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frazzled civil servants and vaguely defined pirates are forever

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Quentin tells them all fifteen minutes, but it's really more like three hours before the last of the girls have dressed and trickled out from under the beds, out of the closets, out of the pantry and off the boat. Quentin narrows his eyes at a lingering figure, the only male in sight wearing pastel and at a loss for a hiding place. "Not you," he says, slipping an arm around the spy's elbow from behind.

The man's eyes are startled and somewhat desperate. He protests as the Count ushers the rest of the girls onto the boat with far more than his usual alacrity. "You don't understand, I very much need to be-" he starts to say.

"Of course we do, which is why you're coming with us. Just for a little while," Quentin cuts him off. He waves merrily at the departing girls.

"Are you even going to ask his name?" Dave asks. He hasn't stopped laughing since the spy got there and pulled his jacket off to reveal a jumper just as ugly as expected.

Quentin glares at him, but since they'll be needing a name he turns on the couch to look at his captive.

"Dominic," the spy hesitates for only a moment and noticeably straightens his spine. "Dominic Twatt." He looks around the room as a dozen shocked faces deteriorate into snickering and then outright laughter. A curl of anger evaporates in Quentin's stomach at the helpless look on Twatt's face and he's not sure who he's more angry with - Twatt for being so ridiculous or his crew for being his crew. Twatt, of course.

"Silence!" Quentin nearly shouts and remarkably, it is quiet. "Well," he says more softly, "tell us who you're spying for."

Twatt's eyes slide away from the heavy glare Quentin can feel the Count leveling from out of sight and his eyes glance nervously around the cabin. "No one," he says finally, shrinking into the couch. "I'm working, I mean I'm here alone. I swear."

Quentin feels the crew's glowering increase like a beam in their direction and he waves at them to back off. "You can tell us," Young Carl says, to a chorus of yeas.

"We won't hurt you." The Count's smile is positively sadistic.

After a while of this the spy is beginning to frown with barely veiled upset and Quentin's body feels like the ocean and it's the alcohol that allows him to slide an arm around the other man's shoulders and pull them together.

"Shhh," he quiets him, tugging him to rest against the back of the couch. The crew is laughing again, so he pours Twatt another drink.

*****

Even fainting drunk the man is still all long muscle and Quentin curses his thin bones as he coaxes him down the hallway from his hide-out in the head. "Are you going to kill me?" the man gurgles and Quentin starts so much he nearly drops him.

"No!" he answers. "God no." Quentin thinks about it for a second and decides he can't leave him alone with the crew, but he doesn't tell the spy that.

"Here we are." The repossessed sitting room is only slightly less ragged than before with the departure of most of the crew, but it's as far as Quentin's willing to travel. Twatt's dragging feet kick over a tower of beer cans and bottles as Quentin maneuvers them around an overturned chair. "Wait, wait," he stalls, checking the couch for broken glass before he drops Twatt on it. Twatt lands with a grunt and whimper and curls his hands around his head as Quentin stops to catch his breath. He steadies himself on the armchair, unsure of how he managed to get down the hallway himself with the swirling, clinging fog in his head.

"How'm I going to get back," the body on his couch moans, and Quentin stares at him.

"Shush. Go to sleep," he tells him. The recliner isn't ideal, but it'll have to do. The spy's breathing evens out not long after that and as the ship quiets down Quentin catches himself staring at the too-young-looking, too fucking guileless, man sleeping on his couch. He makes himself roll over with an amused grunt and curls up as best as he can on the creaking springs.

"Get out of my fucking chair," Quentin wakes up to the next morning. He wraps his fingers around the bottle under his fingers and smacks the thing poking his shoulder with it. "Goddammit, Quentin, that's not empty," it says. "Give me that."

Quentin opens his eyes carefully to see the rather looming Count above him drain the bottle. He wipes his mouth on his beer-streaked sleeve. "Prisoner's awake," he rumbles.

"You didn't kill him, did you?" Quentin narrows his eyes. Sensation is returning to his legs with prejudice.

"Naw. Not without Captain's orders." The Count throws a sloppy salute in his direction and disappears from Quentin's line of sight to reveal the miserable form on the couch. The spy peeks at him from under his arm, hair ridiculously mussed in a way that only salty old couches can do.

"Good morning."

"Good morning," the spy answers. His diction is once again careful and precise.

Quentin opens his mouth and closes it again. "There's not a boat until tomorrow," he says. The other man blinks at him slowly. "Don't sit up. Count, a bucket, please." The bucket that the Count finds is plastic and shaped like a jack-o-lantern and Quentin has to hurry to hold it under the spy's head when he suddenly convulses. Quentin pats the back of his head carefully while he coughs and moans and stares the Count down until he shuffles out.

"Are you going to tell us why you're here now?" Quentin asks him later because it seems like something he should make an effort to do- once they're all settled with tea.

The spy scowls and Quentin is vaguely horrified by how much prettier the man is when he's ruffled.

"Was that your idea of an interrogation? Ply him with alcohol? Torture by hangover? I'm afraid if I had anything to confess it would have taken quite a bit more than that," His face is so disgruntled when Dave - who has taken stock of the situation and wasn't drinking hard alcohol last night - flips all the circuit breakers at once and floods the dining room with electric light that Quentin has to laugh.

"Effective, isn't it?" Dave asks happily over pained groans and more loudly than necessary.

"You should be very proud," Quentin says, massaging his own forehead and eyes. "Now bugger off."

Quentin leaves him in his own cabin to sleep it off - with the bucket - and steps outside to take stock of his crew. The air when he sits down to breakfast, again, is tense, but non-menacing. He looks up from his tea after what he feels is a long enough time and glares as they burst into contained laughter. "Say it, come on," Quentin says. "I want to hear it."

"I can't," Felicity whispers loudly, clutching her stomach and near to hysterics.

"So Quentin. Is this not the first time you've had Twatt in your bunk?" Dave offers in his direction. Felicity and Young Carl collapse and Quentin fakes an obnoxious laugh.

"Very funny," he says, unable to repress a contagious grin. "You're a fucking genius. Bloody morons."

****

The rest of the crew have been ordered to stay away from Quentin's quarters under pain of keelhaul, or whatever the pirate radio equivalence must be. Felicity makes him a real breakfast, and again around noon when the Count blunders in, and Quentin spends the afternoon holed up in his office, catching up on the non-performance art part of their work. For a few hours, he idly spies on the enemy from the radio on his desk.

By the evening show he's wandered past the studio so many times the the Count is beginning to get twitchy and Young Carl has got that look in his eye again like he's got something to say and Quentin is fucking terrified the kid's going to, fuck, come out of the closet or cry or something. Quentin is forced to make an abrupt change in direction before a run-in, and he ends up wandering aimlessly toward his quarters. He slows his steps before nearing the door and stops, listening for the sounds of habitation. After a minute in silence, he reaches for the knob carefully and then, kicking himself, resolves to open the door like a normal person.

Twatt glances up at him with surprise from the book he's been reading and sits up awkwardly on the bed. He must be relieved, although he definitely spent half the day sleeping off Dave's moonshine and Quentin knows Felicity's been feeding him. Nevertheless, Quentin shames a twinge of guilt into submission. "Where do you think you're going," Quentin asks him as the man stands up and moves to pick up his shoes.

"I... I assumed you were here because you wanted your bedchambers back," the spy answers.

"And you'll go out there? With them? I don't think so." Quentin is pretty sure he should turn around and let Felicity pour him a drink far, far away from the influence of the confused, grateful look on the other man's face, but his feet take a traitorous step forward and he closes the door. The spy looks at him oddly.

"You can jump on the supply ship tomorrow morning," Quentin says quickly. "Don't try sneaking anything, the Count is a very thorough man."

"What would I take," the man asks quietly, then, like it's a real question. He's more sincere than Quentin can handle. Fuck, Quentin thinks, and the footsteps pausing outside his door are probably Young Carl and this is the last thing he needs - just when his already fucking insane life on this boat was starting to make sense.

"You had better get some rest," Quentin says, still standing stiffly in the doorway and he knows he's looming, but he doesn't know quite what else would be appropriate in this truly inappropriate situation. It's not even a Saturday. And if it were a Saturday, Quentin would be alone in his bunk as usual because Quentin, the Captain and radio manager, sleeps alone and likes it that way, thank you very much.

The spy looks at him and Quentin wishes he would stop looking so fucking surprised. It's not like he can let him sleep on the couch again. With the Count. And Gavin. "Here?"

"Yes, here!" Quentin urges him to the far end of the bed with wavy hands and sits down to take his shoes off before he can think better of it.

Twatt's hands fidget with the top blanket. He hasn't showered or brushed his hair in almost two days. He looks ridiculous and other descriptive adjectives Quentin isn't allowing fruition in his mind. "So no interrogation?" Twatt asks quietly. A wry, self-depricating smile floats around his lips and for a moment Quentin can imagine what the man behind the carefully maintained civil servant Quentin found wandering in the bowels of his ship must look like.

Quentin laughs suddenly. "Please get in the fucking bed," he says and yes, he hears the giggling simmering outside his door, he has ears. He knows by now that the dual shriek he gets when his shoe bounces off the metal door with a clang is about as good as he's going to get in way of retaliation.

"Not a word, or the door," he threatens the spy, who finally climbs into Quentin's bed without hesitation.

****

Quentin makes himself remove his trousers as normal and trade stiff wool for a pair of well-worn flannel pyjama bottoms, a gift from Felicity.

"It's freezing," is the last thing Twatt whispers. Quentin doesn't go so far as to order him to stop breathing, but he thinks about it. He lies carefully on the open side of the bed, avoiding any bent legs or other such movements that might lead to contact, but the heavy weight hogging his blankets is impossible to ignore. And it's breathing. Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep, he thinks until finally, finally he hears the other man's breath deepen to a steady rate.

The next time he opens his eyes Quentin's positive it's only been five minutes since the last consciously slow leg adjustment or careful roll-over, but the bed has become miraculously warm and light in the meantime. The long body pressed against his side is warm and soft. Also, there are people. A lot of them. Noting this, Quentin lets his eyes fall shut and allows himself the pleasure of waking up slowly before he chances opening his eyelids enough to take them all in.

"Cozy?" Gavin asks and a lascivious smile spreads through the crowded room.

"Get the fuck out," Quentin rasps to raucous laughter and thank God that Twatt is a deep sleeper. He pats the arm that has snaked around his waist and really, really hates the perverse bit of his brain that doesn't want to, but he wakes Twatt anyway, prodding him until the other man's brow furrows and muscles twitch languidly back to life. Quentin climbs out of the nest of limbs and makes himself sit up in the brisk open air before the man is conscious enough to get himself in a twist. After a minute, he squints up at Quentin, his face unguarded in sleep and unaware of his recent observation. For the moment.

"Time to go," Quentin says gravely.

****

Quentin's collected the god-awful sweater and coat from the crew's quarters and the Count frisks the man unceremoniously as promised as the supply ship approaches. Half the crew have gone back to bed and the other half shiver in the high wind, waiting to unload. Quentin keeps an eye on them as he escorts Twatt onto the deck.

"Why don't you at least ask me what I'm here for?" Twatt turns around at the last moment, his straight spine turning sharply. The supply ship is not happy and there's a nervous ball in Quentin's stomach wrapped up in Twatt making it on that ship and his obstinately proper fucking posture.

"Fuck. Let's see. It's clear you haven't got anything on us after all," is what Quentin finally says, refusing to turn around and see the quietly observing crew.

The fallen look on Twatt's face is fucking tragic. "Is that all... this entire time you've-" he asks, oblivious to the very stressed man standing behind him who's only grudgingly agreed to sail him home.

"Yes, of course! Bloody hell, what did you think-" A horn blows.

"Stop kicking puppies," Gavin whispers in his ear, and pulls him away not ungently. Quentin huffs at him and turns around to see Twatt being ushered brusquely off the deck, his backwards glance cut off by the rail. In a few short hours he'll be safely home and clean shaven and ready to report nothing of consequence to whatever government official he's been working for. Quentin absolutely refuses to worry about him and brushes off the look that the Count gives him with a sharp glance.

****

"Look, Quentin's in the crows nest." Kevin's teeth are shuttering and his hand shakes as he points at Quentin perched on the railing of the rising prow.

"That's not the crow's nest, Kevin," Carl says, nudging him. A series of roaring bangs shocks them into silence and they creep further up the bow. It's getting more difficult to see and Quentin's retinas are still stained from the last electric flash or he thinks he could see the stars.

"I haven't been laid in three weeks," Dave says mournfully and Quentin's less than amused and fucking freezing so he mutters, "six months," because he really doesn't want to admit to himself or the sinuous shadow that is Mark how long it's really been. Mark grins at him. Quentin can see the white reflection of his teeth.

"What about that gorgeous fucking lightweight?" Gavin shouts from further down the rail, far too cheerily for someone whose recently broken feet are approaching black water and Quentin's fucking ship is sinking and he's about to fucking die and this is so not on.

"Can we not talk about him!" Quentin shouts and he's pleased at least Gavin among them is going to die laughing.

****

"Oh my fucking god, it's you," Quentin croaks a brisk forty minutes later and promptly throws up.

"Look, it's Quentin! We rescued him!" clamors half a dozen nameless voices and Quentin remembers to answer, "Yes, I noticed," before glowering at the face in front of him.

Twatt's smile is bright and pleased.

"Mr. Twatt-" Quentin begins and is distracted by the man's very wet suit.

"Dominic, actually."

"Dominic..." he tests the name in his mouth. "Does your master know you're here?"

Twatt- Dominic's face hardens. He shakes his head and it's his familiar, sophisticated self that helps Quentin to stand up with an arm around his shoulders. "I used government lines to alert the rescue, but it seems I... underestimated the manpower of your listeners."

The boat Quentin is both pleased and horrified to find himself standing in hardly qualifies for dinghy status and Quentin can tell the Royal Navy approaching the edge of their impromptu fishing squad may need a lifeboat or two after all, but not for the pirates. There's a look on Dominic's face like something close to self-satisfaction.

"Do you know what this makes you?" Quentin asks him.

"Fired?" he answers, and laughs shortly. Quentin's never heard him laugh before and isn't sure whether he wants to kiss him or make him do it again when the Count bursts out of the water like a goddamn beluga whale and the resulting clamor of bells and shrieks and applause sends the boat reeling.

"Actually," Quentin finally answers, after his crew's been accounted for and his rescuers have wrapped him in a granny-square afghan in the dangerously low boat and he's pretty sure it's not water that has filled the cup in his shivering fingers. "I was going to say pirate."

"I believe the general definition of piracy precludes any - " Dominic begins and Quentin pulls him in by his waist because he knows exactly what he wants to do to the self-righteous line on Dominic's forehead.