He wasn't sure what had happened. At some point, everything had gone black. Actually, it still was. Had he lost? Was this… was this death? Voices murmured in the distance, whispers far away from where he was…
Those voices weren't far away. They were near, speaking swiftly. Concerned? Scared? He had to admit he was at the moment. All the voices, speaking so close yet impossible for him to understand…
"Captain!" the voice shook, as if the speaker was crying. It was like… music…
"Mermaimon?" he groaned, opening is one eye just a bit. Above him was his beloved, her pale blue eyes were wet, and tears fell onto his face.
"Captain!" she immediately wrapped her arms around him, making the Captain aware of how sore he was. He didn't care, though.
"Captain, you're awake!" he could hear Panjyamon's voice, but was to weak to bother searching for where it came from.
"Aye… what… happened?" he asked, stroking Mermaimon's hair to consol her.
"It…" he paused. "There's no trace of Petermon, sir. No one saw him leave… we…" Panjyamon took a deep breath. "We think you've won, sir." The words took a while to sink in. For what seemed like hours, he just stared up into the blue sky, engulfed by complete silence. His crew seemed to cease speaking as well.
"…Captain?" Mermaimon's voice was still a little shaky, concerned, but full of triumph. "…You won, Captain. You beat Petermon," she touched her nose to his. "You're free."
The realization almost- almost- brought tears to his remaining eye. But he couldn't cry. Not in front of his crew, or in front of his beloved…
Hey, wait a second. What was she doing here, anyways?
"…How did you get on the boat?" the question visibly surprised Mermaimon, but it was followed by a chorus of laughter from her and the crew.
"Leave it to you to make a dramatic moment silly," she laughed, snuggling into his neck. "I heard the battle and swam here as fast as I could. Panjyamon helped me up after you blacked out." The Captain felt a twinge of jealousy and regret that he'd not be able to help her himself, but it was short lived.
With a grunt and a great deal of effort, CaptainHookmon pushed Mermaimon off him a bit, sitting up. In a swift but quite painful movement, he was standing and holding her bridle-style. She was greatly taken aback by that, only able to wrap her arms around his neck in order to hold on.
"Then it's about time we head into the island!" it took some effort to hold his beloved up and yell to the crew, but if anyone could fake being healthy, it was him. And he'd be damned if his crew knew him to be injured! "Dracomon," he turned to the dragon-Digimon who nodded in response.
"I want you to go with Panjyamon to Tinkermon's Forest and search for other young Digimon," he huffed, trying not to stager. "Dracomon," he looked at the newly-Digivolved Rookie for a long moment, "I want you in charge on this. Young Digimon will trust you more."
"A-aye… C-Captain," the Rookie was to surprised to say much else.
"Should any of them ask to join us, you may accept them," CaptainHookmon grinned, "but don't ask them if they want to." Dracomon seemed to think about this for a moment before realization began to show on his face.
He ordered other Digimon to the other areas; to the Rookie Camp, Digifruit Tree, Virus Rock, and finally, Hook's Cove (which was named by Petermon after the Captain first arrived, using this area to drop anchor).
As his crew headed for the lifeboats, he leaned against the rails of the ship, still holding his beloved. He wanted to pay closer attention to them, but her idly toying with his hair was rather distracting. After everyone had finally left or gone back to work below deck, the Captain slid to the floor, mindful of the mermaid-Digimon he held in his arms.
He was breathing heavily with the effort it had taken to pretend to be okay for that long. He'd have continued, but it was only Mermaimon with him now. She'd seen him injured before; heck, she'd saved his life.
Her lips brushed against his cheek, and she smiled.
"Captain, you're a fool," she teased, kissing him on the forehead.
"Aye… a fool…" he panted, smiling back.
"Aye," she mocked, moving her arms from his neck to wrap around his lower torso. Her expression turned from playful to serious, concerning the Captain.
"Captain…" she mumbled, not looking directly at him. "Captain… you're free. You can leave the island now…" and he understood. He could leave the island, yes. But that would also mean leaving behind Mermaimon. A pang of guilt pierced his heart, and the once joyous moment turned bittersweet.
"Aye, Mermaimon," his words trailed off as he pressed a kiss to her lips. She eagerly pressed back, but he caught a taste of salt on her lips. It wasn't from the Net Ocean. She was crying again. "I hate to see you cry," he whispered, pulling back just enough to speak. "Please stop crying."
"I'm sorry, Captain," her voice wavered just slightly, and her grip tightened around him. "I don't want to lose you."
"The come with us," the Captain resolved, quite matter-of-factly.
"W-what?" she was greatly taken aback, pale eyes staring in surprise. His eyes did not waver.
"Come with us," he repeated, nodding. "You need me to say that again, my dear? Come wi-" he was abruptly cut off when she pressed a hard, demanding, grateful kiss to his lips, not even giving him enough time to assess that she'd managed to get her tongue in his mouth, too. He was pretty sure his mind stopped working for a good five minutes while she continued to kiss and thank him. Hell, maybe it was longer than that. He had no idea at this point.
"I will," she exclaimed. It might have been the first time she said it or the thousandth, be didn't know. "I'll come with you, Captain! I'll follow the Digital Duel wherever it leads me!"
"Aye," he finally managed to say, feeling like a bit of an idiot for not being able to speak sooner. "Then when the crew returns from the island, we'll set sail."
"To where, Captain?" she asked, amused.
"I don't know. To treasure, to adventure, to danger," he grinned, thinking of all the possibilities he had now that they were free from this retched place.
"Treasure? Adventure? Danger?" Mermaimon echoed, taunting him. "What sort of life is that?"
"A pirate's life, my dear," he chuckled. "And it's a pirate's life for me."
The Digital Duel set sail a few days later, filled with young Digimon who wanted to join the crew. Some in gratitude, others hoping for a chance to return home someday. Whatever the reason, they quickly became fond of the Captain (whom Panjyamon would scold for 'coddling' all the little babies he was so nuts over). When the ship finally left, no one was looking back.
New adventures were ahead, just waiting for CaptainHookmon to embark on them. Mermaimon followed the ship, occasionally singing to the crew or hopping into one of the partially-lowered lifeboats to rest.
And the Captain? He never took his eyes off the sea laid out before him, knowing that if he did, he would just be paddling backwards. Whatever lay ahead… he would meet it head-on, just like he always had. Just like he always would.
Red eyes gleamed from the island, watching the ship sail off into the distance. A light 'dinging' could be heard, like wind through wind chimes.