Chapter one – Curiosity killed the cat

'Common sense is not so common.'
– Voltaire

The town of Belmont was currently playing host to a crew of pirates.

And not just any pirates, if the whispers Lovino had been hearing on the street were correct, but the crew and Captain of the dreaded pirate ship The Scarlet Maiden.

The Scarlet Maiden was one of the three most feared ships in all the seven seas, the things legends and myths were made of. In fact, some did believe it to be a myth. The tales spoke of a ship whose bright red sails stood out starkly against the sky, whether it be the golden glow of an early morn, the shimmer blue of a breezy day or the endless blackness of storm.

The ship, it was said, would dock silently and then in mere hours entire towns would be wiped out, the pirates leaving naught but blood and carnage in their wake and a kind of stillness that belonged only to phantoms or the surreal feel of a dream.

Lovino didn't believe those rumours. It was ridiculous, tall tales told to frighten small children in a fucking stupid ass attempt to cease their bad behaviour. Because, really, that was the stuff of nightmares to most people.

However, myths and legends were called that for a reason. Whatever Lovino had heard of The Scarlet Maiden and her crew, it was surely exaggerated and even if they were docked in his town he wasn't all that worried. Belmont had had its fair share of pirates and they always came out fine and dandy. There was something pirate-repellent in this town that had always kept them safe and out of the way of plunderers and murderers.

So, Lovino felt more than comfortable to ease into the crowded tavern amidst gales of laughter and song, making his way easily though the clusters of pirates sprawled effortlessly around circular wooden tables as they drank alcohol as if it were water and, indeed, essential to their very survival.

In a matter of minutes Lovino found who he was looking for.

Standing alone behind the counter was a slender boy whose delicate face shouldn't be able to support a grin of that size. Green eyes sparkled merrily as he passed another mug of ale to a waiting pirate with a slight laugh, completely at ease in the packed room.

Lovino, however, wrinkles his nose as somebody brushed up against him and withdrew stiffly into himself. He wasn't a people person per se.

"Oh, LOVI!"

The call came from his twin at the bar and Lovino faced forward once again to see Feliciano waving energetically at him, the little curl sticking out from his hair – identical to Lovino's – bounced eagerly as the teen himself rolled back and forth on the spot.

Lovino made a face as he pushed his way through the crowd, coming out with a neat little pop in front of the bar as he muttered angrily to himself about close contact.

"Oh Lovi, I was hoping you'd come by, if not I was going to go get you as soon as my shift was over because all these men are pirates! How exciting is that! And they're all so nice and friendly and they know funny stories and –."

Lovino had learned from nearly eighteen years or experience that if you let Feliciano talk for too long there would be no end to it and he would talk you into a coma. So, Lovino cut over him with a quick "- Yeah, I know. Everyone knows by now dipshit. I came to see if…" He trailed off and looked around the crowded room.

He had been going to say 'if you were okay' but he didn't want to come off sounding worried or anything. He didn't want to give Feliciano an excuse to start bawling because fuck knows the kid cried as easily as a bloody four year old.

So, Lovino finished off his sentence with a tacked on, "what they were like. I came to see what they were like."

Fortunately however, his brother was an idiot and failed to pick up on the changes in tone as Lovino altered his sentence half way though. Unfortunately, however, all it did was brighten his smile to almost blinding levels and give him an excuse to start talking away again, much to Lovino's annoyance.

"Ooooh, they're so cool Lovi! You see that man over there," No, Lovino didn't see that man over there, not through the blasted crowd, but he nodded anyway, "He's their Captain."

Feliciano said the word with a certain amount of reverence, as if being 'Captain' was equivalent to being god. This was completely normal for the younger twin though, seeing as how he'd had quite the fascination with pirates from a young age. A consequence of being born into the great era they lived in, Lovino supposed, although himself could only see one good thing about a bunch of sexually repressed men who spent extended periods of time alone and out at sea.

And that was their wallets. You could always expect a bigger picking with pirates, treasure hoarders as they were.

One may protest that picking pockets was stealing and that stealing was wrong. If they did, however, Lovino might just punch them right in the kisser accompanied by a few choice words before making off with anything of value they happened to have on them.

Perhaps it was a filthy habit, but if starving was the alternative – it was – Lovino would rather be accused of being a petty thief. Not everyone could get a job in this damn economy, especially not someone with as rough of a reputation as him and it wasn't like Feliciano and himself could survive on the pitiful income the younger got from working part time in the tavern.

Lovino felt himself scowl at this as he recalled the unpleasant details of his life in Belmont before he shook his head, willing his thoughts away to other things. Like, for instance, how that lone blonde sitting in the corner looked far too preoccupied to notice if Lovino slid a few coins out of his pocket.

Not that he would though because fuck he was a lot bigger than him. Not that he was small! He wasn't, really! Maybe a little shorter than average, and okay, a lifetime of poverty had left him kind of skinny, but that didn't mean he was small. The blonde just happened to be freakishly big, thinking he was all that with his slick backed hair and blue eyes and completely German appearance… Damn those potato eaters….

Lovino didn't realize he was talking out loud until Feliciano placed a concerned hand on his head and asked, "Are you feeling okay brother? You're muttering again…"

Flushing red Lovino batted his hand away and replied with a snippy, "I'm fine moron. Now go do your job and I'll do mine."

Feliciano sent him the Look. "Fratello, maybe you shouldn't…"

"Why? You think I'll get caught?" Lovino snorted, leaning on the bar and looking his brother in the eye in a way that said try me.

Feliciano bit his lip in response, turning the glass he was holding over in his hands, "It's not that I think you'll get caught… I'm just worried for you… And it's… It's wrong."

"You worship pirates," Lovino deadpanned, "who steal and loot for no reason. But it's wrong to take a few coins here and there to stay alive?"

This caused Feliciano to further gnaw at his lip and pull his eyebrows down so they met over the bridge of his nose as he thought very, very hard. It looked like it was rather difficult; after all, Feliciano wasn't popular for his infinite brain capacity.

"Well…" He said slowly, "when pirates do it… it's more heroic… somehow."

So destroying villages for amusement was apparently more heroic than an elder brother risking bodily harm and death so as to prevent his younger brother from starving to death or living on the streets? Really, sometimes Lovino wondered why he even bothered. What was the point? Let the ungrateful twat starve.

"And when a captain does it," Feliciano was saying, vigour back in his words, "it's even more heroic!"

Lovino sneered at this and couldn't resist asking, "So, if I stole from the captain, would that make me heroic?" Feliciano gasped at this and the glass he was cradling nearly slipped from his hands and he tried to wave them franticly.

"Fratello, you can't! Do you know who the captain is? This is the crew of Maiden Scarlet! He'd kill you for sure! Even though he seems so nice…"

"One," Lovino said holding up his index finger, "It's The Scarlet Maiden not Maiden Scarlet, two," he put up another finger, "They're not that crew anyway, and three," he paused to smirk openly at his brother now, foul temper just bubbling below the surface, "watch me."

Feliciano looked like he wanted to argue but the blonde Lovino had been fuming about earlier had raised his hand and was quietly looking at Feliciano in a clear request for a drink and the younger twin had no choice but to send his brother a concerned look before hurrying off.

Lovino watched his brother go with a small sense of satisfaction and a large feeling of anger. For all his big talk he didn't actually know where the Captain was. Only the vague direction Feliciano had indicated in. Without any real hope he turned to look and was startled when the crowd chose this precious moment to part, leaving him a clear view of the only man eating at the counter.

It was, without a doubt, the Captain. That was if the flamboyant red coat and feathered hat sitting by his elbow was anything to go by. Lovino took a moment to study the suppose Captain of the feared Scarlet Maiden.

He was far from intimidating, chatting amiably with a suspiciously French looking man as he waved his fork in the air to demonstrate some point or another. Dark brown hair flicked easily away from his scalp, slightly longer than average, tied loosely at the base of his neck and a set of vibrant green eyes looked cheerfully around the room as is he was in a very amusing situation, a set of golden circles glittered in his ear as he tilted his head. He looked slow. And stupid, Lovino added. Slow and stupid with a shit-eating grin on his face.

As if summoned by his very thoughts those green eyes flicked up to look right at him in a way that was, Lovino thought, incredibly piercing. Very much so and suddenly those eyes didn't see so harmless anymore.

The moment was broken, however, by the call of the Captain's companion as he beckoned Lovino over, "Feliciano my darling ~we could use some more drinks over here~!" The bastards threw in a wink for good measure and judging from the look in his eyes was planning on flirting with him the moment he got close. Well, his brother anyway, which apparently the French bastard thought he was.

"Francis," the Captain said in a cheerful voice, "That's not Feli."

Francis blinked and looked from the Captain and back to Lovino before asking, "It's not?"

"No," Lovino replied bitingly, "I'm fucking not."

Francis blinked, startled by the clear difference in personalities and did a quick scan of the room. "Well, where's Feli then?" he asked curiously before spotting him in the corner with the solemn looking blonde. For some reason Francis found this entertaining, "Oh my," He said, amusement clear in his voice, "Antonio would you look at that. He's talking with Ludwig."

"Hmmm?" Captain 'Antonio' craned his neck to see that Feliciano was indeed chattering away to the German who was looking uncharacteristically lost for words – Feli's personality can do that to a person – and unusually interested.

"Oh, Gilbert will be happy his brother's made a new friend," Antonio said happily. Lovino, however, grimaced painfully. The last thing he wanted was his brother getting friendly with that German bastard like that. The bloody kid would be heartbroken when the crew set sail and Feliciano was a real pain when he was upset. Not that he was worried for the brat, ungrateful little moron as he was.

Reluctantly pulling his gaze away from the pair Lovino discovered that Francis and Antonio were looking at him. No, Lovino correct, studying him. Comparing him to his brother no doubt which, for undisclosed reasons that most certainly weren't related to an inferiority complex, irked him.

"You're Feli's twin brother, ?" Antonio said with a bright smile before patting the stool beside him, "Come, sit with us! Feliciano was talking about you before. You sounded interesting."

Lovino regarded the proffered seat and the bright, sunny smile sceptically. Did the man really believe him so dull as to take a seat next to a man he didn't even know – a pirate no less – on a mere invitation simply on account of his being Feli's brother? Lovino felt as if his intelligence were being questioned here.

He took the seat anyway, if only for he caught a glimpse of a bulging little bag hanging haphazardly from the Captain's waist mere seconds ago. He was sure that he wouldn't mind too much if he were to take a little; the bastard had plenty more.

Antonio looked cheerful as his request was accepted and speared another slice of – was that raw tomato? – With his knife and he munched happily on it, still eyeing Lovino in a way that still made him uncomfortable.

"So you're Lovi, hmm? Feli has been talking about you for much of the night," The Frenchman to the Captain's left flashed Lovino a bright smile, flicking golden locks so the rested on his shoulder and offered him up a smirk as his eyes watched Lovino shift in his seat.

"Don't call me that," he snapped irritably wishing the god-awful pet name would just vanish. It was bad enough Feliciano called him that without the brat spreading it. A disease, that's what it was. A fucking disease.

"But that's what Feli calls you," Antonio said, blinking innocently as he set his cutlery back down on the plate, little bag of money jingling softly at his hip as he did so. Lovino's gaze flickered down to it and back up quickly.

"My brother," he said, "doesn't listen."

"Your brother," Francis said with a soft purr as he watched Feli – who was now sitting across from Ludwig, engaged in a one-sided conversation – with eyes that Lovino wasn't quite sure he liked, "is adorable."

"Right," Lovino muttered, like he wasn't used to people pouring compliments on his brother like that, and he could practically hear the next comment Francis was about to make as he opened his mouth.

"You look so much alike," offered the flirtatious Frenchman with a wink.

"Stop hitting on me. And don't hit on my brother or I swear you'll never walk straight again," Lovino said bluntly, causing Antonio to choke on his drink as he spluttered in laughter while Francis stared blankly at Lovino, taking in his surly expression.

"I think you just got turned down," came a disgustingly German voice as Antonio and Francis slumped forward due to the sudden presence of a white-haired man leaning on the both of them, smirking up a storm and looking at Lovino with blood red eyes.

"Gilbert," the Captain said sounding positively delighted, "did you see your brother? He's talking with someone!"

The trio glanced backwards at Feli and Ludwig – who was now actually participating in the conversation – and watched the pair for a moment, as if they were witnessing something sacred. Lovino scowled, however. Feliciano was definitely getting way to friendly with that guy. Talks would be had when they got home, talks would be had…

Antonio was first to glance back and caught sight of Lovino's distinctly displeased expression, "You don't need to worry Lovi-" "- Don't call me that -" "- Ludwig is a good guy," he finished earnestly, smiling in a way that grated on Lovino's nerves for some reason.

"I wasn't worried," he snapped in return, flushing red, "I just happened to glance that way!"

"Ahh, So cute!" Antonio cried out, leaning forward to pinch Lovino's flaming red cheek between his thumb and forefinger, "You look just like a tomato!"

"What are you doing, bastard?" Lovino snapped, flushing all the deeper as he violently slapping Antonio's hand away. "Don't touch me!"

Antonio settled back in his chair with a contented smile. "But you're so cute Lovi! Tomato! Just like a tomato!"

"Don't call me a tomato either!"

"But it's a compliment~."

"How is being a tomato a compliment?"

Antonio looked at him as if he'd asked a particularly daft question. "Well, tomatoes are cute, aren't they?"

Loivno wasn't exactly sure what to make of that statement. Did the guy have a few screws lose or something? Well, apparently so, he thought as he watched Antonio grin widely at him, as if he expected him to be pleased with the previous statement.

Instead he contented himself with tossing the elder man an irritated look. The smile – blinding, Lovino would go blind from those perfectly straight teeth if he were exposed to it much longer – did not falter underneath Lovino glare. Francis watched the pair with the faintest traces of amusement on the edges of blue eyes.

This was getting ridiculous. "Stop smirking," Lovino snapped as he made to get to his feet, "what kind of pirate acts like a brain dead moron?"

He could hear I faint kind of moan – of surprise? – From Francis and a loud and obnoxious chuckle for Gilbert but Antonio still kept on smiling away, completely unperturbed. "But Lovi," he said cheerfully, "I like you. Why shouldn't I smile?"

Lovi gaped openly at him for a few seconds before spluttering wordlessly. Who said stuff like that? Didn't he realize how gay that sounded? Made him look like a bloody moron? And, more importantly, made Lovino look like a moron?

"Don't say things like that," Lovino snapped, face beet red as he straightened up to walk away.

"Ahh, So cute! Ah, wait! Lovi where are you going?"

Lovino shot him an annoyed look over his shoulder as he stood but, as he made to walk away, his foot caught around the leg of his chair and he stumbled, falling slightly against Antonio as he did so, he hand landing awkwardly on the Captain's waist as he pushed himself up right, digging his hands in his pockets and he flushed even deeper.

Francis, much to Lovino's displeasure, looked incredibly amused with the whole situation while Gilbert – what kind of name was that anyway? – Cackled away madly in the background. He hoped the bastard got hit by a cannon ball someday soon so as to wipe that smug smirk away.

"Ah you okay Lovi?" Antonio asked, concern colouring his voice as he helped the younger Italian to his feet, giving him a quick once over to check for any injuries. Lovino wrenched himself away, glowering at the way he'd been so casually handled.

"Fine," He grunted and then made for the door quick smart, heart beating a thousand miles an hour as he felt something jingle in his pocket, brushing up against the clammy flesh of his palm. Keep it cool, he reminded himself as he tried hard to keep his pacing normal, don't panic.

Lovino was nearly out the door when he heard a surprised yelp behind him that sounded as if one or two of the men in the room may have discovered a significant difference in the weight of their pouches. He wasn't sure whether to smirk at that or quicken his pace so he contented himself with a slightly quicker swagger. He didn't want to appear eager to get out, but after that 'scene' with Antonio it would only be normal to hurry out. Balance, he thought, find the right balance between the two.

The second the door swung shut behind him leaving him alone on the empty streets, Lovino broke into a quick trot. Perfect. Nobody has seen him – he was all but home free. Mind so fixated on the thoughts of actually eating tonight he nearly missed the sound of creaking hinges as the tavern door was pushed open behind him.


Lovino's heart dropped. He knew that tone. Recognized it well. Caught, it screamed, you've been caught. Abandon mission! ABORT! Run! RUN! FUCKING RUN!

Without turning around to look to see who was following him Lovino yanked his hands from his pockets and sped off down the street as the speed of light. Or a caught pick-pocket. Which, he supposed, he way.

"HEY! Espera!"

No, Lovino thinks as he turns down an alley, shoving rubbish cans over behind him to delay his pursuers, I won't 'espera'.

The chase is a feverish haze in Lovino's mind as he dashes along the empty streets of Belmont, stolen treasures clinking noisily in his pockets. The only thought that crosses his panicked mind is the command to run, to push his legs that little bit further and increase the distance between them. Being Italian as he is, running away is his speciality, and he sincerely hopes it'll be enough to get him through this minor crisis.

They're the crew of The Scarlet Maiden… What if was true?

Lovino shook his head franticly as he skidded down another darkened street. He didn't have time to think about things like that. He just needed to run. Nobody had caught him yet, and that wasn't about to start now. Not when he had Feli to protect. No. No time for thought. Just keep running. Run. Run. RUN!

But the sound of boots clicking on the road behind was becoming louder as his enemy drew nearer to him, determined to catch him and return what it was he'd stolen. Good luck, Lovino thought sarcastically.

Perhaps it had been a mistake to wish his opponent luck for only a moment later Lovino's foot caught on a piece of trash and he stumbled, barely catching himself on a nearby wall as he did so.


"Hold on a minute!"

No, Lovino didn't think he would, thanks.

Scrambling up right he made to continue his frantic dashing when a hand reached out and snagged him by his collar, dragging him backwards. Immediately the coward's instinct in Lovino caused him to lash out violently, struggling against the hand holding him back.

"LET ME THE FUCK GO!" He roared, letting all the anger he could seep it the words as he kicked and hit, finger scratching desperately at the hand holding him. Let go, he silently pleaded but his prayer went unheeded.

Suddenly there was a sharp pain in the back of his head and Lovino gasped, feeling the faint trickle of blood in his hair as the world suddenly swayed before him, eyes rolling back in his head as his legs refused to hold him up after taking the hit to the back of the head like that.

Lovino put the lest of strength into one last weak tug at the hand holding him before he allowed his body to slouch.

He vaguely felt somebody catch him as he fell, strong hands supporting his back as his consciousness began to fade into blackness. The last thing he caught sight of was the slight glimmer of golden earnings, the tussled look of a short ponytail and the brilliant green of a set of eyes staring down at him.

"Bastard," he muttered before relaxing back into the bliss of unconsciousness.

A/N: I apologise for this atrocity :/