe, he could feel the ocean as it moved beneath the ship, he could smell the sea water in the air and all the words that had always been lodged heavy in his lungs while at Homra could finally be spoken.

It was only that Misaki wasn't there anymore, and he would get used to that. Eventually, he was certain that he would get used to that.

The ship was still moving in the distance, slow and leisurely, clearly in no hurry. There was still time to re-light the fire. There was still time for Fushimi to save himself, if only he surrendered Yata to the fate all pirates had to meet eventually.

“To me, you were always...always, the most valuable thing...”

He could still hear Misaki's words in his head, feel Misaki's lips on his, skin still tingling with the remains of Misaki's touch, and Fushimi clicked his tongue again as he turned away from the ship.

The fire dwindled behind him, and Fushimi laid back down beside Yata and went back to sleep.

“Well, well. It seems we have found our wayward crewmates after all.”

The familiar voice roused Fushimi from the depths of sleep. He blinked slowly, head feeling heavy and dull, and all of a sudden he realized whose voice he was hearing and sat up abruptly.

“Captain?” Fushimi blinked owlishly for a moment, wincing at the brightness of the sun. His headache had not deteriorated at all from when he'd woken earlier and his mouth tasted like sand. Yata was still fast asleep beside him and there were two men leaning over them in the shade of the trees.

Munakata smiled brilliantly at Fushimi, one hand on his hip and his stupid floppy hat bobbing with each movement. Beside him, Suoh Mikoto leaned on a tree and smoked, his usual bored expression only slightly pinched from the presence beside him.

“I suppose for once your unorthodox methods have borne fruit, Suoh.” Munakata's voice was outwardly pleasant but even slightly drowsy Fushimi could catch the undercurrent in it and he was certain Mikoto had as well, judging by the way the other man smirked slightly. “Of course, had you not seen fit to undertake such distasteful methods earlier and interrupted our investigation there would have been no need for such a thing.”

“Munakata, shut up.” Mikoto's voice was some mix of irritated and fond and Fushimi wondered if telling them to get a room would be out of line, especially considering how he'd spent the previous night.

“In any case, I am pleased to see you doing well, Fushimi-kun.” Munakata offered him a hand up and Fushimi took it, still feeling slightly disoriented. He glanced back down at his coat as if to pick it back up, except Yata was still asleep on top of it. “We apprehended Captain Hanegawa and his crew last night, after some slight interference from the crew of the ship Homra. He was able to give us some idea of your location so it seemed prudent to call a temporary truce until the two of you could be retrieved. I trust you managed all right?”

“More or less.” Fushimi rubbed at the back of his neck. His whole body felt suddenly stiff and he grimaced at the thought of going back to the ship and its uncomfortable beds. Maybe he could convince Munakata to go back to headquarters after this and finally get a decent sleep on his own mattress. “It was only one night. I figured someone would be by soon enough.”

“Indeed.” There was a knowing look in Munakata's eyes that Fushimi didn't quite like. “I must say, I am surprised that we were the first to find you. This is a popular trade route after all, and it seems like you must have set quite a bonfire here last night.”

It was still burning, barely, and Fushimi clicked his tongue. He was saved from having to reply by Yata's pained groan as he stirred.

“Ugh, my head...Saruhiko?” Yata shook his head as he sat up stiffly.

“Get off my coat,” Fushimi said coldly. “Your master's come to pick you up, Misaki.”

“What are you – Mikoto-san!” Yata immediately sat up straighter, eyes brightening as he caught sight of his Captain leaning over him. Fushimi felt his shoulders tense, fingers suddenly digging into the fabric of his pants.

It wasn't like he'd expected it to mean anything, what they had done last night. It wasn't as though he'd expected anything to change, not really.

“I told you he'd find us, Saruhiko!” Yata jumped to his feet, looking smug. He glanced over Mikoto's shoulder and waved at someone in the distance. “Kusanagi-san!”

Fushimi leaned to one side to get a better look down the beach. He could just make out two figures standing alongside the shore beside longboats, Kusanagi's loose posture at odds with the straight-backed stance of First Mate Awashima. Just beyond them Fushimi could see the shape of two ships, Homra and the Royal Navy's Scepter floating in the ocean side by side.

“Took you long enough,” Fushimi muttered, pulling his coat off the ground and grimacing at the amount of sand stuck to it. He felt too-aware of his skin somehow, still able to feel the ghost of Yata's fingers on him, and it made his face twist in distaste. Yata had already run halfway down the beach towards Kusanagi and Mikoto was following leisurely after, as though the presence of three high-ranking officers of the Royal Navy was no problem for him.

Yata's back was turned as well, away from Fushimi, eyes on the sun. Fushimi grit his teeth. The idiot had drunk so much the night before, he probably didn't even remember what had happened anyway.

None of it had mattered and it wasn't like he'd expected it to, wasn't like he'd expected anything at all. Fushimi's hand strayed towards the burn on his chest.

“Saruhiko!” Yata's voice made him pause, his head snapping up. Yata had turned away from his crewmates and walked a few steps back towards where Fushimi still stood by the tree and the dying fire. There was something almost nervous in Yata's eyes as he strode forward and somehow it made any mocking words Fushimi might have spoken die in his throat.

Yata stalked towards Fushimi, utterly ignoring the way Munakata was quietly observing him and the way his own Captain and First Mate had turned to watch him with looks of mild interest.

“Misaki--” Fushimi opened his mouth, not sure what to say but feeling as though he had to say something and that was when Yata reached out and grabbed him by the arm, pulling him forward into a kiss.

It wasn't like the one from the night before, that grasping desperate kiss that Fushimi hadn't been able to break away from. This kiss was slow but almost nervous, hesitant, as if even Yata hadn't been certain what he was going to do until the moment he'd done it.

A moment later it was over and Yata was stepping back again, hands on Fushimi's shoulders, forcing Fushimi to look at him.

Forcing Fushimi to look at him, and all that Fushimi could see reflected in Yata's eyes was himself.

“I meant it, okay.” Yata's voice was determined even though there was a definite flush of embarrassment staining his face. “What I said last night, I mean. You were always the most valuable thing, to me. And—and if anything happens to you, if those Blue assholes don't treat you right or anything, I'll come steal you away again, all right? I'll climb any tree you want, I'll climb the tallest tree in the entire damn country and I'll take you away again. So don't forget, okay?”

Then Yata was gone again, walking back down the beach towards where Mikoto and Kusanagi were waiting. Kusanagi looked somewhat amused at Yata's outburst but Mikoto's face was impassive as always. Halfway to the shore Yata stopped and turned around again, this time staring defiantly at Munakata as he spoke.

“Did you hear that, you asshole? You better take good care of Saruhiko or I'll steal him away from you, got it? I'm not letting you keep something that's mine forever. So you'd better not let anything happen to him!”

With that Yata was gone, trotting back towards the longboat.

Fushimi stared at Yata's retreating figure speechlessly. His ears felt hot and there was something fluttering in his chest that made it feel like the air had suddenly become too warm.

“My,” Munakata said in the silence, perfectly calm. “I believe you may have just been proposed to, Fushimi-kun.”

“Shut up,” Fushimi grit out. Munakata was still smiling proudly at him and Fushimi looked away, pulling his coat back around his shoulders to cover his embarrassment. “Let's get back to the ship already. I'm tired.”

“Of course.” Munakata's eyes were shining as he turned to walk back towards where Awashima was waiting. Fushimi found his eyes drawn to the bulk of the ship Homra floating in the distance, just a few feet from the Navy's own Scepter.

“Shouldn't we be going after Suoh Mikoto, Captain?” Fushimi asked. “I thought we were supposed to capture pirates, not ask for their help.”

“Perhaps,” Munakata said, not quite agreeing and not quite disagreeing either. “But the world is not so simple, I believe. The seas are not, after all, split evenly between the navy and pirates. I imagine you would know that better than most, Fushimi-kun.” Fushimi clicked his tongue and Munakata laughed quietly. “In any case, they did assist us in our search for you. That being so, I believe we can afford them a head start.”

“Hmmph.” Fushimi gave a noncommittal grunt in reply. He was still staring at Homra's ship, red sails unfurling in the warm light of the morning. Even from the distance he could see the boat returning to the ship from the island, and a small figure with red hair clambering up onto the deck.

He could still see it, in his mind's eye, a boy in a tree holding out a hand to him, and he could still taste the remains of Yata's kiss lingering on his lips.

“Steal me away again, huh?” Fushimi shook his head and smiled to himself, stepping forward towards the rising sun.