As he was led slowly up the stairs and onto the deck, Axel heard shouting and laughing. The crew was gathered around in a circle on the port side, and they appeared to be jostling each other. Some were even waving their swords.

"Alright, you thieving bilgerats! What's the ruckus?" Most of the crew went silent, turning to face their captain. A few men were still shoving in to the center of the circle.

Luxord stepped out from the side of the crowd, grinning widely.

"Found a few stowaways on the boat, Sir. Females," he chuckled. "'Think it's bad luck to keep em aboard, but some of these lot think it'd be rude to waste this opportunity." A number of the men nudged each other and smirked knowingly.

"Aye, Sir. It's be a long time since we had a go," Seifer said, approaching them. "Cut us a break. We want to have some fun."

Demyx made a face at the idea, but if it perturbed Axel, the man didn't show it. He turned back to the general mob, motioning for Demyx to do the same.

"Make room." When some of them hesitated, he snapped. "Move you scum! That's an order!"

Demyx towed him through to the center, where the girl in question was waiting. As the folds of burly men around her parted, she jerked up the left sleeve of her shirt, hiding the pale skin of her shoulder. Axel saw that she was young; a dark-haired girl with a round face and familiar blue eyes...

"Want some? Come get some! Go on! I dare you!" The captain's attention snapped up, seeing the girl clinging to another young woman. This one looked to be in her early twenties; a blonde with slicked back hair and two strands that stood up like antenna. She and the other girl were dressed simply, although their clothing seemed wet and torn in places. The woman's eyes were an electric blue, narrowed and calculating. She looked right up at the captain without fear, and Axel saw the glint of a dagger in her hidden hand.

"There will be no need for that," he said simply, a trace of mocking in his tone. "Do you think you can fight this whole crew on your own?"

"Better to go down fighting than be subject to your sick whims!" The blonde replied, using her free arm to draw the smaller girl to her side. "I'd sooner throw myself to the sharks than go with scum like you!"

A chuckle startled its way out of Axel's throat, and with it came of flood of laughter from the crew. As the women looked on, one terrified, the other angry and confused, the captain cleared his throat. "You need not worry about me." After a pause, making it clear he would not elaborate, Axel continued. "I apologize for the rough welcome. My crew has been...lonely this past voyage." Several men chuckled, and the blonde woman tightened her hold on the other. "Have no fear. They'll not harm you."


"You're daft, Captain!" Several groans preceded around the circle. Luxord cleared his throat over the rising hum.

"Sir, to keep these two on board is a curse. Should we not-"

"Shut it!" Demyx jumped a little as the shout echoed in his ear. Piercing green eyes cast over the crowd. They begrudgingly silenced, some choosing to leave the gathering altogether. "These two will not be touched. They'll get the brig until we find somewhere more suitable to dump them. End of story."

Luxord and Xaldin nodded, moving to grab them. The blonde stepped back and flashed the knife, but before she could lunge, Xaldin caught her arm and dealt a swift blow to her head. The dark-haired girl cried out as she fell to the floor, cowering back from the pirates until Axel motioned Demyx to move him forward. The other crew members slowly returned to their duties, muttering as they went.

"Don't worry," Axel said, as kindly as he could. Hurting women was not his way. It made him think too much on the past... "I promise I won't hurt you, so long as you won't talk."

The girl still looked nervous, but nodded, stooping to check on her friend. Almost as an afterthought, the captain asked, "What are your names?"

"X-Xion, Sir." She bowed her head shallowly, eyes everywhere but on her captor. "Larxene is friend. We snuck onto that ship so that we could go to Dromida."

"Dromida?" That was halfway across the ocean. "Well, why did you not buy a ship for the journey?"

"W-We are poor, Sir," Xion said softly. "Neither of us could afford a suitable ship for that distance. So we took a chance and snuck aboard."

Axel nodded. It was a reasonable idea, he supposed. From their clothes, he guessed the women had little to spare. Merchant ships traveled to almost all parts of the world. This one hovering around Celias seemed a bit odd though. "Where are you from?"

"With all do respect, Sir, I'd rather not say."

"Oh?" Axel raised a thin eyebrow. "Well, I suppose it's of no consequence. I can't promise you an easy ticket to Dromida, but I can let you off as close as I can once our business is concluded." Xion looked curious but didn't press him about it. She was still amidst pirates, after all.

Xaldin hoisted the unconscious blonde into his arms and began walking off towards the brig. Xion looked dismayed, but stopped as Luxord took her arm.

"It's a formality, miss. You'll have to forgive me," Axel said matter-of-factly. "You two may stay together, but the cell bars are as far as you go. Food and blankets will be brought by later. For now, go with them. I'm going to retire to my cabin." With that, Demyx nodded and began helping back the way he had come. The girl nodded, allowing herself to be quietly led away.

"Shouldn't I be taking you down to Vexen?"

The redhead grimaced. "I'm tired. These wounds do not require much. If Vexen cannot carry what he needs up to my cabin, then I will seek him out in his lair. For right now, I want to rest."

Axel ignored the glares he received as he limped along. He was all too aware of his growing unpopularity with the crew; this had not been a step in the right direction. But he couldn't have done much else, besides throw the women overboard. Leaving them at the mercy of Seifer was the last thing he wanted to worry about. A man was nothing without his sense of morality, though he knew many pirates on this ship would disagree.

"Captain!" His head turned, only to find both Zexion and Marluxia briskly approaching from the lower deck.


"You look like hell, Captain." Marluxia chuckled. "I'll seek out Vexen and help him bring whatever he needs up." The captain rolled his eyes as his cook left, turning back to the purple-haired man.

"The cargo was indeed fur. We found some considerable jewels, though. Gold, rubies, even a few emeralds." Axel perked up at that. Emeralds were quite rare, and sold particularly well in smaller towns. Surely then he could cheer up the crew by funding a night on the town.

"Good, good. Anything else?"

The man snorted slightly. "A few dusty old books. I've taken the liberty of confiscating them for you."

Axel grinned. "Of course. I trust you'll examine them thoroughly for me?"

Zexion smiled. "It'd be my honor, Captain."

They parted ways shortly after, and Axel began to feel extremely weary. The wound in his leg was particularly painful with all this movement, but he grit his teeth and bore with it. Demyx took him back and sat him in his chair, crossing his arms and giving him a stern look.

"Get back to your work, Demyx. And keep an eye on those girls." Axel had a feeling that one or two of his good men would be needed to guard the brig from now on. He was sure that, if no one else, Seifer would try to get in there sometime soon.

"Don't you move from that spot til Vexen gets here."

Axel chuckled, raising his hand. "Sailor's honor." He watched the blonde go before sinking down in the chair, hissing softly.

"Honor," a dry voice scoffed from the other side of the room. "As if you'd know a thing about that."

The redhead grinned weakly. "So harsh, Blondie. Kicking a man when he's down?"

Roxas rolled his eyes. "Please. You're a far cry from death. Also, in case you haven't noticed, I don't have anything to kick you with." Axel chuckled as he saw the blue fish tail swish in a short motion. Then he groaned and shifted in his chair, and the merboy looked up, curious. "You didn't tell me what happened up there."

"Oh, the usual. Bit of a scuffle. I got nicked by a few stray shots, but you're right. It's nothing to cry over." It did hurt like hell, though. Axel was no medic, but he was also no stranger to pain and what it meant. The shot to his leg had missed most of the bone, but had no doubt nicked and fractured it a bit.

Roxas stared, transfixed, at his leg, seeing the blood there. Axel was almost sure he was in some kind of trance, because the minutes ticked on from there, and the merboy sat silently, staring a new hole in his bullet wound.

Then a thought struck the young captain. With some effort, he pulled himself from the chair and clumsily lugged it over to the tub. Roxas raised an eyebrow at the increased proximity, but his eyes widened as the wound came into clearer view. He said something softly that Axel couldn't decipher, but from the tone, he assumed it a curse.

A wet, cool hand pressed over the bullet hole and the redhead bit his lip, stifling a hiss. It would be worth it to stay still, though, if he learned something. Could the merboy be doing what he thought?

Unexpectedly, the blonde leaned forward and sealed his lips over the wound. Axel blinked and shifted uncomfortably as he felt a slight sucking pressure. It hurt a bit, but surprisingly did not bother him terribly. The hand returned to a different part of his leg, and Roxas seemed like he was bracing himself for a moment before his hand began to glow a faint blue.

"Ah." Axel watched, fascinated, as the boy's hand moved back and forth soothingly over the skin. He felt the trace of a tongue lapping at the blood for a moment, but the sucking did not stop until a few moments later, when Roxas pulled back with a faint popping sound. He then spat something into his other hand, and low and behold, it was a small, bloody bullet.

"How did you do that?" the redhead asked, gaping slightly. Roxas shrugged.

"My teacher never properly explained the process to me...but I think it involves manipulating the water in your cells. I can only command a little bit of water at a time, but I thought I could find what was buried in your leg and pull it out without hurting the structure of the leg itself."

Axel blinked. "Can you heal the wound?"

Roxas nodded shyly. "I can use a little magic, I think...But I'm not doing this for you!"

"Oh? Then what are you doing it for?"

The blonde pouted slightly, a slight blush to his cheeks. "To see the extent of my power. I've never had much course to test it before."

The captain hummed. "What makes you so sure I will let you? You could cripple me out of spite."

Roxas frowned and gave a shallow eye roll. "I wouldn't be so petty. You humans assume too much, just because your own cannot be trusted."

"And I assume all merfolk can be trusted?"

"Well, no, but..." Roxas stumbled slightly, then growled. "Fine. Point taken. Do you want me to heal you or not?"

The captain chuckled. "If you would, Roxy dear." He smirked at the growl, and shook his leg slightly. "Just the leg, or will you take a look at this too?" He shifted to expose his blood side.

"Both. Now shut up." The graze wound was much easier, but Axel had to grit his teeth every now and again as Roxas's magic stitched up his flesh. That was the only way to describe the feeling, as if the flesh was weaving together and reconnecting. It was hard to see how a simple spell and waving a hand could produce such an effect. But despite his curiosity, Axel dared not interrupt the blonde. Roxas worked with his eyes shut, murmuring softly in what was probably a different language entirely.

When he was finally finished, a knock came at the door. Axel looked up just as the merboy began lowering himself back into the tub, looking a bit weak.

"Give me a minute." The redhead turned back to Roxas, leaning over to feel his forehead. "Are you alright?"

A nod. "Yes. It's draining to use that spell for too long." Panting softly, Roxas smacked the man's hand away from him. "I'll be fine in a moment. Go."

The captain said nothing, moving instead to rise and greet his visitors. Vexen and Marluxia exclaimed in wonder to see that the wounds were now clean and healed, and as he ushered them away, Axel couldn't help but smile.

"I'll come for a check up later. Be gone. Go help with moving the cargo. We have to be out within the hour."