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King On A Pirate's Isle

Chapter Text

0 - Prologue

 

Ben had expected a lot of things from the island, but finding love hadn't been one of them.

When Harry had grabbed him from behind, a lot of things had happened all at once. He'd gasped, tripped, felt a hand around his mouth, heard laughter, and, most strangely, sensed that his heart had skipped a beat.

"What in the bloody hell?" Harry had muttered, almost letting go of him but just managing to keep his composure.

Ben had been frozen, unable to think past the pounding inside his soul and the questions whirling in his brain like a hurricane, so he'd unknowingly allowed himself to be pulled through the shadows and cracks back to Uma's ship.

He hadn't really paid attention to the petite captain's gloating, and he'd been in a state of almost constant confusion, which was probably why he'd been so pliant when being dragged around and tied up.

"Are you even listening to me?" Uma had barked.

He'd been too caught up in his mind full of new possibilities to even hear her. Instead, he'd wondered why he'd never felt this way before, and why it took a villain kid to spark his heart.

His parents had always told him that villain kids were unloving and unlovable, full of malice and rotten to the core. But, whilst sitting on the damp planks of a pirate's ship, he had questioned his blind faith and unquestioning discipline. He'd questioned the unspoken laws and wondered if they were unspoken, not because they were obvious, but because they were waiting to be proved wrong.

The crew had left him alone, a few of them landing an insult or a nudge of hatred here and there, and he couldn't have been more oblivious to the thundering skies and relentless rain.

He'd always tried to avoid the Isle, having been told that it was a place of danger and deceit, but after seeing the lost look in their eyes, he couldn't help but think that he'd been wrong to try and ignore the villain kids.

By the time he'd blinked himself into being somewhat alert and realised that he wasn't with Evie, Jay, and Carlos, the sun had sunk and night had darkened the sky. With a sigh, he'd realised that he couldn't move, that he was propped up against the edge of a ship, and that he was at the mercy of Uma and her crew.

He'd also recognised the fear dimly poking at his heart.

Naturally, he'd ignored it. Everything he'd ever learned was telling him to find a way of helping the villain kids, and find himself an escape route so he could get back to Auradon and put the aforementioned plan into action.

As the rain had soaked his clothes and dripped from his hair, he'd shivered and simply hoped for the best, refusing to give up his optimism. As the pirate crew had laughed into the night, trading cards and taunts, he'd held his breath and shut his eyes. As he'd heard the plans they had for him and the ideas they'd wanted to try on a prince, he'd bitten his lip and tried to sink into slumber.

He'd been hopelessly hopeful.

Chapter Text

1 - Surprisingly Relatable

 

When Ben wakes up, it's not to an alarm telling him to get ready for classes or the sound of birds chirping outside his window, but to a cold bucket of water being poured over his head.

He gasps, tensing, and tries to blink himself awake before someone pours more water over his head.

"Morning, sleeping beauty." Uma grins down at him, but he jerks backwards. Probably due to the knife in her hand.

"I think I know what breakfast will be: your pain." she kneels in front of him and he shuffles back, trying not to make a sound.

Uma just laughs like a hyena on a sugar rush, her gorgeous blue locks swaying back and forth like an imminent tsunami; Ben doesn't remember her being so bloodthirsty.

"Uma!" Someone calls, and said captain sighs, slamming the knife down beside him and standing up.

There's a quick yelled conversation entirely in some sort of pirate slang Ben can't make sense of, and then the knife is being picked up, slid into the top of a boot, and Uma is glaring at him as if everything is his fault.

"Safe for now, king." Somehow, she makes the title seem worse than any other insult recorded in history.

Ben breathes heavily, shifting as the leather clothes Evie had chosen for him uncomfortably cling to his skin because of the almost constant rain overnight. Why had he thought trying to fit in with these kids was a good idea?

"King? I thought you were just a prince." Harry raises an eyebrow as he steps into Ben's line of sight.

He knows he shouldn't but Ben can't help noticing the way Harry's eyes are surrounded by alluring shadows, probably some form of make-up he can't remember the name of. He wishes he could because he's never seen more attractive eyes- wait, what?

Ben just shakes his head both to his thoughts and the pirate. "I'm technically king..."

"You don't seem very excited about it."

"It's just... Not the life I'd wanted for myself." Ben bites his tongue, unsure of why he's telling the son of Hook anything.

But Harry nods understandingly. "I can accept that. I didn't choose to be the first mate."

For a second, Ben wonders if Harry hadn't chosen his life of evil, then remembers who he's talking to, and what the reality probably is.

"You want to be the captain?" Ben guesses.

"I'd like to make my Pa proud, and not just by wearing this..." Harry waves his Hook around, sighing.

"Oh. Well, I'd like to make mine proud to. But looking like him would probably do the opposite for me..." he can't help but remember his father telling him to be like his mother, and follow her example.

Their peculiarly touching first conversation is interrupted by the soft rumbling of Ben's stomach, and Harry is soon enough chuckling until he has to blink back tears of laughter, at which point he freezes. "I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard."

"Thank you?" Ben offers.

Harry sends him a quirked eyebrow and a small smile in return, one that Ben easily matches without having to really try. He's not sure why, but he has a feeling it might have something to do with the glow and skip of his heart.

"I'll see about some food, Your Majesty..." Harry mock salutes with his hook, leaving Ben with a hungry stomach and a warm bubble inside his chest.

As Harry saunters away, Ben notices that he's wearing leather too, but he seems to own the outfit, unlike himself. It's almost a physical effort to stop himself from thinking about how the first mate can look so good in the same material that's plaguing Ben's comfort. Then again, it might just be because the first mate isn't tied up, or soaking wet with precipitation.

He hadn't expected to have anything in common with a pirate, but he can't say he's against the idea.

Chapter Text

2 - Multiple Royal Pains

 

"Is brown bread bad for you?" a lazy voice asks from above Ben.

He frowns and lifts his head up to see the familiar stylish coat belonging to none other than Harry the first mate.

"I'm sorry?" Ben croaks.

Harry kneels down, crossing his legs in a rather unnecessarily sassy way. "Is brown bread okay for his majesty?"

Ben could cry with gratitude but he doesn't have the energy so he just nods, hoping that Harry won't take offence.

There's a moment where the two of them are silent after which Harry sighs and pulls out a knife. It's only then that Ben notices he's not wearing his hook but rather, a simple pair of black gloves. He doesn't get to comment on it immediately as he's too busy watching Harry handle the knife.

"Relax, princess," Harry scoffs and simply slashes the rope typing Ben's hands together.

Ben gasps, rolling his stiff wrists and sighing in relief as they seem to be fully functioning. He's usually has a pretty good hand-eye coordination but he has to practically juggle the sandwich Harry throws at him before catching it. Even though it's a simple bread and butter meal, his hungry stomach is more than grateful.

"Did you just call me princess?" Ben asks instead of thanking Harry like he wants to.

Harry cracks a grin but shakes his head. "Maybe Uma wasn't wrong about you being a royal pain in the neck."

Ben would be offended but there's a sparkle in the pirate's eyes that he's never seen in anyone's eyes and he doesn't want to dampen it under any circumstances. Instead of replying, he gives a small nod and starts to eat the sandwich, trying to be polite but wolfing it down faster than Mal had run away.

Harry saunters off and the two of them don't meet again until the evening when Uma kicks him out of his trance and grins down at him, her hair swaying like the masts on her ship.

"Are we ready to talk?"

"Talk?" Ben echoes.

Uma rolls her eyes. "You're going to tell me how to become queen."

"I thought you were already queen?" someone says from the left, followed by a dull hiss of 'shut up, Gil!'

Ben catches Harry's eye as Uma fumes but the other pirate quickly looks away so ben does the same, biting his lip as he tries not to assume the worst. His train of thought is oddly self-conscious until he feels the threatening sting of a blade at his throat, looking up to see Uma baring her teeth at him and impatiently waiting for him to react to something he hadn't heard.

"Sorry?"

"I said, how do I become queen of Auradon?"

Ben blinks. "I don't... I don't think you can."

Uma jerks the blade forward but, instead of commenting on how that does in fact sting, he says, "You know, you should wrap something around the end of that blade. You're going to hurt yourself..."

"Shut up, you pathetic waste of royal blood!" Uma hisses, groaning in exasperation before standing, stamping on his leg, and turning on her heel in frustration. "Send him below deck!"

There's a part of Ben that considers himself lucky to be under some form of shelter but there's something oddly cold in her expression that should probably be taken as a threat.

Instead of thinking about the potential threat, he just wonders why on earth he feels like he's being watched as he's pulled down the broken stairs and shoved into a fancy box where his ankle tells him it's probably bruised and he decides that anyone in here could easily develop claustrophobia. He leans against the side of the box room and sighs, thanking whatever stars have the luck that Uma hadn't noticed his unbound hands. It's cold and there's not much space to move, not to mention that the possibility of seeing a certain pirate is significantly lower down here.

He can't think logically despite being brought up by some of the most logical people he knows but he can't tell if that's because of his surroundings or the people around him. He just hopes his mind clears enough to work out how to get him out of here and possibly invite the people who haven't threatened to kill the entire population of his kingdom to go with him.

For now, he's just happy to be out of the rain.

Chapter Text

3 - Pirates Are Unpredictable

 

"-ake up, princess!" a voice hisses at him.

Ben groans himself awake, blinking away the exhaustion and trying to identify whoever's waking him up.

"Harry?" he questions as he sees the unmistakable blue eyes.

"Glad to see you've not gone blind," Harry smirks. "Now, are you awake?"

"Yes?"

Amused, Harry rolls his eyes. "Where are you?"

"Below deck. On the Isle of The Lost...?"

He's relieved to see Harry nod, satisfied. His own unexpected relief doesn't last long because Harry's expression turns from smug to inquisitive within the blink of a blue eye.

"I need to know what it means," Harry tells him, "I need to know what it means that we were glowing?"

Ben's eyes widen; he'd assumed the stories were common knowledge.

"You don't-?" Ben cuts himself off as someone opens the hatch that allows passage to where he's slumped.

Harry's alluring eyes widen as he too hears the sound and, before Ben can take another breath, the first mate has carefully dived behind boxes he hadn't noticed and adeptly hidden from view.

"Morning!" an obviously yawning voice calls.

Ben decides it's best not to reply, which seems like a good idea until there's a knife at his throat and he's trying not to move.

"Didn't your parents teach you any manners?"

"Sorry," Ben gasps, regretting his earlier decision, "good morning?"

"It's not very good for you, unfortunately." Uma steps into his view and kneels down once again, waving away the pirate with a knife to Ben's neck. "Are you ready to tell me now?"

"Tell you what?" Ben asks.

"How to become queen, idiot." Uma's lip crinkles in disgust as she looks over the young king but she's apparently waiting for an answer because she says nothing for the next minute.

"You'd have to, um..."

"Anyone seen my pills?" Harry bellows, wobbling on his feet and faking a yawn that Ben wouldn't know he was faking unless he'd just had a conversation with him.

"What?" Uma asks, clearly surprised.

"Oh." Harry blinks. "I didn't accept anyone to have be here!"

Ben winces at his ridiculous sentence and Uma clearly thinks him to be drunk so she rolls her eyes and walks over to him, grabbing his arm and whispering something in his ear. Harry laughs after a second and looks over to Ben before Uma pulls his chin back to face her and hisses something at him.

Ben frowns at the interaction, wondering why the captain and the first mate have such a violent relationship, but he has no time to draw any conclusions because someone's unlocking the cell he's in and dragging him out, pulling him up the stairs and then depositing him where he'd been kept the first night.

After what his brain classes as forever, someone coughs next to him.

"Ready to eat, princess?"

Forget recognising the voice, all Ben needs to identify Harry is that nickname.

He smiles without meaning to and Harry chuckles again, then curls a finger to tell him to stand up, which he then does, wobbling for a second before mentally telling himself the leather outfit is comfortable and not an absolute menace. Nothing is said as the two of them walk into yet another secluded part of the ship - there's too much space and not enough people, Ben thinks - and Harry gestures for him to sit as he goes to open what's probably meant to be a cupboard but is just a few boxes piled up on each other.

"Thank you," Ben whispers as Harry hands him a sandwich - one with cheese this time. He's not sure why he feels the need to whisper but he can't make himself talk any louder than the quiet hum of people above deck. Harry doesn't object, simply sitting cross-legged in front of Ben and watching as he all but devours the second sandwich of his time in captivity. It's only after he's finished that he realises to ask: "Aren't you eating?"

The first mate grins at him. "Don't you ever get tired of being polite?"

Blinking, Ben shakes his head.

Harry doesn't reply and picks up the hook Ben's ashamed to admit he hadn't noticed the pirate remove. It's a simple act, to pick up a hook, but Ben can see the way it causes Harry's entire demeanour to change. He watches as the blue-eyed pirate stiffen and hold himself to appear taller, more confident, and so much more attractive. As soon as he thinks that, Ben's face and pulse freeze, hoping that pirates can't read minds. He's getting married to Mal, he can't be finding some random pirate, especially the first mate of the captain that wants him dead, attractive. Maybe, he decides, it was just his inner Belle appreciating the beauty in the world, a beauty that Harry happened to have.

"What are you thinking about now, princess?" Harry raises an eyebrow so high it vanishes under his smooth locks.

Using a slow blink as the response to Harry's questions for the second time, Ben has to clear his throat before he can say, "Nothing."

Chapter Text

4 - Sand Is The New Light

 

"Earth to the princess in leather!" someone jokes, and it takes Ben a moment to realise there's only one person who would use such a nickname: the pirate that he's currently staring at.

"Uh, sorry, yes?" He mumbles, offering a smile to make up for the broken sentence.

Harry shakes his head in amusement before clearing his throat. "So, was I imagining things or did we really glow... Or whatever we did?"

Ben opens his mouth to reply but then shuts it again before shaking his head in disbelief. "You didn't think it happened?"

Harry makes a face that could be described as condescending but Ben can recognise as bewildered and reluctance to admit said bewilderment. "It's not even nearly the strangest thing I've seen around here."

"Just because something is strange doesn't mean it's not real," Ben replies softly.

"Alright, I don't need your provisional codswallop..."

"Provisional?" Ben echoes before letting out a small chuckle. "You mean proverbial?"

"If I knew I meant whatever you said, I wouldn't have said whatever I said, would I?" Harry rolls his eyes, clearly not aware of how genius that sassy remark happens to be.

"Harry!" Uma sings, smiling as she sits down beside him with an odd smile.

"Uma, my captain..." Harry nods his head respectfully.

"Has he said anything yet?" she asks as if Ben wasn't right there.

Harry sighs, "Only that he finds his outfit terrible and that he's sure his goody-two-shoes friends will be here to find him soon."

Uma laughs, cackles, and finally acknowledges Ben, turning to him with a smirk. "You're stuck here until I'm the queen, what's so hard to understand?"

"That you'll ever be queen," Ben says.

Uma sighs. "You're sickening." She thinks for a moment before turning to Harry and grabbing his wrist, pulling him along to where Ben can't overhear their hushed conversation. He's practically vibrating with anticipation when the two of them come back and his gaze is immediately drawn to Harry's eyes, or more specifically, the shadowed look in them; He's not seen that look in his eyes before and it worries him as much as it intrigues him.

"We've come to an agreement," Uma announces, "you're going to stay with my First Mate until further notice. It'll give him an opportunity to... get some answers out of you."

Get some answers out of him? Ben allows the words to echo in his head, not knowing exactly what's happening, not that he ever did. He wants to think this is a good thing but he's not sure that any kind of good thing can come from Uma's sly smile - or any of her other smiles for that matter. He doesn't say anything though, not as he tries to figure out what she could mean, not as he follows Harry to wherever they've decided to keep him next, and not as he realises Harry is staring at him with an unfamiliar expression.

"Do I have something on my face?" He asks eventually, feeling his cheeks heat up as Harry's gaze gets no less intense.

"Yeah."

"What?" Ben's hands fly to his mouth, ashamed to think he'd given Uma the impression he can't even eat neatly. He doesn't find anything though and figures whatever it was had fallen off without him knowing because Harry says nothing to convince him otherwise.

"So you're gonna be staying with me for a while."

"With you?" Ben can't help sounding shocked.

"I am the first mate, princess."

"But-"

'I didn't think I would be leaving the brig any time soon,' he thinks, 'And I thought I'd be sent to walk the plank or something.'

"You're still sleeping on the floor," Harry interrupts his thoughts and Ben doesn't know if he should laugh or sigh. In his indecisiveness, he does an absurd mixture of both that results in Harry abruptly stopping in his tracks and turning to look at him with a bemused expression. "What was that meant to mean?"

"I don't know!"

"Do you perhaps... not want to stay with me?"

"No! I mean- No, I do... Wait, yes?" Ben stumbles over his reply, turning an unceremonious shade of red.

Harry grins at him and pushes open the little wooden door, gesturing for Ben to step inside. When he does, he gasps. He's met with a rather plain but still endearing little room, a hammock hanging from the ceiling against the back wall and Harry's hook hanging from it. There's not much else in the room, only a small cabinet with a mirror above it and shelves on the opposite wall. There are fairy lights strung up along the entire wall from one side of the door all the way round to the other, balanced on various corners and protruding bits of wood in the walls, but each bulb is filled with sand rather than light.

"It's..."

"Unusual, I kno-"

"Beautiful," Ben interjects, beaming.

Harry blinks at him and smiles, "Welcome to my beautiful abode then."

Ben smiles but the gesture reveals his headache and he shuts his eyes as the dull throb overtakes his senses, stumbling a little and choosing to fall forwards instead of against the wall because, even in the face of unconsciousness, he doesn't want to ruin the sandy fairy lights that look like they'd taken a lot of time and effort to assemble.

"Oh, for-" Harry darts forward to stop him from falling and barely catches him, Ben landing on his knees instead of his head. He groans but he doesn't have enough energy to pull himself up so he mutters what he hopes is a 'thank you' and lets his limbs go limp, his eyes sliding shut entirely.

"If I wasn't me and you weren't you, I'd probably say you just fell for me," Harry mutters to himself as he rearranges Ben's limbs so the boy doesn't wake up with stiff limbs, a small smile on his face.

Chapter Text

5 - Jagged Conversations

 

 

Ben coughs as his eyes fly open, his chest screaming at him and his throat telling his chest to shut up so it can complain about its own pain.

"Rise and shine, princess," Harry says immediately, almost as if he'd been waiting for Ben to wake up.

"What happened?"

"I'm not a doctor, I don't know," Harry answers. If Ben didn't know better, he might think that was a dismissive comment instead of a secretly concerned one.

"Uma said something about answers..." he stars nervously.

Harry sighs. "Breakfast always comes before questions. I hope you still like bread."

He does. He really does. He likes the person serving the bread even more but he doesn't know why so he says nothing, telling his stomach to accept the bread despite his usual, stricter diet.

Harry eats nothing, he notices, but drinks what smells like candy and looks like seawater.

"Is your Highness done?"

"It's your Majesty actually," Ben corrects before he can stop himself. He doesn't know why he feels brave enough to do something like that but he swallows the fear in his throat.

"You what?"

"Uh, the king is usually referred to as 'His Majesty' and the, um, the title of 'Your Highness' is for princes and-"

"Alright, I've heard enough, you donkey," Harry mutters darkly, but not unkindly.

Ben frowns but lets it go since Harry has a look on his face, one that he associates with students in a classroom, and he doesn't want to see that genuine expression fade, especially not because of him.

"Harry!" Uma yells, which is all the warning they get before she's bursting into the room with a glare on her face.

"Yes, Captain?" Harry asks with his posture instantly more alert, his soft expression replaced by stiff respect.

"Have you learned anything yet?" She demands, pulling him outside even as she does.

Ben doesn't know what happens next but when Harry comes back in, there's a growing bruise on his arm and a dark grimace on his face.

"I'm sorry," Ben says.

Harry glowers at him, his gaze so much more intimidating than anything he's seen more, even deadlier than Uma's crazed grin.

"Don't stick your nose where your brain can't follow, princess."

Ben's mouth stops open in shock. He feels lost, like he's only just realised he's not at home, he's in a different land where there are different norms and different rules and different people.

Deciding not to apologise in fear of angering Harry, Ben nods and jumps to his feet, following the other boy as they make their way through the crew. Said crew smirks at him when he walks past, occasionally muttering something under their breath, but Harry ignores them so Ben tries to do the same.

"Gil, stop scoffing your food and take our royal idiot to the brig, would you?"

Gil glances up at Harry and frowns, his gaze landing on Ben's probably terrified expression. "What'd you do to him in one night?"

Harry just clicks his tongue and walks away, leaving Ben in the company of Gil, who seems to be okay with the ambiguity and just drags Ben back down the stairs and into the little prison.

Just as he's about to leave, Gil turns around with a conflicted look on his face. "Did he hurt you yet?"

Biting his tongue to stop his inner grammar police, Ben shakes his head.

"Did you hurt him yet?"

Again, he shakes his head. Gil nods in satisfaction and turns on his heel, leaving Ben to stare at the wood and its cracks for who knows how long, barely noticing when the sunlight intensifies before fading into a gentle darkness once more.

He's just about fallen asleep when Harry is back, opening the lock and pulling him back to his room once more. The grip on Ben's arm is strong - bordering on painful - until Harry closes the door behind them and lets go as if the contact had physically burned him.

Ben slides to the floor because he doesn't know what to do, he's not trained for something like this, he's never felt more useless.

"I once stepped on my crown," Ben says after a while, trying to fill the silence.

Harry looks at him from where he's lying on the hammock and raises an eyebrow.

"I almost broke it, too, but it was protected with magic so it just blew me backwards and I broke my wrist."

Harry whistles, then sitting up and leaning against the wall. "I fell out of the crow's nest."

"Why were you in a crow's nest?" Ben asks, trying to figure out what kind of crow this must have been to fit a human inside its nest.

Harry just bursts out laughing, almost falling out of the hammock. "The ignorance of royalty. I'm referring to the lookout's station on our ship."

The blood rushes to Ben's face like a moth to a flame and he shuts his eyes for a moment as if blocking his senses can turn back time.

"Were you okay?" Ben asks, his stomach twisting with embarrassment.

Harry grins. "I'm here, aren't I?"

"That doesn't mean you were okay," Ben replies quietly, unsure of where his concern is coming from. The confusion on Harry's face tells him he's just as bewildered.

"There was nobody there, actually, so I was fine."

To Ben, that's the exact opposite of fine. He doesn't verbalise the thought, though, still picturing the dark look Harry had thrown his way earlier.

"Right."

Harry shrugs. "What, you don't like heights?"

"I don't know, I've never been to a height."

"Never?" The shock in Harry's voice is virtually palpable so Ben looks away from his alluring eyes, trying to pull himself together.

"I, uh, no. It's too dangerous..."

"So am I and yet, here you are."

"But it's not like I chose to be here!" Ben argues, then wishes he could take it back.

The expression on Harry's face is one Ben won't ever forget, the combination of surprise, admiration, rejection, disappointment and rage burned into his mind and filed under things he wishes he could prevent from occurring. After a pregnant pause, the pirate gives him a subtle nod, then turns around, lying down and facing the wall, effectively ending their conversation.

Ben stares at his back, remorse filling his veins and regret weighing down his heart. It's too late to go back and not say anything so he just curls up as best as he can and shuts his eyes, hoping he can get to sleep and try to brush off the guilt squirming inside his soul.

"Goodnight," he whispers even though it's really not.

Chapter Text

6 - Going Higher

 

 

 

Harry's already up when Ben yawns and blinks himself awake. When he does so, Harry looks over to him and snorts. "Aren't royals meant to look good in the morning?"

"Who?" Ben asks, then shakes his head. "I mean, what?"

Harry rolls his eyes and pats his back pockets before pulling out a small, rounded shard of mirror. "Take a look, princess."

Ben hesitantly accepts the unconventional mirror, groaning when he sees his hair sticking up in at least eleven different directions. He tries to push it back a few times but only ends up making it worse so he gives up, not wanting to spend too long with someone else's mirror.

"Anything you do would be ruined if Uma threw you off anyway."

"Off?" Ben asks, suddenly more nervous than he'd been at his coronation.

Harry shrugs and takes the mirror back, tucking it into his pocket. "Off. Off the ship. It is an Isle..."

"But I could die."

Raising a ridiculously perfect eyebrow, Harry asks: "Can't you swim?"

"Of course!" Ben replies indignantly, "but it's different... I don't have anywhere to swim to if you throw me off."

He's given only another shrug in response so he stays silent after that, wondering if he's going to spend the day in the brig again or if he'll end up trying to swim back home by the end of the day. He carries on wondering until a girl he's never seen before greets Harry by jumping onto him and locking her legs around his middle.

"Morning," Harry laughs as he spins them around, then gently peels her off and stands her up. It's a routine that's obviously been done before and Ben has never seen a pirate so affectionate, a moment so beautiful.

"You're on lookout duty this week," the girl says once she's steady on her feet again, giving Ben a head-to-toe lookover before adding, "and I'm guessing he's going with you."

This week? Ben frowns in confusion, not having kept track of time at all. He knows they'd come to get Mal in the middle of the week but everything else had blurred together and he hadn't even thought about how much time had passed. He wonders how long his parents will wait before assuming he's not going to come back and moving on from him entirely. Tears prick in his eyes at the thought of being forgotten and left behind but he blinks them away, trying to be stronger and tougher and braver like he should be.

"-llo?" the girl waves a hand in front of his face, clearly exasperated.

"Sorry?" Ben replies, biting the inside of his cheek.

"Told you he's useless," Harry mutters to the girl, who snorts and waves before sauntering off to who knows where for who knows what.

"I'm not useless."

Harry makes a face Ben can't decipher and rolls his eyes. Only then is it that Ben notices he has the beautiful shadows around his eyes again and he can't help wondering how he'd gotten it to be so perfect when everyone back home takes so long - and uses actual mirrors - to make it look even half as good.

He's pulled out of his thoughts when Harry starts walking. It takes Ben a while to notice the accusatory stares of the crew because he's too busy watching the way Harry walks as if he'd invented the action. Unsure of what to do alone, he blindly follows, hoping it's the right thing to do, then regretting his decision when they get to what he now knows is the crow's nest and Harry starts to climb without a second thought, leaving Ben to nervously stare up at him.

"Are you coming or do you prefer swimming?" Harry calls over his shoulder.

As much as Ben wants to say no to both of those options, he can't deny that trying to swim in leather is definitely the worst thing he can think to do so he sighs and starts to climb. It's hard and he slips at least thrice before he even gets halfway but he just grits his teeth and pushes himself to move, needing to prove the pirates wrong and show he's not just useless. While he's dimly aware of Harry watching him from the top, he tries to focus only on the surface underneath his hands and feet, having climbed higher than he's ever done so in his life. It works until it doesn't.

"Your kingdom will fall before you get anywhere, weakling!" Someone yells from the deck, followed by cruel laughter. As if that's not hurtful enough, they must then kick the mast because it vibrates and throws Ben off, his grip failing for a moment.

His heart lurches as his feet slip but he bites back his scream, scrambling for something to hold onto as he sees how far up he is. Even though he'd only slipped a few centimetres, it'd been enough to scare him so he's breathing heavily when he starts to move again, this time faster and less careful. He's ready to give up when his head suddenly crashes into something and he cries out, hugging the mast for dear life as he loses his grip once more.

"Hey, you're at the top now, it's fine," Harry tells him, his voice soft, "but you have to let go and pull yourself up."

Ben shakes his head. "I can't, I can't, I can't do it."

He hears a sigh, then sees a hand in his peripheral vision. Blinking, he looks away from the rope he's holding onto and sees Harry holding out a hand for him to take. Despite everything, Ben doesn't even think before taking the hand, his fingers interlocking with Harry's like they were created for this moment. Then he's being pulled so he kicks himself up to help Harry and, slowly, he's able to crawl through the little door and collapse on the wood, exhausted and slightly embarrassed. He almost misses the cool touch of Harry's hand when they let go of one another.

"There we go," Harry says as he closes the door so neither of them falls, then kneels beside Ben. "You alright?"

Ben nods but he can feel the tears in his eyes so he says nothing, hoping Harry will ignore him or something. He can't understand why anyone would willingly choose to do that more than once and he doesn't even want to think about how he's meant to get back down.

"Hey, princess, come on, it's not that bad."

Harry's voice is soothing but Ben's heart is still racing when he admits: "I never want to do that again."

"It's only one week."

The sound Ben makes is probably akin to a whimper. He goes red immediately, looking anywhere but at Harry to avoid being ridiculed, and is pleasantly surprised when he hears Harry chuckle.

"You are such a princess." Harry grins.

"I wish..." Ben sighs. And, with that, it's Harry's turn to be shocked. Upon seeing his expression, Ben shrugs. "I just... It'd be less of a hassle than being king, you know?"

"I don't," Harry replies honestly.

"Oh, sorry..." Ben mentally kicks himself as he leans against the edge of the crow's nest.

"Not going to stand?" Harry raises an eyebrow again.

Shaking his head, Ben says: "This is more than high enough for me."

Harry smiles in amusement but accepts it at that, turning to watch the waves as if they were truly searching for land in the middle of a storm instead of looking out for visitors or trespassers in a ship stuck at its harbour because its captain wants to be a queen instead.

Chapter Text

7 - Mercurial Impressions

 

 

 

Ben's heart is hammering against his ability to think rationally and he can't breathe.

"'M 'onna be s'ck..." He moans as he looks down through the little trapdoor, at the deck of the ship that seems far too far away. They'd come up before breakfast and now Harry has told him the only way to get lunch - or anything, really - is to climb back down.

Harry gives him an unimpressed look. "Really, princess? You can't stand up but you can find the energy to be sick?"

There's something about the scorn in Harry's voice that makes Ben want to curl up and cry. Since he's currently already curled up and he'd already cried in front of Harry only hours before, he chooses to simply close his eyes and pretend the sound of the ocean is just the water feature his mother had insisted on keeping in his room.

"Mhm... y'r 'ight," Ben mumbles, his voice slightly muffled by the fact that his head is pressing into his knees, "'m 'onna jus' feel s'ck..."

There's a scoff and then the trapdoor closes again, suggesting that either Harry had jumped out or has decided against getting food. Neither of those makes sense to Ben but he doesn't want to move in case the mast topples and they both fall so he stays silent, hoping the situation will somehow fix itself before it can get worse and he officially becomes the worst kind of king to ever exist.

Silence reigns in the crow's nest until Harry sits down opposite Ben and sighs. "You have to go down at some point."

"I have a week, right?" Ben looks up just to see Harry's reaction in case he misses anything but finds himself squinting at the bright sun, his eyes rapidly blinking to try and adjust.

"You can't stay up here for a week," Harry argues, folding his arms and frowning.

"Why not?" Ben asks, pulling his legs closer and hugging his knees harder, "In fact, it'd be good for you as well, right? You won't have to worry about me..."

Harry rolls his eyes. "I don't worry about you anyway."

That stings. It wouldn't usually have bothered Ben at all but, right now, there's nobody else who seems to worry about him - he figures that if anyone from Auradon was going to come and find him, they would have done something by now - so knowing that even Harry has given up on him stings. The whole of Auradon, or rather, anyone who was aware of the royal decisions, had started to look for Mal the second she'd left but Ben's been here for several days - he thinks - and there's no sign of anything so he can't help being disheartened.

"Harry?" he asks quietly as he shuts his eyes again, letting his head fall back onto his knees.

"What is it, princess?"

Ben bites his lip for an entire minute of silence before asking: "How long have I been here?"

A small, thoughtful frown flickers over Harry's face before he settles with saying: "About a week, I reckon. Not that I'm any good at telling time, I'm pretty useless when it comes to stuff like that."

"What?" Ben can't manage a more intelligent response; that's the last thing he'd expected Harry to say.

When Harry doesn't reply but there's a shuffling that suggests he's stood up again and has probably turned around to look out to the sea, Ben clears his throat and pushes his panic down. He pulls his head up and, thankfully, it doesn't take as long to adjust to the light this time before he can say: "You're not useless."

Harry's laugh is more like a bitter bark. "I can't even count."

"Good thing you're not a mathematics teacher, right?" Ben laughs, but his voice betrays his uncertainty and he barely has time to blink before Harry is knelt down in front of him with venom in his glare.

"Are you mocking me?"

"I didn't mean to!" Ben practically squeaks, his face reddening.

Harry's eyes narrow but his gaze flickers between Ben's eyes and he seems to find what he'd been looking for. His voice is far softer than the suspicion in his beautifully endless blue eyes - not that Ben had been staring at them because, in his opinion, they're more celestial than the sky, no, of course not - when he says: "I know, princess, I know."

"I'm sorry," Ben offers, calming down enough to notice how Harry's eyes are almost the same colour as the sky above them right now. He then adds, "And, anyway, you don't need numbers to know when the sun goes down, do you?"

"No, but you need numbers to know how many times the sun has gone down since your arrival, princess." Harry raises an eyebrow, leaning back, apparently deciding he'd rather continue their conversation whilst sat down.

Ben blushes. "Right, of course. Sorry."

He slowly stretches out his legs a little, wincing when his muscles complain, and lets his head lean back on the edge of the crow's nest. Which is exactly when the world shakes. Hit with a spike of fear once again, Ben shrieks and blindly throws his arms out, more than surprised when he actually hits something, someone.

"Woah, steady on." Harry had apparently moved forward just in time to steady Ben, who's just about ready to cry again.

"I don't think I like heights," Ben mumbles, not even sure if he's actually saying anything because all he can hear is his quickened heartbeat.

The smile on Harry's face is both amused and bashful before he replies: "It's not exactly a brilliant first experience to make your judgement upon though."

Ben nods, then frowns. "You might not be a great mathematics teacher but I bet you'd fit right into the role of an English teacher..."

"Thanks, princess," Harry chuckles, letting go of Harry only when the world stabilises once again. There's a genuine beam on his face and Ben can't help wishing he'd learned how to develop a photographic memory so he could keep that image in his mind forever and- woah, what?

"Do you like pancakes?" Ben asks, the question jumping from his mouth in a desperate attempt to shift his focus from the way he can't stop thinking about Harry to something, anything else.

"No."

"No?" Ben echoes, now completely confused.

Harry laughs. "No, because we don't have them here and, as a pirate, you have to dislike everything you don't know about if you want to stay alive long enough to find out more."

That can't be a happy way of living, Ben thinks as he bites his lip, then stops himself from doing so because he remembers his parents telling him not to ruin his facial features, and then bites it again because they're not here and nobody needs to take a photo of him right now anyway.

"Are you hungry?" Harry asks after a moment.

Ben blinks. "What?"

He's met with a yet another perfectly arched eyebrow. "You asked about pancakes before attempting to eat your lips. Classic signs of hunger."

"Remind me never to learn psychology from you either," Ben laughs, happy to then see a smile on Harry's face too.

"I'd like to see you try and beat me in psychology, princess." Harry's voice is almost a challenge and Ben would be scared had he not been a part of the conversation beforehand.

"Oh, it's a challenge, captain."

Harry's eyebrows furrow in pleasant confusion. "Captain?"

Once again, Ben blushes. He opens his mouth to say something that might make him sound intelligent but then Harry shifts and suddenly his head is perfectly aligned with the sun, its rays creating a golden halo around him, and Ben is so mesmerised that he almost forgets to breathe altogether.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you're looking pretty lovestruck, princess."

The colour on his face now darker than a sinking sunset, Ben shrugs, then, against his better judgement, salutes and gives Harry a small smile. "Aye aye, captain."

In a crazy turn of events, Harry goes pink. Ben just admires the way the flush on his cheeks contrasts with the dark grey around his eyes. At least, he admires it until Harry coughs pointedly, at which point Ben wants a nearby cloud to fall, engulf him and save him of the embarrassment that comes from being caught staring, especially when you're caught by the person you were staring at.

"Uh... You have something on your face..." Ben mutters uselessly.

"It's called make-up, princess, get over it." If Ben was standing up, he'd probably be pushed over by the sheer force of defensive attitude in that sentence.

"I can't, Captain, you're too tall for me to do that," he says instead of trying to redeem himself. Luckily, it works and Harry chuckles lightly, the tension in his expression morphing into amusement and what might just be admiration.

After a while, Harry stands up again and looks out to the sea, dutifully doing his job. This gives Ben the opportunity to watch the pirate, to watch the way he taps rhythms with his feet and fingers, to watch the way his hair gently ripples with the breeze, and to watch the way he manages to effortlessly be the single most enchanting person to ever exist. Ben gets lost in the sight of Harry and he's sure that, if things had been different and he wasn't alternating between being intimidated and being in awe, he would have let Harry be his captain without a second thought.