Please don't be mad at me for not writing the fight scene. Now that I have a job I've become a lazy whore and I need all of you to accept it.
The rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music.
Jeremiah's coronation was held by the sea. Thousands were in attendance, including Sugar and her team. Maddern was the one to bestow the new title upon Jeremiah. Remington was nowhere to be found. No one missed his absence, and it was even rumored that he fled the kingdom out of pure shame, but no one knew for sure.
It didn't matter. Jeremiah was Paragon and all was well.
There was a huge celebration afterwards and everyone was welcome. The beach became littered with people playing and laughing and drinking. Jeremiah was in the center of it all, conversing with his people. Sugar smiled every time he looked at her. A bright future was on the horizon.
The Contention was over. The team's purpose for traveling to the Fairy Kingdom was done. The morning after Jeremiah was crowned Paragon, Quinn announced it was time for them to leave. It was a good thing too; the time of peace was over, and there were a handful of people who were more than ready to go.
Sugar was eager to leave. She learned her origins, participated in the Contention, and made peace with her demons. She'd gotten everything she could have asked for out of the kingdom, and now that Jeremiah was Paragon, her business was done. So she was pleasantly surprised when he requested to see her again. She thought they'd already said everything they needed to say to each other, but apparently not.
Holly was saying her farewells as Sugar was on her way out. She promised to keep in touch and all that, though they probably wouldn't hear from her for another six months. She pulled Quinn aside as expected, most likely to discuss safety and Sue and all that other nonsense that Quinn always found herself worrying about, but Sugar wasn't interested in any of that.
The messenger lead her to Jeremiah's newly appointed professional housing, a building used mainly for meetings and other business. She found him in his library, not surprised to see him wearing only pants and not suited up in fancy garb like most noteworthy officials dressed. He wasn't alone either, chatting with a man Sugar recognized as the one from Jeremiah's meditation. He wasn't in his mer-form, but there were still patches of alligator skin on his face and arms.
Jeremiah jumped from his chair when he saw her. "Sugar, I'm so glad you're here! Please, have a seat."
As she moved to the table the other man stood up and offered his seat. He didn't say anything, but he did nod just before exiting the room. Sugar sat down and chucked. "He's a quiet one."
"Jakobe's a bit insecure about showing his teeth – thinks they make him look ugly. I told him he was beautiful right from the start, and I've been telling him how beautiful they are ever since, so he has no trouble showing his teeth to me, but he still won't show them to some people." Jeremiah leaned forward. "You know it took that man ten years to kiss me on the mouth?"
Sugar shook her head and gave her Paragon a look. "With all due respect, sir—"
Jeremiah immediately shaped up. "Right, I didn't call you here for that. I called you here to tell you that I know what you did."
Sugar was genuinely confused at first. "Sir?"
"You threw the fight. You let me win."
She frowned. "No, sir. You won fair and square."
But he shook his head because he knew the truth. "We both know that I'm not as skilled a fighter as you, not even in the water. I've seen the way you battle – you're consistent. The way you start is the way you end. But at the end of our fight you were 'tired' all of a sudden, and I know better. My question is, why?"
Sugar sighed. "I'm a free spirit, and taking on such a job would be too much responsibility. Besides, a cup of werewolf blood running through my veins doesn't appeal to much, I don't care what anyone says. I'm not the right pick to be Paragon. You are. I don't want it as much as you do."
What surprised Sugar was his reaction. Most people would have been up in arms knowing something they thought they earned was merely given to them, but not Jeremiah. It bothered him even less knowing Sugar didn't want to be in the Contention to begin with. He leaned back in his seat and scratched his chin. "Was it out of pity?"
"Hell no," Sugar said. "My actions had nothing to do with pity, Jeremiah. My actions were selfish. I never planned on winning, I just wanted to prove that I wasn't worthless like the Board of Legends made me out to be. I wanted to prove them wrong and I did. I mean, I was going to have to fight anyway so I might as well compete however I want. But, obviously, you're the better choice. You know it and I know it."
There was no doubt in his mind that he was the right choice, reasons why Sugar throwing the fight didn't bother him so much. It was about the people, and not his pride. "Okay, but we still have a dilemma. People can't know about this, Sugar. Did you keep your agenda to yourself?"
"No, but I believe only one other person knows, and her secret-keeping abilities are superb, I assure you."
He believed her. "Good. And on that note, you do understand that I owe you, right?"
Sugar shook her head back and forth. "No. This was not some type of arrangement. You owe me nothing."
That's when he stood up. "I am Jeremiah of Crystal Cove, New Paragon of the Fairy Kingdom. Because of your decision, I owe you, Sugar, a favor. Anything, anything you want. Name it and it is yours."
She relented. If it was the only way for him to maintain his integrity, then so be it. "Fine. I have a friend who is...cursed."
Jeremiah didn't have to guess. Many merpeople knew of Tina because she was the only one left. "The Cohen, yes."
"Yes. Well, since you're a merman, from Crystal Cove no less, can you end the curse?"
Jeremiah sat back down so he could meet Sugar at eye level. When he did that she didn't even know why she bothered asking. "No, and I have two reasons. Firstly, I don't have the power to curse anyone, therefor I do not have the power to end a curse. Secondly, even if I could end the curse, I would never cross Larina in such a way. She made me into the merman I am today. To interfere with someone's justified magic is bad business. From my perspective, as well as many others', Larina had every right to curse the man that she cursed. When you are wronged, you have a right to seek revenge according to the Fairy Kingdom. It is unfortunate that her revenge has destroyed an entire family of innocent people but that is the way things are. What I can do is promise to speak with Larina the next time she shows herself. I'm almost positive it won't do any good, but I'll try. What else can I do for you?"
Sugar didn't know what else to ask for. As far as she was concerned, her team had everything the needed. "Well, we're leaving soon. A nymph will be taking us back…we'll be by the sea…"
"So you need a ship?"
"I suppose. Something fast."
Jeremiah slapped his hand on the table eagerly. "That I can do. I have the perfect ship, too." He got up from his chair and ran out of the room. When he came back, there was a ship in a bottle in his hands labeled "Bluewing." He gave it to her and smiled. "You have a pirate in your party don't you? Well when you make it out of the Fairy Kingdom, give it to her. She'll know what to do."
With everyone packed and Holly gone, Quinn figured it was finally time to leave. Joe brought them to Carmella who, by his request, took all of them, including himself and Rory, out of the Fairy Kingdom and back to where they started on the beach. Carmella did not dawdle much before returning to the water to her undersea home; Joe said his goodbyes to her and reminded her to call for him whenever she needed his help. Rory said his goodbyes soon after, his only regret being that he didn't spend more time with the almost Paragon. Sugar sent him away with a kiss on the cheek.
Santana wasted no time with the ship. She smashed the bottle against the tide and watched the Bluewing emerge and grow in size. She told everyone to hurry and board, but Sugar remained on the shore with Joe.
"I know I've already said this, but thank you so much for everything. I wouldn't have accomplished so much without your help."
He gave her a grin. "It's what we wolves do. Everyone has a right to know their history, and what they're fully capable of. You proved yourself a soldier to the moon and back."
To show her gratitude, she punched him in the shoulder. "Thank you."
"Alright, alright," he laughed, rubbing his shoulder as if it actually hurt. "I suppose this is where I make my departure. Do not be a stranger, okay? You can always reach me through the underground. And if you decide you want to get sweet on the leprechaun again, let me know and I'll give him the message."
They set sail quickly. Three months is a long time for wanted people to go missing. Throughout their time in the Fairy Kingdom, they received hardly any information from the outside world, and what information they did receive was all from the underprovided mouth of Holly Holliday. Quinn had absolutely no idea what their status was.
Then, Kurt came running to her with a letter. "The bird was just waiting on the railing."
Rachel couldn't find any reasoning for that. "How is that even possible? We've been gone for months. Are you sure it wasn't dead?"
Santana approached them with a mean face with the bird playing on her shoulder. "It's alive alright; either been waiting around for months or was sent at the right time. Read it aloud, I want to know what we've missed."
Everyone gathered around the helm. There was only one letter, and it was from Sue. Quinn supposed Holly gave her a notice of when they'd return, because the ink on the paper looked fresh and folds were crisp.
I will not waste time or ink with this letter and will only tell you what is most important. I am allied with the queen and the prince, so the three of us have been sharing information regularly. We've successfully steered the king away from your trail and those useless goons he sent after you have long been discharged. No one knows where you are, plenty of people think you're dead. You're welcome.
Since it got you off the radar and mythicals know how to keep their mouths shut, I have nothing negative to say about the Fairy Kingdom. I know about the Contention as well. Holly noted that there was much time put into training and Sugar performed phenomenally, so fine.
As for the rest, I know everything I need to know. Continue with your assignment until I say otherwise.
Santana kept as far away from Tina as possible, keeping to either the helm or her cabin, but mostly her cabin. Baylor was going a lot of the sailing; he knew the way and he liked the speediness of the ship. Santana remained too distracted to tell him anything.
When she could get away from Rachel, Quinn went to Santana occasionally. The first time was to speak on navigation and where they were headed map-wise, which Santana replied with asking why it really mattered. They were northbound and everyone should've been happy to be back at sea and out of the Fairy Kingdom. The second time wasn't until later that night, when everyone, even the steeds, had called it a day and were seeking rest. Santana was comically hanging around in the crow's nest, and easily Quinn climbed her way up.
"No one's at the helm."
"No one needs to be, this ship couldn't blow off course even if it wanted to." Santana had her pipe, and honestly Quinn was happy to see her smoking comfortably again. Made things feel a little normal. "And wherever we're going, we're going to get there fast."
Oh, Quinn believed it. "Good thing, too. We're facing a lot of open sea, right?"
Santana nodded. "Aye. It'd take us months to get through it all normally, but with this ship my bet is a few weeks before we see land. Until then I say get comfortable."
So Quinn did, hopping into the nest and laying her back against the fine wood opposite side of Santana. They let the silence consume them, enjoying their first night back in the real world. Quinn actually found herself dozing off until Santana cleared her throat.
"Do you think Sue knows about Brittany?"
Quinn had actually thought about that earlier after reading the letter, and the only thing stopping her from asking was the quantity of people around her at that time. "Truthfully, Santana, it wouldn't surprise me if she did. Hell, she might even know about me and Rachel. Knowing her, she's probably waiting for the opportune moment to throw it in our faces. She likes that kind of play."
Santana made a worried hum. "A dreadful woman in all aspects. Do you think she really cares if she does know?"
"Only if it puts the LW reputation in some sort of bind. Sue likes for us to be known for our power, and a rumor floating around about a member being weakened by love doesn't do much for our status as warriors."
Santana didn't say anything.
"Forget about Sylvester," Quinn said. "Just tell the crew."
Santana snarled. "Why? They're not going to accept her. They're gonna take one look at Tina and say 'no'."
"It'll clear the air," Quinn tried. Santana scoffed.
"No it won't. It'll make me look like a crook. Like I want to endanger everyone; like I don't care about Tina's feelings. I can't say anything to anyone until I've taken back control of my life."
Quinn was done for the night. There was nothing more she could say to Santana that would change her mind. She stood up and threw her leg over the short wall of the nest, preparing to crawl back down the ratlines. "Well, you're back on the water with a ship to captain, that's a good start. Talk to Tina next."
The sailor made a face as she chewed on the mouthpiece of her pipe. "Brittany first."
Returning to the cabin Rachel selected, Quinn found her on the bed with her journal placed in her lap. Quinn knew better than to try to see what Rachel was writing, but she was still allowed to ask. Rachel confessed to, not songwriting like Quinn expected, but to writing that letter to Blaine that Quinn was saving for morning.
"Okay, but make sure he's caught up on everything; we can't be sending and receiving multiple letters to the same people with the same information," Quinn advised as she took in the ample size of the bed, thanking God that Jeremiah blessed them with such as comfortable ship. She kicked off her boots and her pants and joined Rachel in the bed and snuggled up to her with an arm thrown around her waist. It was too early for bed but Quinn had her eyes closed and her head on the pillow sure enough.
Rachel put her journal away and leaned back against the headboard, Quinn's face still at her waist. She sighed, and Quinn immediately caught on that something was off. The arm that was around Rachel's waist stayed there and the other one Quinn used to push herself up. "What is it?"
At first, Rachel wasn't even going to bring it up. It was a silly thing to even talk about, but she was a hopeless romantic and, as far as she was concerned, it was important. "Quinn we've been a couple for almost four months, right?"
Quinn's face screwed up in confusion. Did they not already have a discussion about this? "Yes?"
Rachel just let it all out. "Okay, well, how I was raised, being with someone for this long is significant. If we were in McKinley and you were a prince, our parents would be planning our wedding right now before you even got around to proposing. Obviously, I don't expect you to propose, but us being together for this long is important to me. I think an anniversary of some kind is in order."
Quinn raised her eyebrow. "An anniversary?"
Rachel gave a little eager smile. "Mhmm. Celebrations are in order. We should be pouring wine and singing songs and giving each other presents. We should just get everyone together and throw a little powwow."
"A powwow?" Quinn repeated flatly while trying not to mock her. "Rachel, I thought anniversaries were annual?"
"Who says we're going to be together for a full year, though? I want to make the most of what we have now."
Quinn couldn't really argue then. They were bound to split before a full year. However that still raised the question of relevancy. Their relationship was old news, taken over by what was happening between Santana and Brittany. Not to mention, because of said pirate and said mermaid, an anniversary at that particular time was downright uncouth. She told Rachel all of this, and Rachel didn't take it to heart.
"I understand, but I want to celebrate anyway. It doesn't have to be now, though. We can celebrate during our half-year." She thought about her comment for a moment before adding, "But I'm going to be wanting three presents from you then, not just one."
Quinn jumped out of the bed and ran to her things. She had just the right thing that would tide Rachel over until they were able to have a proper anniversary celebration. Rachel just watched her like she was crazy.
She pulled out a box – the kind that typically carried jewelry inside. Rachel sat up straight then, switching her gaze between Quinn and the box. It was a deep blue, and there was lettering on the top that was foreign to her. Quinn sat opposite of her, presenting it with a lovely smile and cheerful eyes. Rachel stared at it like a fool.
"Who else would it be for?" Quinn laughed, her arm outstretched. "Take it. One out of three."
Rachel cupped the box with both hands. It was far too big to be a ring box, but not too big for a necklace or a bracelet, and knowing that gave her all the confidence to lift the top.
Her smile nearly cracked her face when she saw that it was Lovissa's shield, the pendent she and Quinn showed interest in when they first made it to the Fairy Kingdom, the one she told Quinn not to buy because it was decided that they weren't at that point in their relationship where they should be buying jewelry for one another. Well, they were at that point now, and Quinn obviously wasn't afraid to let it be known.
"I bought it on that same day because I knew I was going to give it to you, I just didn't know when," Quinn started to explain. "Then you spent those three months training, and it was so, so amazing to watch you turn into a fighter. This is the symbol of a warrior and that's exactly what you've become. You've earned this necklace, absolutely."
Rachel's eyes were glossy before Quinn could even finish her speech. And it wasn't the necklace that had her crying, it was the honest fact that Quinn had so much faith in her, possibly long before Rachel had to prove herself.
At that point, the pendent was completely out of Rachel's mind. She put the gift aside and reached out for Quinn, grabbing her by the shoulders to pull her in. Quinn allowed herself to be guided and pulled atop her partner's body, a position she so rarely took. Truth be told, Rachel absolutely loved it when Quinn was the one on top. She loved the weight and the warmth that emitted from Quinn's body; loved when those strong legs connected between hers; loved to see those muscular arms on either side of her head. The mere thought made Rachel quiver, but when those thoughts became reality she rarely knew what to do with herself.
They fell into their late night routine, bodies pressed close together as hands became bolder and bolder. Rachel was the bolder of the two, always snaking her hands up Quinn's shirt to stroke her favorite part of Quinn's body – her back. Quinn's reaction was a moan every single time, and she always nibbled Rachel's ear in response.
There was still a problem. Four months of a relationship and Quinn still hadn't found the courage to tell Rachel of her past – a past that was severely interfering with her present and their relationship as a whole. There was so much to say, so much to explain, so much that she'd only ever fully discussed with one other person. Quinn…Quinn didn't know what she was supposed to do, how she was supposed to say things in the compromising position they were in. But she knew for a fact that she could not continue to hold her truth back from her Rachel.
Rachel, completely oblivious to Quinn's internal distress, flipped them over, straddling her hips. Quinn unintentionally brought her knees up as a result, essentially bringing Rachel closer, and she immediately wished she hadn't. The sensation that came from the motion sent a shock through her body that made all of her senses react. That sweet smell of lavender filled her nose, vibrant eyes burned into skin, and the sound of low breathing consumed the entire room.
The change in mood was undeniable then, and Quinn didn't know what to make of it until Rachel licked her lips and her eyes began to twinkle.
It was desire.
Holly was absolutely right and there was no more denying it; Rachel wanted Quinn. She felt it through to her bones, but Quinn simply wasn't ready, and she knew she wouldn't be ready for a long, long time. Then she said the most dissatisfying thing she'd probably ever say to Rachel. "It's getting late. We should go to sleep."
Rachel woke up alone in her bed, and actually, she was happy about it. She was mad at Quinn. Their night last night should have special, especially after receiving such a wonderful gift, but Quinn made sure it ended the same way their nights always ended.
Rachel couldn't understand the stalling. They'd made so much progress over the past couple months intimacy-wise. She thought for sure that their time in the tub was the omen and that lovemaking was sure to follow. But it was becoming clearer each night that Quinn wouldn't let it happen. Rachel just couldn't understand why.
She dragged herself out of bed and quickly dressed herself in clothing suitable for sailing. What she wanted to do before finding breakfast was find Kurt. She looked around, hoping he wasn't already topside, and was beyond happy to see him alone in his cabin, half-dressed.
He didn't look up from tucking his shirt in. "My darling?"
Rachel giggled and made her way to sit on his bed. He was so focused on what his outfit would be for the day he didn't even look at her, and Rachel couldn't even believe how much she missed that. For years she used to watch him take an hour to dress while she would talk and talk. They lost some of those mornings when Blaine would claim Kurt's time, and they lost all of those mornings once Quinn was in the picture, but Rachel made sure to grab any morning she could with her best friend.
"So, to what do I owe this honor?"
Rachel's smile faded. It wasn't a happy visit, or, at least, she had every intention to bring up very serious topics. There was so much to talk about that she hardly knew where to start. "Okay, I know this is going to come out a bit random and very, very intrusive, but, how did you handle your...urges for my brother before you made your move?"
The man ceased buttoning his shirt and looked at his friend more critically. "Why do you ask?"
Sighing, Rachel stared out the little circular glass window that made the sea look fresher than it normally did. "I've been feeling things lately, this...strong desire. Things are changing between us. She's undressing in front of me now. Her touches set my body on fire. The kisses are more intense and I always want more." She breathed in deeply. "Our situation is almost like a blessing and a curse, because although we sleep in the same bed, all we do is kiss and straddle and cuddle. I love all of that, don't get me wrong, but I want so badly for her to touch me in places I've never been touched, and I want to do the same to her. I just…I don't know."
Kurt stared her down because he didn't know either. It was all news to him. "What? Rachel, w-when? How long?"
She shrugged her shoulders because she truly didn't have a clue. "Our entire time in the Fairy Kingdom, maybe? It wasn't intensified to this level until recently. Not too long ago I got her into the tub with me. Just last night I told her I wanted to celebrate a four month anniversary. She gave me this amazing gift and I was so, so sure that more would happen between us, but it didn't. God, Kurt, I wanted more."
Kurt was angry then, so upset that he couldn't even look at her. "Rachel, what did I tell you? Didn't I say not to become too attached?"
"I'm not attached," she quickly defended. "This isn't about love, this is about lust."
"And it's only a matter of time before the lust leads to love," he countered. Rachel tried to speak and he cut her right off. "I know you, Rachel. You're not the type to invest halfheartedly – you give your all, and you always seek more. It was you who established a status of friendship; it was you who wanted to be as close to Quinn as Santana was; it was you who kissed Quinn first; and it's you who keeps pushing for more and more. When and if these lustful urges are met, you're eventually going to want more, and you'll be asking for love in no time at all even though you and Quinn agreed that love was not part of the equation."
Rachel didn't admit to anything and proceeded to face out the window. "You know it's not going to come down to love. I didn't love—"
"No, I don't know what it's all coming down to, and you don't either," he interrupted, his tongue whipping around disappointment left and right. "And how many times do we have to agree that Finn isn't Quinn. You didn't love him and you didn't lust for him either. What you liked about Finn was the idea of him, the illusion that he was a good man with good morals, so you liked some of him. You like Quinn for who she really is so you're going to want all of her."
"I don't know why I asked you," she said with her head down. She didn't come to his room for this – for him to lecture her about an issue that wasn't supposed to be an issue any longer.
"I don't know why either," Kurt replied. "I love that you're so happy but you know as well as I do what type of relationship you and Quinn have. Why take the chance of falling in love when you know your relationship is only temporary?"
Finally Rachel addressed his words with just as much force as he used. She stood up from the bed and flailed her arms in frustration. "Kurt, you're making this more than what it is. No one is falling in love with anyone." Well, there was, but there was no need to mention Santana. "I only wanted a simple answer to a simple question."
But there was nothing simple about it. Sex wasn't simple; for many, it was the most complicated act in the world. He was fearful and cautious when he and Blaine took that step in their already risky relationship. What could he possibly have to say to Rachel? How could he tell her to make love to someone she wasn't supposed to love?
"Talk to her," he said, because there was really no advice greater than that. "Ask Quinn where the two of you are sexually and go from there." He paused, then, "Or masturbate until she initiates anything sexual. That's my answer."
And it was nothing close to what she wanted to hear. She stormed out of the cabin and Kurt didn't do anything to stop her, too absorbed with the possibility of his best friend setting herself up to get her heart broken.
Quinn had absolutely no intentions of telling Santana about her night with Rachel; there was too much to get into and Santana already had enough on her mind. As much as she enjoyed deriding Quinn over the details of her relationship with Rachel, now wasn't the time.
Quinn hadn't seen Santana at all that day, really. For most of that morning she'd kept to the crow's nest, the best place on a ship to clear one's head. There she listened to the sound of the sea and the early morning madness of her teammates running about. The thoughts of her past hit her like a goddamn storm. She hated to speak about it, but there was no other way to clear the air with Rachel. There were only so many secrets a person could choose to ignore before wanting to know everything, and there was no denying that Rachel was getting to that point. She'd have to tell her about Thomas and Beth eventually.
Baylor was the one to interrupt her thoughts. She'd heard someone climbing the ropes, but she didn't know who it was until he poked his head up and presented himself that dull and disinterested look of his. "Madame demands that you come and eat."
Madame. Quinn still couldn't believe Mercedes managed to get Baylor to call her that. She told him to tell Mercedes that she'd eat soon before telling him to get back to the helm where Santana wanted him. That's when he gave the message that Santana would be the one manning the helm the remainder of their time at sea. This was news to Quinn. Last night, Santana expressed no desire of doing anything of sort.
When Quinn sat up and looked behind her, there Santana was, at the helm in her own little world, completely uninterested in everything but the sea. She climbed down the ropes and made her way over to Santana, and as she walked up those stairs, the aura emitting from that pirate was absolute confidence.
"Morning, captain," Quinn smiled, pleased to see Santana manning the ship. "What danger do we encounter for you to be back at the helm and not the boy?"
"Bilge waters," she proclaimed with her focus on the horizon and a mouth full of malice. "We'll be coming up on Halyard Harbor and Scourge soon. We're making stops at both."
Quinn almost made the mistake of asking why but caught herself before doing so. She knew exactly why. Santana needed to regain control over her miserable life, and what better place to start than in bilge waters where she'd have a possibility to find not only her long-lost ship, but the woman who took it.
"Will it take us off course?" Rachel wanted to know. She couldn't understand why there was a need to switch up navigation, especially since they'd been stuck in one place for the last three months.
Quinn told them that they would skew from course, but for good reasons. "We need Santana feeling like herself again and Halyard Harbor, hopefully, will do that for her."
"What about Scourge? What even is that?" Mercedes asked.
Quinn didn't really know. Santana had never mentioned Scourge. It didn't matter. It didn't matter if Santana was sailing them into the most treacherous part of the entire ocean – if it was going to give her back the confidence she's been missing, then so be it.
With no one at the helm, the Bluewing was fast, but let a captain take over at it was the fastest ship on the water, and what should have taken two months took only three weeks.
There wasn't much noise during those three weeks. They sent off only one letter and that was to Blaine, letting him know that they had returned. Rachel and Quinn were acting as if there weren't major things they needed to discuss, and no one was foolish enough to get in Santana's face. Even more interesting, they hadn't received a visit from Brittany the entire time. Quinn was sure they'd see her soon enough.
No one had ever traveled through bilge waters sans for Santana and possibly Baylor, however it was fairly easy to pick out the elements. Bilge water was essentially pirate territory located in little areas all over the sea. Most distinctive features was the murkiness and lack of transparency of the water. There was rocks and wreckage, rubble that was sometimes decades old and never bothered to sink. Fog invaded the air.
Halyard Harbor was an island built into a seaport. Its intended use was to become a safe haven for privateers until pirates took over. Now, the island was mostly used for smuggling and other immoral deeds, but it was nowhere near as wicked as Scourge.
Santana hadn't been in Halyard or Scourge since she lost her ship, so she did not know what to expect. She didn't have a plan; all she knew was that she wanted to raise hell. But seafarers talk, and there was no doubt in her mind that her business had been spreading. There wasn't a pirate who didn't know about her ship, and plenty of those bastards where bound to know about the princess she was taking care of. Surely some of them knew about Brittany.
Didn't matter. Halyard Harbor would lead her to Scourge, and Scourge would likely lead her to the woman that took her ship.
"It don't feel like it used to," Santana confessed to Quinn steadily as they came up on the harbor. "Here I am on a donated ship with no flag, no loot, and a derisible excuse for a crew and a tarnished reputation. Don't nothing feel right."
"Eh, you're not the same person you used to be," Quinn reminded. "Use it to your advantage. Things may be different but I know you're up to the task."
"I am. But I need all of you to lay low, okay? I don't know how things are around here anymore."
Quinn found herself scoffing. "You think we can't handle ourselves?"
They came up on the harbor and dropped anchor on a ruined dock where the wood looked like it had been caught in flames. Santana shouted for Baylor to secure the ship. "I know you can, moron. But this is my field, these are my people. I am responsible for you should mayhem occur. For now, I just want to talk to a few people, get to hear what these bastards have been saying about me. Once I get the information I need, we go to Scourge and do the same thing. Then we find Zizes."
"So you want us to wait?"
Santana sucked her teeth. "No. Do what you want while we're here, but be safe about it. Buy some supplies. Listen for my name. Just don't get yourselves killed, not before I get my damn ship."
Santana ignored her. "And another thing. One person has to stay on the ship, preferably someone who can defend it."
"I didn't give a name, but how nice of you to volunteer yourself. Stay here. Let everyone else run free."
Quinn shook her head. "No, we'll let Sugar stay. She's had enough excitement for the last three months. Let her be bored."
Santana didn't care. She had business, and Baylor was taking too much damn time securing the dock. "Whatever makes you happy. Tell everyone what we're doing."
Halyard was as wrecked and drunk as she remembered, but still the heart of all bilge waters. Damn near anything a sailor could ever need could be found in Halyard Harbor – women, coin, a crew, a ship. It was Halyard where Santana would rally her petty crews and cargo and a name for herself. Halyard Harbor was a dream for fiends.
She pushed through the foul bastards and the pretty women, searching for a certain bastard in particular with Baylor tagging along behind her.
There was a tobacco shop on the far end of the harbor that she knew very well. The man who used to run it used to sail with her father, or at least that's what everyone claimed. When Santana first set foot on Halyard, he gave her an entire barrel of tobacco along with a pipe her father carved himself, one made with the same red wood their ships were made of. Santana never once brought her lips to it, but she kept it with her always.
That generous man was dead and gone, but his son, a former quartermaster of hers, was alive and well, and he handled his father's shop like a smuggler – successfully.
The shop was just as she remembered it, dark and dusty and reeking of smoke. As expected, there was some nameless woman behind the counter. As pretty as they were, Santana never paid any attention to them. They were always either envious or scared of her, and she didn't have the patience. Her business was always with him.
"Captain Santana Lopez."
She whipped around to see him sitting in the corner, carving a pipe with his golden-handled knife, looking like he hadn't aged a day.
"So how's business, weed man?"
"Well," he told her with that same charming grin he and his father always shared. "I got into the cannabis trade and business is booming. Alcohol isn't enough for these tars anymore. They want to get loose without waking up in puddles of their own bile and piss."
Santana chuckled. It'd been years since she talked with Matt, and while she'd never admit it without a knife being held to her throat, she did miss him. "You find a nice woman yet? I'm surprised to see there aren't any kids running around."
"I got two of them, actually. They're living with their mother in the Moon Gardens, the one up in Keldon in the Northern Countries."
Santana approved of the location, but it didn't make sense to her. "That's a good place for them, but what about here? Who's gonna take over when you get slaughtered?"
He laughed, "Not my kids, I'll tell you that much. I don't want them or their mother in this. I've made so much coin over the past years I can retire the rest of my life if I wanted to, and I do. I'm selling this shop. Then I'm gonna find me a ship and be with my family."
The exhaustion in his voice was really all the proof she needed. It happens all the time. Sailors set out hoping for success and wind up facing more than they bargained for. Matt had found the success he wanted, and he was smart enough to know when to end things before it got too serious. Santana, though she bared no ill-will, joked anyway. "Oh, so you're too good for us pirates now, eh? Or were you just tired of getting beat?"
He didn't play into her games. "Piss off, Lopez. I didn't get into the pirate business for anything more than to make coin and impress my old man. He's dead, I'm rich, so there's no reason for me to stick around. Sorry if that hurts your feelings."
"It doesn't," she said, leaning back into her chair. And it really didn't; he was just another sailor she knew once upon a time, admired but easily replaceable.
"So what about you, Santana?" he asked, and only because he truly wanted to know. "I haven't seen you since you lost your ship. Folks haven't been saying good things, captain."
She tried to act like she didn't care but it was evident on her face, even behind that cloud of smoke. "What have folks been saying, then?"
He shrugged like it should have been obvious. "You know seafarers talk. After Zizes stole your ship, there wasn't a sailor I could find that still had respect for you, but you already know that. Recently, I've been hearing other things. First, I heard that you got caught up in some human trafficking stuff, like you were stealing expensive girls and selling them, but then I heard that a girl found you and you got stuck with her."
"I'd never sell women," Santana whispered indignantly, trying not to lose it over a preposterous rumor. "The second part is true. Keep going."
"Well, after hearing about that princess that ran away, then hearing about you, I just put two and two together. Of course Santana Lopez gets stuck with a princess – that's your sorry luck, always has been. But let me be the first to tell ya that a lot of these idiots haven't connected the dots and actually think you're in the trafficking game."
Santana snorted and the smoke blew out of her nose. "I wouldn't expect anything more from these cretins. They're all too busy getting sloshed to keep up with current events."
"Yeah, well, they ain't too sloshed to know about the mermaid."
The humor died instantly and in its place took absolute silence. Matt watched her from across the table. Her face didn't falter that time but her body language proved all.
"They're not, huh? Well, what exactly do they think they know?"
"That you were bold enough to get mermaids to smuggle humans with you, but even I know better than that. Ain't a mermaid in the world trying to hurt females for no reason. Then I heard it was just one mermaid, and you either managed to get on her good side or she's playing with you. Then you disappeared for a while and I didn't hear anything."
Matt gave her a look. "There supposed to be more?"
"Yeah, there is, actually. Can't tell you, though," she admitted honestly while he just huffed and sat back with an annoyed expression. "But to keep things simple, the mermaid and I are allies."
"Hmph. Despite having that cursed Cohen in your group?"
Santana didn't get cheeky. "It's a work in progress."
Matt nodded, but clicked his tongue like he didn't believe her. "I see. Well, captain, now for the question I've wanted to ask since you walked your sorry ass into my store: what exactly brings you back to the harbor after all these years?"
Santana took her pipe out of her mouth so there'd be no mishearing of what she said next. "Zizes. Where is she?"
He grinned wickedly like pirates did when vengeance was on the table. "There's word that she'll be in Scourge by tomorrow."
"Good," she breathed. And once all the smoke was gone from her lungs, she sat up and stared Matt down, all the humor gone from the room. "You know why I'm here, Matthew. It's high time I reclaim my ship, and I need your help."
"So I'm not just an information supplier?"
"No. You're my friend who has seen me through some of my worst days and my greatest glories. You were with me the entire time I took over the seas, and now I need you back with me, just one last time."
"You plan to take over again?" he asked.
"No," she said again, and then corrected herself. "At least not at this particular moment. For now I just want my ship back."
Matt couldn't believe what he was hearing. Everything that came out of her mouth was tame, like he was talking to a wee little mouse and not Santana Maribel Lopez. "That's it? No talk of stabbing or choking or killing? You just want your ship and that's it?"
"If Zizes is to be killed in the process of me getting y ship then so be it," she said, reclaiming that domineering tone. "I don't have much of a plan here, Matthew."
He just laughed at her. "You never do, and your inability to properly plan your foolishness has always landed us in hot water."
"I can make up a plan on the spot."
"I know, and I don't like that shit either," he told her before giving in. "When do you plan on striking?"
She put her pipe back in her mouth. "That depends. When and how do you plan on leaving?"
"The shop is sold; I'm just waiting on the man to claim it. He'll be here tomorrow morning. Then I hop on the first ship on its way to the Northern Countries."
Santana did some quick, silent planning before giving him a short rundown of what was going to happen. "Today, I will help you find a crew. When you hand over your shop tomorrow morning, your crew will be with my crew on the ship I'm sailing now. Then, we sail to Scourge. When I get my ship back, you can take the Bluewing and your crew and sail to your family."
Matt shook his head. "You're leaving out a lot of details, woman."
"Only because I still have to think them up," she said. And then she got up and grabbed his arm. "Come. Let's go find you that crew."
The woman who stood behind the counter was apparently just a friend with envious eyes. She knew of Matt's plans to return to the Moon Gardens to be with his family, and it was their plan to return together. Naydeen was her name, and she was just as sick of the pirate life as Matt was. She agreed to watch over the shop the rest of the night if necessary, leaving Matt, Santana, and Baylor to search for the rest of the crew.
Night fell upon Halyard early as if daytime were mere myth. In those few hours, they found eight men and six women willing to sail under the respected tobacco merchant. Naydeen would be his first mate. All that was missing was the ship.
Santana introduced just Matt to the Bluewing only as to avoid any midnight mutiny. Santana's people were all onboard, done with their day of dealing with sailor shenanigans. Leaving Baylor topside as lookout, Santana took everyone below. There, she filled her team in on what she and Matt had already discussed. There were many questions and very few answers. The details were blurry in Santana's mind, but only because she wanted to sleep on her plans before announcing them with confidence.
Quinn saw Matt off the ship because Santana was too rude of a person to do so. She offered to walk him back to his shop, but he declined and instead began to ask questions, apparently the ones that Santana didn't answer. "Ay, it's none of my business, but…that was the princess, right? The one that ran away?"
Quinn knew next to nothing of Matthew Rutherford aside from the few stories Santana mentioned. All in all, he was a man Santana trusted, and Santana Lopez's trust was not easy to earn.
But Quinn wasn't an idiot. "She hasn't told you?"
He scoffed. "She barely told me anything. Won't open up about the mermaid either. All these rumors runnin' about. Least she can do is tell me the truth."
"She's not in a good way right now," was Quinn's best response. "Give her time."
"I'm done with it," he said, and Quinn believed it. "Santana's one of my closest friends, but I've always been used to knowing only bits and pieces of her. That woman will always be a mystery to me."
"You and me both," Quinn agreed.
Matt shook his head and smiled. Then he peered to his left to see Baylor nodding off on the railing when he was supposed to be keeping a watchful eye. Matt smacked his lips and looked back at Quinn. "Tell me this, Q. What's with that boy? He's been with us all day and I know for a fact she doesn't like kids."
"She doesn't. But I don't think she wanted his imminent death on her conscience. Now she's kind of sweet on him."
Matt threw his arms in the air and turned away. "I'll never understand the woman."
Quinn grabbed Baylor's tired body and dropped him off in his cabin before returning to her own. She was feeling especially exhausted; wasn't sleeping properly thanks to the awkwardness that had emerged between her and Rachel. Quinn wasn't new to the situation and understood why the awkwardness was present. Three whole weeks with absolutely nothing said to explain her reasoning for keeping Rachel at a distance, claiming it was all in the name of Santana and her situation, put a damper on things. Well, Quinn was done with that excuse. She didn't know exactly what she'd say to Rachel, but it was time to say something.
Rachel was pacing the room back and forth when Quinn stepped in. Quinn thought it was bad nerves, only to see that Rachel was filled with complete excitement. She leaped into her arms the moment she saw her. "Oh, Quinn, can you believe it? We're going to take down a bunch of pirates tomorrow and get Santana's ship! The hype is overwhelming me."
Quinn couldn't believe her ears. "You're excited about that?"
"I'm thrilled!" Rachel squeaked. "Now I can finally put all my training to the test. I've been so sick of being marginalized. For years, Quinn, for years I've had people tell me to stand back while they fought for me. Now I get to fight for myself. I finally get to prove myself."
Pride took over what Quinn was feeling for a short while. All she ever wanted was for Rachel to be able to fight for herself and not need anyone to protect her, and to see Rachel finally ready to take on the challenge was incredible. She hugged Rachel back, but the moment she pulled away her logic came back to her. "It's good to see you so eager, but we still have to wait for Santana's instructions. We don't know how she wants to handle things just yet."
"She'll figure it out, and when she does, I want to be front and center."
It was then that Quinn noticed Rachel wearing her pendant, then she laughed because that damn necklace was giving Rachel all that extra confidence. "I guess we'll see."
Rachel stopped dead in her tracks. "Don't undermine my abilities, Quinn."
"I'm not," she yawned, strutting towards the bed. "It's all up to Santana, I mean."
Rachel just pouted as she watched her partner fall onto the bed. Quinn kicked off her boots at the foot of the bed and then pulled herself up to rest her head on the pillow. With such an eventful day on the horizon Quinn needed all the sleep she could get.
Rachel turned down her excitement to watch Quinn's pitiful attempt at falling asleep. It was almost as if the woman's body couldn't settle unless Rachel's was beside her. Rachel found it cute, that Quinn needed her just to sleep. She pulled off her own boots as well as her pants and snuggled with Quinn, so close that they were stomach to stomach. One touch and Quinn could barely keep those droopy eyes open, but it was fun to watch her try. "How are you?"
"Tired, and tired, and just a little bit tired," Quinn grumbled.
Rachel giggled. "You should sleep then."
"I will," Quinn said. And then, for some foolish reason, she tried to sit up. "There's just something I want to say to you, about the other night…"
But Rachel shushed her and pulled her back down. "I know what you're going to say, and I want you to know what I'm not upset. It's okay, Quinn. It's okay that you don't want to engage in sexual activity right now. It's not a big deal."
Quinn tried to shake her head against the pillow. "That's just the thing; it is a big deal. I don't want you thinking that it's you, because it's not. I'm beyond attracted to you, but sex in general is off-putting to me, but if I tell you why, then I'd have to tell you other things, things I don't like getting in to. But then that's not fair to you because you have a right to know—"
Rachel just shushed her again. "Quinn, it's okay. This is one of the few things I'm not going to hound you on. You don't have to give me a reason for not wanting to have sex. A 'no' is a 'no'. I completely understand."
"All women do. When you want to tell me, I'm all ears. I promise not to judge or laugh or do anything else that could offend you. I just want you to be comfortable."
Quinn gently placed her hand to Rachel's face. Rachel's motives had matured over the past months; the entitlement was beginning to fade.
There were still some edges that needed to be smoothed out, but for the time being, both Rachel and Quinn were happy with their relationship.
Matt's shop was traded in for coin before sunrise. Naydeen and Santana stood by his side as he handed in the key; Mercedes and Sugar carried his barrels of money to the Bluewing. There were so many barrels that it took the entire morning.
The evening was spent assembling Matt's crew. Should Santana's semi-deliberated plans succeed, then Matt would be left on the Bluewing with a crew of fifteen. He assigned jobs and positions and allowed them to become acquainted with the ship. He especially made it known that he had no plans to keep the ship once he was with his family, so it was up for grabs once they made it to the Moon Gardens. Santana's people sat back because soon they'd be on another ship.
As expected, the daytime lasted no longer than a bottle of rum. Scourge was but a few leagues away, and Zizes was there – Santana could feel it. It was time to set sail.
"How exactly did Santana lose her ship? She said to me a while ago that it was taken by a manatee, but..."
Quinn threw her head back and snorted. "That manatee is Captain Lauren Zizes, or Captain Cutthroat. She stole Santana's ship a while back, back when Santana at the top." She turned around and leaned against the railing. "It's such an unfortunate thing, to lose the ship your father had made for you, but that's the life of a pirate I suppose."
Rachel furrowed her brow. "I thought Santana's father was dead? How could he make a ship for her?"
But it wasn't so easy to explain, so eventually, Quinn found herself telling the story of her best friend, Captain Santana Maribel Lopez.
It all starts with Valentino. His accomplishments of conquering the sea and commanding the respect of seafarers everywhere had been discussed, but what people didn't know was how he met Maribel. Near the end of the Age of Commerce, Valentino sought to take a break from sailing, so he returned to his home in Adyacente, the island where he was raised and defended into his adult age. He left the pirate at sea during the time he spent there. He didn't want his people fearing him. He wanted the love they showed him when he was a child. He wanted the respect they gave him as a teenager, before he first set sail.
So during his time, he built himself a house. Then he fixed the church that was crumbling to pieces. He renovated every building that needed renovation, filled all the cracks in the sidewalks, restored the docks and repaired every boat or ship that was brought to him. It took only a year, but with the help of Martinez and the people of Adyacente, Valentino earned the love and respect he desired.
A sailor could only be away from the sea so long before wanting to return. Valentino made plans to answer the call, but he couldn't, because the day he and Martinez gathered a crew, he met a woman.
Maribel Palomo was a whore who worked in a brothel, but no one knew her by her actual name. Locals knew her as 'The Prostitute', not because of how common her body had been used, but because she was arguably the most wanted woman in Adyacente. Men who had the pleasure of sharing a night with her were known to leave their wives the next morning. The decent women of the island hated her – called her a witch of the worst kind, a seductress who stole husbands for fun.
Valentino had never even heard of her. He hardly ever involved himself with loose women. He met Maribel by pure chance outside of some no-name shop. He stopped her right there, told her he thought she was gorgeous, and said it the nicest way humanly possible.
Maribel was immediately outraged. Her impression of him was a man – a pirate, no less – out to aggravate her. Men never approached her with such sincerity, and the ones who did were the worst of them all, always begging for her hand and offering to take her away from her wicked life. No one could seem understand that she did the things she did because she like it. No one understood that she was strumpet by choice, because she enjoyed sex and the power that came with it, not because she was a fallen woman.
But then Valentino asked her name, and her judgment of him flipped. No man, not even the 'nice' ones, ever asked for her name upon first meeting her. He did. And he couldn't have cared less about her occupation.
Maribel relented to his charms, and Valentino quickly cancelled his plans to set sail. They fell in love and were married five months later. Valentino moved her into his house, promised her everything under the sun. She told him she wanted him to take a break from sailing so they could focus on their marriage and continue to make the island better. Valentino had enough money to last him a lifetime, and he agreed to Maribel's terms so long as they could start on a family as well.
But Maribel had always thought herself to be infertile. Dozens of men and not a single pregnancy. She always saw it as a blessing, but only because she was in the sex business and didn't want bastard children. She never thought she'd be a married woman with a devoted husband, but that's how the game of life went.
They tried for two years, and in that time, all they managed to do was transform Adyacente Alturas into a fortress. Their marriage was strong, but no children had come of it. For Valentino, it had been about three and a half years since he last set sail, and he was itching to get back to the sea. Since there was nothing Maribel could do about her barrenness, she allowed him to go for as long as he wanted, but not before spending one more night together. He promised to return soon, and he was gone the next day.
Six months at sea and Valentino was on the other side of the world, conquering regions and collecting gifts to bring back home. He and Martinez dealt with a lot throughout that time; he hadn't received any messages from Maribel and he didn't have time to write. Then, one day, Martinez came running to him with a letter. It was from Maribel, and on the note it said that she was pregnant.
Knowing he wouldn't witness the birth of his child but not caring either way, Valentino rushed home. His wife was pregnant. He would finally be a father, a title he always dreamed of having.
But, unfortunately, Valentino never made it home. Some rival privateer wanting to make a name for himself caught Valentino in his armada. Valentino sailed only one ship, and though it was made of iron, it was one against twenty-two.
The Valentine was not sunk, at least not fully. It lost its way right on the edge of a tiny, tiny little island, half of its body above the surface. The entire crew had been killed or wounded. Valentino, who'd received a cannon to the chest, was the next to die. He knew there was no saving him, and in his dying breath, he asked Martinez to make it back to Adyacente, Maribel, and their child in one piece and give to them his final word.
Martinez made it off the ship and eventually made it back to Adyacente. The island was just as prosperous as it was when they left, but darkened days were sure to come. He found Maribel in her home with a one-month-old girl in her arms. Martinez cried the moment he saw her, and it took him an hour to tell Maribel why her husband wasn't with him.
Valentino had two final wishes according to Martinez. The first one was for Maribel, and all he wanted from her was to keep the island and the people of Adyacente well, and for her to keep herself and their child well. The second one was for Martinez himself, and what Valentino wanted from his best friend was to tell his child all about him and his accomplishments so that the child would always have a good understanding of who their father was. Also, just as Valentino's father did for him, he wanted Martinez to build a ship for the child so they could sail when they were old enough.
The infant girl was given the named Santana.
Martinez went to work on Santana's ship, acquiring hundreds of men to put it together. It was finished by the time Santana was two, and he gave its key to Maribel for safekeeping. Then, he found himself on another ship and set sail to the Eastern Nations to retrieve Valentino's body and bring it home for a proper burial. Martinez never returned.
Growing up, Maribel told Santana tales of her father every day. Santana loved it and expressed wanting to be a pirate herself. Maribel had problems with the idea at first, but only because the only pirates she ever knew were dead. But she soon realized that she couldn't keep Santana from her truth.
Santana was causing disruption and flirting with women twice her age by the time she was ten. Adyacente had fallen over the decade due to the lack of government Valentino once provided. Maribel was never able to fill his shoes; once he and Martinez were gone, her title as a fallen women had come back in full swing. She had some respect, but she never received the same amount of respect as she had when her husband was by her side.
By the time Santana was eleven, a plague was brought to the island and spread rapidly. It left horrible sores upon those unlucky enough to fall ill and ultimately brought about a slow, agonizing death. People were sick all around her. Maribel fought the disease for an entire year, but didn't make it through like some of the others. But just before she died, she gave Santana a key in the shape of a heart and told her to go find her ship. Then, she told Santana that one day she'd have to go out and find her father and Martinez and bring their bodies back to island to bury them, and then, when she was ready, she'd restore Adyacente just as Valentino did. Santana promised she do all of that and more.
She buried her mother the next day. Then, because she knew she'd soon live a life of infamy, she chose to do a little bit of good first, so she helped bury all the others. During that time, she had heard about a woman who lived close by, a woman who searched for girls to train and make strong. At the age of fourteen, Santana found her ship, she collected everything she thought she'd need, said goodbye to her home, and set sail with a map to find this female general she'd heard about.
Out of all the girls, Santana was the only one to find Sue and not have Sue find her. Santana forced her way into the manor and, ultimately, saved Sue a trip. Quinn was already there, but Santana was more focused on her future training than anything else. Her vision hit its peak by the time she was sixteen, and she was the second one to leave the manor for her rite of passage.
Hers was the longest. Santana spent an entire year at sea with Matthew Rutherford as her quartermaster. Her ship was the fastest of all the others at the time, and during her reign she discovered hidden treasures, captured and killed wanted rogues, freed innocent captives both human and animal, sunk dozens of ships, killed hundreds of sailors, captivated women from all over, and so, so much more.
Her final objective was to fulfill her mother's final wishes, which involved her finding Valentino and Martinez to bury them. Santana never made it that far.
Just like the privateer responsible for Valentino's death, a reputable pirate known as Captain Zizes became determined to take Santana down. What she wanted most was Santana's ship, and what she did was catch Santana off guard to take it. Four years later, Santana never managed to get her ship back, and because of that, she was never able to find her father or Martinez, and she had a tarnished reputation to boot. Sue claimed her rite of passage was done, but Santana always felt it a lie.
"And now, after all these years, Santana is finally going to reclaim her ship."
"What a life to live," Rachel breathed. "I have a question, though."
"What's the name of Santana's ship?"
Quinn smiled and turned to look back at the sea. "Valerie."
Scourge was a shit-settlement hidden in the crevice of a deep-sided inlet, obscured to everyone that didn't know where it was. Getting inside was a problem alone; the passageway was so tight and narrow. But once inside, Scourge was like a vast, dark, hollow pit that stood upright. All around were buildings that leaned to the side, crumbling stairs, dim light, and daunting ships.
The Bluewing would've stood out during the day, but the night kept it looking like all the other ships. They came up on the docks slowly, and Santana immediately began to scan the area for what was hers. She noticed the docks and how there weren't many people out, she noticed the moon and its fullness, and then she noticed a ship, her ship, and it made her blood hot. It was in horrendous condition, like it'd been sailed through a thousand maelstroms. And the flag – the flag atop the main mast was a torn, grey mess that had no right fly.
"That's my ship. That's my ship under her greasy flag."
"Well, you've been stalling long enough," Quinn reminded her. "We're here. What the hell is your plan?"
"I'm going to get this entire place ablaze, that's my fucking plan," Santana hissed. "Matt and his crew will stay on the Bluewing, because when it all goes down, I want him out of here so he can make it home to his family, not caught up fighting. Mercedes and Kurt will secure the docks and Sugar will sneak onto Valerie and take out the entire bit of Zizes' crew. When the crew is taken out, have Baylor move the steeds. While all of that is going on, I want Tina and Rachel to set up some dynamite or something; whatever they gotta do to set the docks on fire when everything's said and done. You and I are going to see Zizes."
Their quest to find Lauren Zizes was a quick and easy one. Her booming laughter could be heard all throughout Scourge and it led them to a tavern where she was sitting at a desk with a drink in her hand, apparently signing up more sailors to join her crew. Just seeing her and that cocky grin made Santana want to commit murder.
"Zizes!" Santana pushed some would-be pirates out of her way and banged her hands on the table. Zizes wasn't intimidated in the slightest and showed it by grinning and leaning back in her chair.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the world's most contemptible pirate: Santana Lopez," Zizes mocked with what could've been mistaken for a genuine smile. She didn't even bother to get out of her seat. That's how arrogant she was. "And what do a bunch of scallywags like us owe the honor?"
Santana nearly spit in her face. "Save the drivel, you obese bilge rat. I want my ship back."
"What ship?" Zizes taunted. Santana's emotions ignited.
"You know which one! Valerie!"
Zizes laughed, "Oh, you mean that pretty little ship out there at the docks? Have you forgotten? It's mine now."
"Like hell it is. That ship was created for me and me only," Santana clarified. "You ever wonder why your flag is so limp, ever wonder why you've accomplished nothing over the past four years? Only I can sail successfully on Valerie. No one else."
Zizes didn't flinch. Instead, she looked past Santana and set her eyes on Quinn, who was the calmest in the room and also the most deadly. Pirate nonsense wasn't enough to rile Quinn and Zizes could tell, so she put her attention back on Santana who was beyond livid, knowing she'd be able to get under her skin.
"You know, seafarers talk, Lopez. I'm sure you know we haven't been hearing good things about you. I hear you be burdened with royalty."
Santana knew what Zizes was planning and it wasn't going to work. She was far too angry to fall into a trap of manipulation, but she could play the game. "Aye, I be burdened, but not as much as you'd like to hope."
"Really? Not even by that mermaid of yours?"
Santana didn't dare say a word in the presence of so many bastards. Zizes simply laughed in her face.
"Your silence says it all, Lopez." And then she settled comfortably in her chair. "Captain Santana Lopez, caught in the spells of a mermaid. What would your father say?"
Santana slammed her fists on the table a second time. "That I was a damn good pirate and could sink any one of you sons of bitches! Don't you fucking play with me, Zizes. I'm taking Valerie back."
"Yeah? And how do you plan to do that without her heart?"
The key was on a chain around Zizes' neck, where it looked foreign and out of place. There was no sailing Valerie without the key.
And Santana was more than prepared to take it.
Quinn knew what Santana wanted to do. She took out her sword carefully, an actual threat ready to cut any body foolish enough to come close. Size up the tavern and there were about a hundred men packed inside and about only half of them willing to fight. Quinn didn't even really need a sword; her unchanging need to protect her team was a weapon all on its own. In all honesty, Santana only needed to fight Zizes. She could take the rest.
What really started to piss her off was how the sons of bitches around her were looking at them. The ones watching Santana stared her down like she was a joke – a powerless little puppy not to be taken seriously. And the ones foolish enough to look her way looked her up and down like she was a piece of meat. The lack of respect was what set Quinn off.
She thought a sword was too much for such a small space, so she put it away and took out a small blade hidden in the inside of her boot, the kind Santana adored, then she took out the other one from her other boot. Since Santana and Zizes were back to arguing, not many people seemed to notice her. Then she ran up on the biggest man in the bar, a man who'd just finished signing papers to join Zizes' crew before they burst in, and slid the dagger across his throat.
Quinn took two steps back and addressed the silence in the room. "What next, Zizes?"
And then she was surrounded by goons. Quinn almost wanted to laugh. She was stronger than every single of them; she was more capable than every single one of them, and they were so caught up in their own masculinity that they'd never bother to think it true. She took one glance at Santana to see that she was already fighting, and then she let everything loose.
The first man to run up on her was short and chubby and not worth her time. She easily jabbed him in the forehead twice with the same blade and jumped out of the way before his body hit her feet. Another man with a sword and nasty facial hair ran to her next, but she stepped to the side and let him trip over the man bleeding to death on the ground. The bastards came after her one-by-one and in packs if two or three, but she took them all out effortlessly.
She lost sight of Santana after about twenty men, only to see her and Zizes battling it out with their fists. If only Zizes had known what a bad idea that was; all the hits Santana took during her fight with Tina, all the energy she had saved up was all being released onto Zizes, and from what Quinn could see she wasn't faring well. Captain Zizes was just the type to fight with her hands, but not when Santana had something to prove.
Quinn fought through seven men to get to them, only to see Zizes with a major gash across her forehead and Santana with several bleeding puncture wounds across her chest and a few slashes across her arms. They'd both did a number on each other, but the key was gone from Zizes' neck sure enough.
When Tina came running into the tavern Quinn knew more trouble was brewing. That woman was supposed to be setting the place on fire; so for her to be in Quinn's face meant Santana's plan was foiled somehow or the fire Tina started was spreading like hell and would soon burn them to a crisp if they didn't get out of there.
Then, with about a dozen men ready to jump her, Tina threw a smoke bomb that was so strong that it took over the whole front of the tavern. Then she threw two more to take over the rest of the room, and then, from what Quinn could tell, ran out. Tina only ever used smoke bombs when distractions and a getaway were absolutely required. Quinn took heed; she ran to where she last saw Santana and Zizes, grabbed her best friend and ran her out of there.
Tina waited outside and the moment she saw them she took off. Santana took off after her, and only because she knew how to pick her battles. Any other time, Santana would've ran right back in there to finish Zizes off, but she was thinking smart that night, and since she had her key, there was no logical reason to run back in there that night.
Tina led them back to the docks and wasn't it a spectacle. The entire front was lit, with sailors and wenches running around hollering. Every ship on the dock burned expect for two – the Bluewing that was already in motion and making its way out, and Valerie, which was waiting for its captain.
Quinn had no idea how they would make it past the flames without getting burned until Tina showed them a way around, which involved the three of them climbing up the limestone walls that made Scourge the pit that it was. Santana didn't have the patience and ran through the flames like a maniac before diving into the water. Her route helped her make it to Valerie faster, but the damage done to her body was now twice as worse.
Mercedes pulled her onto the ship and she ran to the helm. With the key to Valerie's heart securely around her neck, Santana took off without even considering the fact that Tina and Quinn were absent. They made it just in time fortunately, pushing themselves from the outer-wall onto the ship. Once everyone was present and accounted for, Santana used what persistent bit of life she had left the helm to see what she was leaving behind. Scourge was in utter chaos, and when she saw Zizes behind the flames with a look of pure hatred, she laughed.
The entire night was spent sailing out of Scourge's bilge. An easy task it was, because Valerie and Bluewing were two of the fastest ships at sea. The majority of the night was a blur. Bilge waters had a way of making everything hazy, but the further they sailed the clearer the skies became.
There were no words in any language adequate enough to express the feeling of getting one's ship back after so many years. Sailing out of Scourge with Valerie sent a powerful surge through to her soul, like lightning, and she wasn't the only one who felt it. The entire ship was ecstatic.
Santana was covered in injuries and burns, but her first order as captain wasn't for Mercedes to patch her up, but for Baylor to take down Zizes' flag. Sugar was given the honor of burning it, and once it was ash, Santana ordered both ships to drop anchor and went below decks.
Zizes may have been a wicked bastard, but she was certainly a devoted pirate and kept to the code sure enough. When a pirate captain lost their own ship to another, the new captain wasn't allowed to rid themselves of the former captain's belongings until they knew said captain was dead. Since Santana had been alive and well all this time, Zizes was obligated to keep to the code – she could move Santana's things anywhere on the ship, but they had to remain on the ship.
Obviously, Zizes packed everything in trunks and left them to rot in the bilges. Inside of one were her old clothes, a pair of pipes, old maps, a compass, a rusty dagger, and most importantly, her flag. The other four trunks were filled with – and Santana couldn't believe it – treasure. She acquired a whole lot of it before Zizes took her ship, and since she was dumped into the middle of the sea she sure as hell couldn't have taken it with her. Any other bastard would've spent that coin long ago, but she supposed Zizes wasn't the one.
Santana took her old flag and shook it loose. Unlike Valerie, Valentino had nothing to do with the making of Santana's flag. Flags were up to the pirates themselves – for them to create a symbol of their own individuality and menace. Santana had hers made in Halyard by a woman who reminded her of Sue: old and cranky. To set it apart from the others, Santana made sure her flag was red just like her father's, and in lieu of the commonplace skull and crossbones, her skull wore a hat and had long hair like a woman, and beneath her head were crossed cutlass swords. It represented her, and Santana swore she'd never fly another one.
She returned topside to see everyone waiting for her. There was nothing to be said then. She handed Baylor the flag and gave him the honors of returning it to its rightful place at the top of the main mast.
Sailing continued once Santana's flag was up. As agreed, the Bluewing would continue to sail beside Valerie until both were completely out of bilge waters, which would only take half a day, then Matt was free to be on his way.
Victory aside, Santana was in terrible shape and couldn't push aside medical attention any further. Mercedes took her to her cabin and dressed all her wounds, and patched up old wounds that ripped open again. The burns weren't as bad as they could have been but the bleeding was abundant. Mercedes told Santana to stay in her bed for a few hours, but there was no real demand behind it because she knew Santana wouldn't listen.
Not even half an hour since Mercedes left the room and Santana was up and about, tidying her cabin and tossing whatever belonged to Zizes. It wasn't just the cabins – the entire ship was a mess. Santana promised herself she'd be doing some major renovating when they came across a proper town; Valerie deserved to be returned to her former glory.
As she dusted an old globe of hers a knock came to her door. Obviously it was Quinn, because no one else would come to her when she was supposed to be "resting." Quinn knew Santana was far beyond a goddamn nap. "A word, captain?"
"Yes, I get seventy percent, you all split the rest—"
"Shut up, you idiot," Quinn chuckled as she closed the door. "I wanted to know how you were feeling."
Santana set the globe to the side and looked around the room. "Good. Triumphant. Like I can walk on water. Tell you, I don't even feel my injuries. That's how great all of this is."
She said it all with such a huge smile, so Quinn knew it was real. "That's wonderful, Santana. Let me be the first to say how proud I am of you and—"
Santana raised her hand. "Eh, Mercedes already beat you to it."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Well, let me be the second to tell you how proud I am. You've accomplished a whole lot within the past two days."
"Yeah, and to be honest, this is all I've ever wanted. All the other shit I've said is completely out of my mind right now, I'm just happy to have Valerie back…" She thought about her words for a moment, and then corrected herself, "Of course I still plan to take over the seas and whatnot, but Valerie is what's most important to me."
"And now that you have her, where do we head next?"
The map on the planning table was analyzed by the both of them. They were headed into colder regions, and soon they'd be passing Solian soil, which was a huge chuck of land populated by indigenous people and settlers from the Far East. Further north and they'd be in Windertide, which was pure ice and snow. Neither Santana nor Quinn had ever been to Solia, but they knew most people chose to avoid the country thanks to the cruelty of its people and the supposed "haunted" grounds. With their luck it'd be best to pass Solia right on by and take comfort in Wintertide once they arrived.
"I'll tell everyone to start wearing warmer attire."
Santana shrugged. "Let them freeze."
Quinn laughed and decided she'd bothered her friend enough. She quickly said goodbye and made her way to the door, but Santana told her to stop. "Oh, no you don't. We're not finished yet."
Quinn gave her a look. "We're not?"
Santana shook her head and grinned mischievously. "Definitely not. We still have to discuss you and Rachel."
Quinn's smile faltered a bit and she didn't move from her spot. "Rachel and I are fine."
"Not from what I've seen, and I see everything," she said. "Don't think I wasn't paying attention. There's been tension between the two of you. I want to know why."
"Really? You're asking me about my relationship when yours is complete chaos?"
When Santana didn't have a quick enough response, Quinn immediately regretted her words. Brittany hadn't shown herself at all since they set sail, and it was never fair to mention Brittany because Santana had no certain way to defend Brittany or the mess they called a relationship. All Santana's ever been able to do was admit that she loved Brittany and drop her head, and it was always the saddest thing.
But Quinn didn't get that sorry defense this time. That Santana was dead. The Santana standing before her had her old ship back – her old self back – and no spontaneous mentioning of her mermaid was going to throw her off. "I'm glad you mentioned her, because I've decided to tell everyone tomorrow morning."
Quinn almost didn't believe her. "Is that right?"
"It is." Santana limped around the table to close the distance between them so that there was no mistake with how serious she was. "I am officially Captain Santana Maribel Lopez once again, and I'll be damned if I have to hide my lover from anyone. She's the one I love, and everyone will know her name."
Quinn nudged Santana away disbelievingly. "How the hell, Santana. How do you go from sneaking out and crying and keeping secrets and letting Tina beat the life out of you, to this? I knew being in Halyard Harbor would give you some confidence, but—"
"Valerie and defeating Cutthroat did away with all my insecurities and anxieties," Santana explained with undeniable certainty. "The only thing holding me back at this point are these injuries. I can't take another beating from Tina, not right now, but Mercedes' medicines work so fast I'll be fine by tomorrow. Everyone will know tomorrow."
"You sure?" Quinn tried one last time. "I thought you said wanted to speak with Brittany first."
"I did," she said with a touch of sadness. "But I haven't been hearing her song. I don't know when I'll see her again. I don't want to wait any more than I have to. I am absolutely sure about this. And I hope you'll keep to your word about doing what you can to welcome Britt into the group," Santana challenged, because from the way she spoke Quinn sounded as if she was having a change if thought. "You'll help me make this right?"
There was no question about it. "I'd be a hypocrite not to. Get you're rest, yeah? I'll see you in the morning."
Rachel complained the entire night about how unkempt the ship was, stating that if sailors didn't have the decency to keep their ships clean then they shouldn't own one. Rachel had picked out what she thought was the cleanest cabin to be in and forced Quinn to help her with cleaning. Quinn went along with Rachel's antics only because she wanted to be with her, and she hardly did any cleaning because she knew Mercedes would rid the ship of Zizes' filth soon enough.
Then Quinn asked about the fire and Rachel lit up. "Oh! Oh, Quinn, it was insane. Tina had this black powder and she and I spread it everywhere. One of the ladies from Matt's crew helped us out. She was the one to spread the powder onto the other ships. I tell you, there were trails of this stuff everywhere. When Sugar was done clearing Valerie she helped get everyone on board except for me and Tina. We found torches that were already lit and threw them onto the powder trails. Quinn, the entire docks were burning in five minutes."
"Sounds to me like you had fun."
"Oh, I did. I mean technically I took part in the murder of possibly over a hundred people, but it was for a good cause overall. I helped a friend."
Quinn kissed her on the nose. "Yes you did. And that good friend of yours is going to make an announcement tomorrow."
Rachel showed immense interest. "Really? About what?"
Rachel gasped. "She's ready?"
"She certainly thinks so."
"And she's going to tell everyone?"
"Wow," Rachel breathed. "But wait, who doesn't already know?"
Quinn thought about it for a moment. "Kurt, Sugar, and Baylor. It doesn't matter, though. It'll all come down to whether or not they accept Brittany. And even if they don't accept her, I don't think Brittany will ever go away."
The skies and sea were clear that morning, meaning they were finally out of bilge waters. Quinn saw to it that the entire ship was topside and busy, ready for whenever Santana wanted to present herself. Matt was present as well; he didn't want to separate himself from Valerie until Scourge was just a black speck in the distance. While Naydeen handled the Bluewing he mingled with Mercedes and Kurt, and Quinn for some reason couldn't keep her eyes off the ocean.
Her cabin doors opened and everyone turned their heads. Santana appeared to be fully rested. The dark circles beneath her eyes were gone and her hair was down, bouncing past her shoulders. She wore her old red coat that fell to her knees – the one that was tattered and strong and gave her the image of an absolute menace.
"Listen up! I have a few things to say to you all," Santana shouted as she walked down the stairs that brought her to the main deck. The person she stopped in front of was Tina, and she continued to talk with no recognizable sense of fear. "To start, let it be known that I am your captain. I give the orders on this ship. I decide when we sail and where we sail. I decide when you sleep, when you eat, and where your positions be. As long as we are on this ship, I am in charge. Understand?"
There were no objections. It was obvious to everyone that Santana made all the decisions for anything seafaring-related.
Content, Santana rested her eyes on Quinn before looking around at everyone else. "Secondly, I want you all to know how grateful I am to have you as my crew. I would never have accomplished so much had it not been for your help. I know it may not seem like it, but I consider all of you to be my friends."
Kurt and Rachel smiled greatly at the declaration. Santana was such a guarded woman – had been since the very first day, and a lot of it had to do with her lack of patience and trust, never wanting to take the time to open up or allow others to break the barriers down out of fear of getting hurt. Their forced companionship changed all that, and they supposed assisting with Valerie was the icing on the cake.
Santana went on. "And on that note, there's something important I need to tell you. A few of you already know my situation, but I'm going to explain it all for the ones who don't." She inhaled deeply. "Remember what happened in Noeland at that lake, when that mermaid got in my face… Well, that mermaid came to see me again, and again, and then a few more times after that. She sang for me almost every day, and only I could hear her song. We saw each other while we were in Arcelina and the Fairy Kingdom. Her name is Brittany, and I am in love with her."
No one dared to say a word after Santana's confession. There were too many reasons to be flabbergasted. For some, it was an absolute shock to hear that Santana had been seeing anyone at all, let alone a godforsaken mermaid. Then, to hear Santana admit to being in love was like a lucid dream, because she never admitted to loving anyone, not even herself.
And to everyone's surprise, there was more. "That's not all of it. I know all of you remember the story I told of Alastor and how I mentioned he had a daughter. Well, Rachel had a dream that an old friend of my father's came to her and warned her of Brittany and said that she was to look out for the tentacles. When I was told of the dream, I went to my books, and I discovered that, ironically, Brittany is the Kraken's daughter. I went to her and she confirmed it. But, she has made it very clear that she only wants to see me. She has promised that no harm would come to any of you."
A few people looked Tina's way. Her expression was unreadable, as if she was fighting to show any emotion. Her team knew better than that. What Tina was feeling could only be described as sheer revulsion and animosity. Santana felt it the most, but she carried on without remorse because she didn't want to hide her true feelings any longer.
Santana went on to explain that she was not under any spell, so the validity of her words were not to be in question. She then explained the relationship between Valentino and the Kraken to make things clearer.
"I want to hear your thoughts," she continued. "I want to know how you all feel about this, and about the possibility of Brittany showing herself more often in a non-threatening, ally sort of way."
"You mean…join our group?" Kurt asked.
Santana shrugged. "Possibly."
There was no hasty answer from anyone. No one really knew what to say, and for the ones that did, they certainly didn't want to be the first to speak. It was such a complicated situation with so many elements involved. Santana, who was a pirate, fell in love with a mermaid, who was also the Alastor's daughter, a man-turned-beast also known as the Kraken, who just so happened to be a big enemy of Santana's father. Tina hated mermaids, was cursed by them, and here she had a best friend who once felt the same way trying to bring a mermaid into the group. The science of it all was just bizarre.
The very first person brave enough to speak was Matt, and when he spoke he didn't hold back. "Really, woman? This is what's been happening with you? You fell in love with mermaid? For God's sake, of all the things to happen to you…" He took a moment to really look at her, then he went off again, "Couldn't you have just killed a king or something – something simple?"
Santana actually grinned and shook her head. Matt had a way of scolding a person without judging them, to make them feel stupid without any loss of confidence, and she always liked that about him. "Nothing is simple about my life, Rutherford. You ought to know that by now."
"Yeah, I ought," he agreed through a sigh. "Listen, I'm not a part of this group, so none of this really involves me, but as your friend I will say that I think you're being the same lunatic you've always been. Love who you want, just as long as she's no threat to me."
"I'll see to it that you and your family are included in the deal," Santana told him. That satisfied him enough for him to step away from everyone else and take a seat on the nearest surface, muttering about the Kraken and how he wanted a drink. "Next opinion, please."
Quinn took the liberty of speaking next, mostly because she had the second-best understanding of Santana's situation. She admitted that she was by Santana's side from the beginning, and that she didn't show any approval for most of that time. She didn't like that her best friend was seeing a mermaid and she made it clear, but she relented because Santana's emotions were more important than her disapproval. "I don't know what will come from this," she said, "but hopefully Brittany keeps to her word. That's my biggest concern."
Mercedes' response was similar. She called out the mental distress Santana endured the past few months and acknowledged that most of it wasn't due to Brittany herself, but from having to keep Brittany a secret. Now that everything was out in the open, a lot of that grief would be relieved, and with the acceptance of her team, happiness would shine through.
Rachel loved the idea of love, so to have someone like Santana experience it, well, how could she have a problem with that? Sure, the one she fell in love with was a mermaid – which was an open doorway for possible abuse – but since that mermaid made agreements to keep everyone safe including Tina, Rachel thought Santana's love was beautiful.
Kurt was shocked to say the least. He had no idea any of this was going on; he'd only noticed a change in Santana's mood, only he didn't know Santana enough to question it. Now that the truth was revealed, he was on the same boat as Rachel. He was a hopeless romantic too, and Santana being in love made his heart warm.
Sugar didn't see her teammates take on actual relationships often, reasons why she was so excited over Quinn and Rachel. Santana, who was a proud anti-commitment womanizer never dated, only fooled around. Her finding a woman she wanted to be with and show off to her friends should have given Sugar pure energy, but because of who this woman was, and because of who Santana was and who Tina was, Sugar didn't like it. Sugar loved Tina more than she loved the others because Tina was the one who found her, was the one to talk to her and tell her that Sue could give her a better life, was the one to pick her up and help her wash off the blood on her body and take her out of the darkness of the forest where she hid after murdering her father.
Sugar loved Santana, but she felt more obligated to take Tina's side. "Tina's opinion will be my opinion," was what she had to say.
Baylor only had one concern: would Brittany stop Santana from being his captain. Santana told him, in the most heartfelt way imaginable, that she liked him enough to keep him around and always be his captain. He nodded and didn't say anything else.
Last was Tina, and she didn't say anything. She didn't need to say anything. She had no reason to give Santana any approval of any sort, not when she was cursed to be killed by the same type of creature Santana had been keeping company. What "opinion" would Tina possibly give that Santana didn't know to her soul?
Then, Tina opened her mouth and spoke words Santana never thought she'd hear. "Let me be clear to all of you. I've dealt with the fear of mermaids my entire life, and throughout the past seven years, that fear has declined because of Santana and her ability to shake the fear out of anyone. Do not misunderstand – I still hate mermaids and see them as disgusting creatures, but I have gotten to a point in my life where I can handle myself around them and not show fear or animosity. I handled myself well in the lake when those mermaids surrounded us, I handled myself in the Fairy Kingdom where I was surrounded my merpeople, and I handled myself just fine around Jeremiah. I'll be honest – Brittany being a mermaid is a problem to me. Mermaids will always be a problem to me as long as I am cursed, no matter how much safety they promise myself and my team. But even with everything said, Brittany being a mermaid is something I could get over."
Santana knew there was more to it, reasons why she didn't dare show emotion. She'd never allow herself to get too enthusiastic and look like a fool in front of everyone when Tina was about to crush her. All she did was ask, "Is that true?"
Tina said yes. "I know you for having a twisted soul, so your happiness is very important to me. I could accept Brittany if she was an ordinary mermaid, but she's not. She's the Kraken's daughter, and no matter how much you love her, no matter how me she loves you, I cannot find myself accepting that. Knowing the history of your fathers, I'll never fully trust her."
By that time, there was only Santana and Tina, and the others watched in respectful silence as the two who were most troubled by the situation talked it out. "Can she earn some of your trust?" Santana questioned.
"Maybe," she said. "She'll have to prove herself tremendously."
Santana understood and she agreed. Brittany would have to prove herself to everyone for all of them to fully trust her. "Will you talk to her? Will you have anything to do with her if I bring her around?"
At that, Tina exhaled agitatedly, but before she could give Santana a response, Naydeen from the other ship called out to them. Matt jumped up to see his first mate waving her arms for attention before pointing to the open sea behind them. Far out in the distance was what looked to be ships, and upon further scrutiny, Santana saw that the ships had no flags and appeared to have been burned.
"It's not possible," she whispered to herself. "She doesn't have the power."
"The power to do what?" Quinn asked once she was by her side.
"To catch up with us on the ships we set ablaze," Santana replied. "It's Zizes. The bitch is relentless."
Quinn couldn't see how it was possible. Tina made sure every single ship in Scourge was burning and unable to be sailed as they made their way out, yet there those ships were, on the water with charred bodies and fresh sails, catching speed like the Bluewing. There was no real time to make sense of the situation, but Mercedes was the first to say that Zizes had a sorcerer somewhere in her party.
Santana began to shout orders left and right. Tina and Mercedes were to man the topside cannons and Baylor was to be their powder monkey. Rachel and Kurt were assigned to the cannons in the hold and to take the steeds down with them for safety measures; they'd never learned to shoot cannons, but Santana told them to figure it out or be killed. Quinn and Sugar were to be loose crew members, shooting with a bow and ready to kill any member of Zizes' cheap armada foolish enough to swing onto Valerie. Santana told Matt to sail on so he could make it home, and he laughed in her face, claiming she mistook him for a coward before jumping back to his ship.
The Bluewing wasn't made for battle and Matt knew that, but that didn't stop him from sticking around to fight. His main issue with his ship was that it didn't have any defense mechanisms at all. There were no cannons, no bowsprit, no fire barrels, no boarding hooks – no nothing. All he could do was sail circles around Zizes, and that didn't help Santana a damn bit.
Still, he refused to leave her side, and when Santana turned her ship around to face the opponent, so did he, and the very moment his turn was completed, the Bluewing shuddered and let off a hard vibration that made the sea tremble. It only lasted for a second, but it was strong enough to hit Valerie and make her wobbly. When Santana looked his way with an expression that said what the hell?, he shrugged and went back to focusing on the weak fleet before them.
As Zizes came closer, there was a split second where Santana wanted to turn back. She literally just got her ship back under her control; losing it to Zizes a second time would be the end of her. But Santana shook that feeling off her back quick. She wasn't running. If she did, Zizes would only track her down. The only way to end her feud with this bastard of a woman forever was to kill her, and Santana was prepared to do just that.
What the sea gods permitted to happen next was completely unanticipated and extraordinary enough to have everyone believe they were hallucinating.
Mermaids. There was a whole pack of them – some had fins like sharks and others had tails like eels. Some flew out of the water as if they had wings and some swam so ferociously they took waves with them. There was even one mermaid with long spikes on her back like a lionfish, and she was huge.
The very first thing Santana did was look at Tina, and despite everything that was said just moments before, she looked terrified, but only for a moment. The fear subsided for everyone when they realized the mermaids weren't there for them, but for Zizes and her ships.
The mermaids were ferocious. The shark ones rammed into the ships repeatedly; the eels had sparks that came off their bodies, and when they attacked it looked like they were throwing lightning. The lionfish took an entire ship with one swipe. Santana could see every little detail, and the horrified looks of the armada crew were bitter sweet. More malicious as it was, there was no better sight than seeing your enemies being ripped apart by creatures that used to be enemies.
Quinn felt it okay to let her guard down. Those mermaids weren't there to hurt them, they were there to help. But what she wanted to know was who sent them. Brittany was her first thought, but they hadn't seen her in weeks, and when Brittany made a promise to keep them safe from harm's way, she meant safe from her mermaids, not safe from other dangers like pirates.
The only other possibility she could think of was Jeremiah, and last she checked, he only gave them a ship. Sugar never mentioned anything about him offering them assistance at sea.
Whatever the reason, they were safe from a much warranted and very unwelcomed attack. Whatever sorcery Zizes had in her pocket was no match for those devilfish. They had the sea red in a whole of six minutes, and when they were finished with their frenzy, there wasn't a ship afloat or a body that hadn't been drowned or ripped to shreds.
Santana didn't see Zizes anywhere. Cutthroat's reign had finally come to an end. While Santana was thrilled she never had to see that wicked woman again, a very small piece of her went out to Zizes. It was humiliating for a pirate to die at the hands of a mermaid, and if Santana could turn back the time, she'd kill Zizes herself and let her die with some honor.
The mermaids swam off one at a time, none of them bothering to stop and explain their reasoning for showing up even when some of the crew called out to them. It wasn't long before Santana was through with the situation completely. She didn't need any answers or justification – if it was Brittany's doing, fine. If it was Jeremiah's doing, fine. Either way they saved her a heap of trouble, and it was time to sail on.
"To Lauren Zizes, a true scourge to the seven seas."
Santana and Matt clinked mugs. He downed his drink in one big gulp. She set hers aside and began to stuff her pipe. He gave her a look and started to laugh. "You reminiscing?"
"Ain't nothing to reminisce about," she told him emotionlessly. "But we have to acknowledge her."
Matt sighed and scratched the back of his neck. "To a bastard who didn't have it in her blood but chose a pirate's life regardless. To a lunatic who shot cannons first and asked questions later. To a scoundrel who survived two hangings and always made it back to her ship. To a true sailor who lived by 'dead men tell no tales' so strongly that she gave the phrase to her vessel. To Lauren, may she rest in Hell."
"Aye and Amen," Santana said. "We'll be with her soon enough."
Outside of Santana's cabin, mermaids were still the talk of the town. Aside from the vibrations, no one had any real answers, not until Baylor asked about alligators living in the ocean. Sugar perked up after hearing that. Jeremiah's lover was an alligator.
There was still much to be said about Brittany, but without Santana or Tina present, no one said anything. Tina had retired to her room the moment the mermaids were gone, and the mermaids had Kurt so shook up he went straight to his room and never made it topside.
"We all felt the vibrations, though," Mercedes acknowledged. "It had to be the Bluewing that called them."
"I swear Jeremiah never said anything about it having special powers," Sugar promised, to herself mostly, like she was trying to think back to every word that Jeremiah said to her. "He just said it was fast."
"Well, whatever the case, we should all be thankful," Rachel allowed. "Those mermaids saved our lives."
"Yes, they did," Mercedes agreed openly. "And for right now, I think we should all take a moment to consider everything that's happened today. I don't care how early it is, I'm going to bed."
Matt went back to his ship and decided to stay by Santana's side for one more night, just in case something else went awry. Quinn slept for the rest of the day and didn't wake until night came around. By that time, the only person topside was Santana, and once she saw Quinn, she decided to head in for the night.
Whoever had the key had control over Valerie, so technically, Quinn was just a lookout. She didn't mind at all. Quinn hated taking the helm.
During her time under the stars Quinn took a good look at the Bluewing. It was a beautiful ship, really – small, but beautiful. Valerie was about twice its size, but she'd never measure up with aesthetics. The wood it was made from was a crystal blue and its trimming reflected against the water like the stars sparkled in the sky. She would have never guessed that such a pretty little ship had so much power.
Valerie was beautiful too. And enormous. Bigger than any of the ships they'd been on thus far. With a little renovating to fix the damage Zizes had done, she'd be good as new.
She tried not to think about anything while she was out, as overthinking would only ruin a perfectly good night like this. She pushed Santana and Brittany and Zizes far from her mind and began thinking about Rachel. It was odd – she and Rachel had their issues and did everything they could to keep them under control, but Quinn was starting to think that she was going to have to remind Rachel exactly what their relationship was about. They agreed to passion and romance, not lust and especially not love. Even though Quinn did have her problems with sex, lust was something that could be negotiated in the future. Rachel was insanely sexually attractive to her. But love? Absolutely not. She couldn't take the risk.
On the back end of the ship, Quinn sat on the ground and watched all the sea they were leaving behind. She had her legs and arms through the railings and rested her chin on the bar, knowing she'd be fine so long as the railing was sturdy. She closed her eyes for just a few seconds before the sound of rushing water made her pay attention to her surroundings.
As she opened her eyes, who else would it be but Brittany right in front of her, using her influence on the sea to push her up and hold her out of the water. Quinn was a little surprised to see her, and the only reason she didn't stand or find a better position for herself was because of the sadness that was so, so clear in Brittany's eyes.
Right off the bat, Quinn knew she was dealing with a different side of Brittany that probably not even Santana had seen. This Brittany wasn't here to play games – she was timid and nervous on the verge of tears. This Brittany looked like she wanted clemency. "I…uh…I see Santana has her ship back. That's amazing."
"Mhmm," Quinn hummed, more annoyed than anything. "Where have you been?"
"Around," Brittany whispered softly before explaining herself more. "After she discovered who my father was I wanted to give her some space. She needed time to think."
"She would have had everything figured out by now had you told her from the beginning."
Brittany looked a little affronted by that, like Quinn didn't know what she was talking about. "If I had told her from the beginning she would have wanted nothing to do with me. I wanted to see her, Quinn. I wanted to be around her. Now I am in love with her."
Hearing that, Quinn took a softer side. "I know you are. She loves you too."
Brittany smiled instantly. "That's so good to hear. How has she been doing?"
Quinn almost told her to go ask Santana herself, but she decided not to waste her breath. "Fine. She just told the entire team about you earlier today. They know everything, actually. Remarkably, most of the team is willing to accept you if it makes Santana happy."
Brittany was thrilled to hear it, but she still asked about the teammate's opinion that was most important. "What about the Cohen?"
Quinn simply shrugged. "I'm still not sure. The conversation was cut short when Zizes somehow caught up with us. Bunch of mermaids took them down, though."
"You have Jeremiah to thank for that," Brittany said, and it didn't surprise Quinn that she already knew. "He makes ships in bottles. A lot of them are designed to give off a signal when the ship is in danger. He must like Sugar a whole lot to want to keep her safe like that."
She agreed. "He's a good man."
Then, Brittany pushed her limits. She grabbed Quinn's dangling arms and cupped her wrists before looking Quinn square in the eyes with a stare made of pure desperation. "What do I have to do, Quinn? What do I have to do to make things right?"
Quinn just looked at her like she was crazy and said simply, "You're going to have to prove yourself a thousand times over. No one is going to completely trust you until you do, not even Santana. If you can show everyone that you are truly not a threat and that you're willing to fight with us and always keep Santana happy, I think you'll be okay."
Brittany let go of Quinn's wrists. "Then I will do just that. I will do all of that and more."
And then she was gone just as quickly as she came.
Come morning, Santana was sitting at her desk with a drink in her hand, laughing at herself over the sudden realization that she never even bothered to get some cannons onto the Bluewing when they were in Halyard. She had her team buy all the cargo in the world, but she didn't think to buy one single piece of defense.
What was supposed to happen the day before was going to happen today. She'd finally send Matt on his way and get the final words from her team about Brittany. That was the goal for the day.
In all honesty, Santana couldn't believe the support she had from her team. She was so sure that most of them would reject Brittany, not just for Tina's sake but for their sake as well, even with the agreements made to keep them safe. Knowing that they all cared so much about her happiness made her heart flutter.
All there was really left to do was find Brittany.
She didn't finish her drink or her smoke. She wanted to start the day with a fresh mind and a fresh mouth. Let something go sour and then she'll hit the bottle.
But as fate would have it, just as she was about to leave her cabin, Baylor forced himself in sporting a look that could only be described as absolute horror. All he had to say was one word.
Santana almost didn't believe it. For a split second, it was all a dream. Baylor wasn't in her cabin looking petrified and crying about tentacles. No. Couldn't be. It was a dream. It had to be a dream.
But then she heard the screams of Kurt and Rachel and any hopes of that morning being a dream was dead. She nearly ran Baylor over to get out those doors, but when she made it outside, there was nothing. The sea wasn't calm and her ship was still, but there was nothing.
Everyone was topside, and when she looked over, she saw that Matt was the only one out on his ship, and she could almost taste his anger. For the ones who weren't angry, they were terrified.
No one had time to say anything. The sea rocked and the waves crashed over both ships. Kurt looked scared for his life, and everything was happening so fast neither Quinn nor Santana could give orders, at least not orders anyone would abide by.
And then, the most horrifically breathtaking moment Santana would never experience at sea happened right before her eyes. A tentacle as high as the mast emerged from the depths, and its end was wrapped around a very important body. Carefully, the tentacle dropped Brittany onto the ship as close to Santana as possible. As it let her go, the tentacle remained stretched out against the ship in a spiteful fashion, as if to say I'm the biggest threat to you yet, but I'm choosing not to hurt you.
Overwhelmed and shocked beyond repair, no one really noticed when Brittany's fins turned to legs and she stood naked for everyone to see. The nudity went right over Santana's head. Not knowing what to expect, Santana slowly walked to her, and the moment they were within arm's reach, Brittany grabbed her. Santana didn't even know she was shaking until Brittany started rubbing her arms up and down. Wouldn't be long before Brittany was holding her up, too.
Brittany looked a no one else – only Santana. When she was sure she had her full attention, she decided to speak. "I'm sorry I've been away. I thought time and space was what you needed."
Santana wasn't in a captivated state with Brittany any longer. She spoke to her like she did everyone. "It's fine."
Brittany couldn't help but smile. She turned around and pointed at the tentacle that, at that point, seemed to only scare the living daylights out of Baylor. Brittany took Santana's hand and walked here to the front of the ship, calling for everyone to follow suit. She pointed to a particular area in the water. Santana's breath hitched; she was the only one who could see him. All it took for Brittany was to wave a hand to separate the water, and then everyone could see his head. With Brittany holding her hand, he wasn't as intimidating as he should have been.
"This is the Kraken. Alastor," she announced to everyone. "Right now, he could sink and drown all of you, but he won't because I've told him not to. I could sink and drown all of you, but I won't because I have no reason to. And even if I did, I've made promises to not hurt any of you. My mermaids will not hurt you. My father will not hurt you. So long as I have power, all of you will always be safe."