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Rules of Engagement

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This is not how Captain Anthony Stark planned to spend the morning.

It was going to be a quick in-and-out job, and then there were going to be peaches, and a nice stroll up the beach on the far side with Caroline, perhaps a quick tumble with Virginia if he got it all done before Peter finished the restocking. There were most certainly not going to be men with swords trying to take his head off.

“Do be reasonable, Victor,” the Captain says, dancing around a suit of armor with Victor’s face to avoid a sweeping blade– so gratuitous, always, Victor has the most ridiculous ego -

“– You DARE to abscond with von Doom’s designs-“

 “ – I don’t need to abscond with your designs,” Anthony sings, “I have my own, they’re better, this is – really, unbelievably petty -”

“GIVE THEM BACK,” Doom roars from the balcony, and he’s red in the face, bless him.

“Oh, for god’s sake,” Anthony says, looking around wildly for another exit as another battalion of them march down the sweeping staircase.

And then he hears the whooshing of arrows.

In a display of obscenely good timing, a volley of them soar over his head, and he watches the two hired hands that have been trying to spear him fall, and his egress is laid before him. He smirks, and tips his hat in what he feels is a suitably flippant manner, then darts out the French doors, sheathing his blade as he goes.

The boulevard is wide, and the numerous topiaries (also in the good Doctor’s likeness) provide adequate cover until he can reach the carriage parked just beyond the wide bronze gates. Captain Stark runs between them, his dark leather boots falling heavily in the lush courtyard. Once upon a time, he might have had such splendor as this – an estate of his own, strong, handsome gates, marble columns and a fine oak balustrade winding up through his own great foyer.

As it is, he doesn’t.

He has a ship – a lovely ship, a ship that is currently awaiting his arrival in the harbor. He sprints, and his burgundy frock coat fans out behind him impressively – he really should have left it, today, it’s oppressively hot at the height of the day on San Dominique, but he had to make an impression, didn’t he, to get through the doors of Count von Doom’s manor and look as if he belonged.

Not that it mattered, in the end.

Clinton ducks out of a tree into the driver’s seat of the carriage just as Anthony is swinging himself up into it. “Well, that was bracing,” he says, jolting the reins.

Clinton leans easily out and faces back, looses two more arrows upon their erstwhile pursuers. “I think you might have upset them, Captain,” he says, and Anthony wonders if he even knows how to look flustered – he’s frowning with the effort, all sparkling blue eyes and mussed blond hair tied back under that ridiculous purple scarf of his. He claims it’s from a lover – Babette or some such. He obviously can’t be bothered with fashion, Anthony thinks, he’s ever the pragmatist in simple linen and breeches today, the sweat beading down his neck. “I thought this was supposed to be a three-man operation.”

“It was,” Anthony says, scaring several goats out of their path as they barrel down towards the village.

“Did you get what we came for?” Clinton says, reaching back into his quiver.

“Yes,” Anthony says with a scowl, scaring several goats out of the road as they barrel down towards the village, “But it was messy. There was a bevy of attack geese, geese, honestly, who keeps fowl to sound the alarm – and then the premises were not so deserted as I had hoped, honestly, I managed to drag myself out this morning for this job, why could he not do the same – careful, you’re running out - when I find him, I am going to –“

Anthony doesn’t finish telling Clinton what he’s going to do, because the carriage is rocked with a fearsome blast and tips over. Victor must really not have been lying about developing his own incendiary cannon – Anthony’s is better, of course, in both accuracy and range, but still, he’s thrown into a ditch, tumbling after Clinton. Clinton, of course, manages to land on his feet, like a bloody cat. Anthony swears, reeling, and feels for his sword, dusting dry filth off of his coat and breeches.

The carriage is burning, and a fresh swarm of von Doom’s men are clambering down the hill after them brandishing swords and pistols.

“I’m going to kill him,” Clinton says, as they scramble to their feet and run for the docks in a flurry of boots and brocade.

“Agreed,” Anthony says, jumping gracelessly over a crate of apples.

 

- - -

 

It turns out that Anthony doesn’t need to find his bo’sun, he’s already back on board by the time Clinton and he dodge the New Doomstadt militia and row out to the Maiden. James has already taken them out from the docks, he’s pleased to see, there will be no storming of his ship today.  

“I should beat you,” Anthony says, clambering up onto the wooden deck.

Logan is leaning against the railing, in nothing but his breeches and his boots. He’s clean, for once, his dark hair is scrubbed back from his face, and he doesn’t smell like a varmint’s den for once, and Anthony decides he doesn’t look right without grime. “Right.”

“Strap you down with the cat.”

“Mm.”

“Throw you aft and let you swim to catch up.”

“And yet,” Logan says, lighting his cigar, “you lived.”

He must have been to see that horrible Jean woman again. He’s entirely too pleased with himself. And too clean. Anthony suspects she’s a witch.

“Yes, and the next time you won’t,” Anthony says, feeling markedly more vindictive, because once again, he’s been doing all the work while everyone else frolics. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” he annunciates, sweeping his arm wildly in an arc at the rest of the crew who have been pretending not to listen to the proceedings. “I try, I try to facilitate team-building activities to enrich your portside experience, and you ungrateful lot pass out at the tavern instead of showing up to the heist. You’ve no one to blame but yourselves.”

“It wasn’t a heist,” Logan says. “That implies you’re stealing something valuable.”

“It was important,” Anthony says, decidedly not mad because Logan was having a tumble with some feisty redhead in a warm bed while he was skulking around in the night looking for a way into von Doom’s estate. “While you were dozing into your grog, I took the liberty of cordially inviting myself to the Baron’s midsummer ball. You certainly won’t be going, you couldn’t handle yourself among high society if you wore my very face,” Anthony says, waving the piece of parchment triumphantly under Logan’s nose.

“Yes, and I was so looking forward to it,” Logan deadpans.

“Oy,” a voice says, and Anthony whirls around.

Caroline is striding up from the hold, a piece of parchment clutched triumphantly in her fist. “And I didn’t even need to drink the tavern dry to muster my courage,” she says, smirking at Logan, pressing it into Anthony’s hand. “You’ll need a lady on your arm, Anthony, if you’re to be at all convincing.”

She’s back in breeches, she must have returned early this morning – or never left, Anthony can never tell with that one. She’s all business now, the fearsome master-at-arms back in her proper element (she does so despise having to walk about on land in a dress), her lovely blond hair braided into a thick plait resting on her shoulder.

“You crafty thing, Caroline,” Anthony says, delighted, examining her invitation. “Yes, I suppose I will. And whom did you rob to get this,” he asks. It’s a good job she’s gotten one, he thinks, the password on hers is different than the one on his. He supposes the debacle earlier was worth it to get his hands on the physical invitation.

“Duke Richards,” she says, glancing at the wheel where James is steering them out of the harbor and onto Martinique.

“I thought he was in Havana,” Anthony says, striding towards his cabin.

“Apparently not,” Caroline says. “Is that a yes, then? You’re going to get into terrible trouble if you go on your own, you always do. And Jan has agreed to make me a dress out of the last few bolts from the Pyrenees’ cargo.”

“Caroline, I wouldn’t dare refuse you,” Anthony says, bending to give her a peck on the cheek, and he means it.

 

- - -

 

They weigh anchor on the far side of the island, behind a steep outcropping of rock. They’re far enough from the harbor and sufficiently removed from the shipping lanes that detection shouldn’t be a problem. It’s only one night, and these are fairly safe waters – neither The Shield nor the Navy frequent Martinique, not like Nassau or Port Royal.

“There was a time I would have gotten an invitation of my own to this illustrious affair,” Anthony says, as Janet fiddles with his waistcoat. She’s perched on the edge of his largest chest, her tiny hands flitting over his new clothes, checking and rechecking every detail.

“Don’t,” she says, frowning at his baldric because it won’t settle right around his waist. “And stop fidgeting, do you really have to go in this heavily-armed –“

“Yes,” he says. “Caroline is just as well-equipped, I assure you -”

“Yes, and she has four layers of skirt to hide it all under,” Janet says, fiddling with his sleeves. “Well, we’ll just have to leave it. You look magnificent. The prettiest thief I ever did see. Certainly the most fashionable.”

He glances in the full-length mirror, and he can’t help grinning roguishly at his own reflection. He is splendid, dressed to the nines, full stockings and a deep crimson waistcoat trimmed in gold. Jan’s made him a new frock coat for the occasion, a dark red that’s almost black. He’s bathed, too, there’s less grime on his face than usual, his goatee impeccably groomed and his dark hair combed and tied back with a bit of red ribbon.

“I’m only a thief because I can’t be an engineer,” Anthony says, turning around to see himself from the side.

“I know,” she says quietly, rising from the cushion she’s perched herself upon. “But we’re much better company than those court pigs, you know that.”

“Well, we hardly pay for ourselves, do we, otherwise I wouldn’t have to go on silly errands like this.”

It hangs in the air between them, a bit too honest, and Anthony is suddenly very interested in the thick cuffs of his frock, in fixing his hat so it sits just so. Janet leans back on her arms, her hair falling out of her braid, entirely too perceptive for her own good.

“What do you know of this Baron Zemo, anyway? I can’t recall him ever being in close confidence with my father –“

“He’s wouldn’t have been,” Anthony says, slipping a dagger into his boot. “Old money, foreign, my father used to speak of him – or mentioned him in passing, once, at least, before.”

“Oh,” she says. “Well, it’ll be an affair, then, won’t it.”

“I’m counting on it,” he says. “I need a suitable distraction, and there’s nothing like all that new money, canting about, drunk on imagined power and wine to give it to me. Are you sorry it’s Caroline going, rather than you? She did procure her own ticket -”

“Lord, no,” she says, swooning back onto the coverlet dramatically. “I’ve had enough of that. And Henry is bound to be there, given that this is supposedly a meeting of scientific minds –“

“He’s not, he’s in the Galapagos,” Anthony says, “but I can kill him for you if you like, next time he’s this side of South America.”

Janet huffs out a sigh and picks herself up off the bed. “No, Anthony,” she says, “My business with Henry is my own.”

Anthony huffs dramatically. “I know, I’m sorry, you’re very capable,” he says, “I just can’t help myself, he’s the most puffed-up naturalist I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting, you’re just too good for him, Jan-”

“Shh,” she says, slipping one of her rings onto his finger. “You need to worry about deceiving our good Baron. This is for you. Should you find yourself in a tight spot.”

“Oh, you spoil me, Janet,” he says, turning his hand in the light nonetheless. It’s one of the gold ones, the hidden needle set into the diamond, and it sparkles in the play of the candlelight. He sighs. “If I have to poison anyone tonight, this will have all gone terribly pear-shaped.”

“Well,” she says. “At least bring me back something glittering so I can keep you in fine silks.”

“Oh, my dear,” he says, fitting his pistol in under his coat, “I intend to.”

 

- - -

 

“If you do that again, I’m going to shoot you,” Caroline says.

Anthony may be mildly inebriated, but he certainly did not just have his hand trying to undo the hooks on Caroline’s bodice, no, he did not, even though she looks positively delectable in her reds and creams and golds and her hair, good Lord, it’s no wonder that Williams fellow was making eyes at her -

“My good Lady Stark, can I not show affection for my wife –“

“Don't bury yourself in the role,” she hisses, “and no, you may not, not in public, good GOD, I have to do everything myself, don’t I –“

“No, no, no,” he says, steadying himself, renewing his efforts to stand straight. “It’s all part of the plan, I’m going to stumble into his private study and take what I need, the drink is just part of my cover -”

Caroline ushers them both into the hallway, where Anthony is grateful to have a fine wooden table to lean heavily upon. It’s quieter in the corridor, most of the guests are dancing in the ballroom, or else wandering the grounds, secreting themselves away to make love in the summer night.

“You,” she says, straightening his hat and smoothing his hair back into what can be considered a respectable plait, “are going to sink this entire operation.” She edges his mask until it’s firmly settled around his ears again. “Watch your mask, you’re going to give us both away if you’re not careful-”

Anthony grasps her wrist and pulls her into his body.

“I,” he says, resting his fluted glass on the wood surface, “am fine.” He looks appreciatively down at her more than ample bosom. “You,” he continues, “are also very fine, indeed, Caroline -”

“You’d best be on your way, Sir Anthony,” she says, fiddling with her own mask, and it does set off her eyes wonderfully, and oh, she’s settling a warning hand between his legs -

“Yes, yes, I’m going,” he says. “You won’t reconsider?” He gives her what he is certain – time and many, many women and men have confirmed it – is a winning smile. Perhaps he’ll ply the cold lady Danvers yet, the night is young, and there is much wine and the music -

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she says, snatching the glass up herself and downing the entire thing. “In for a penny, in for a pound.” Anthony tries not to look as though his fantasies have been spoiled by her outburst.

“Caroline,” he says, in ersatz shock, but he can’t keep the corners of his mouth from quirking up in a smile. “That’s no way for a lady-“

Go,” she says, “or we’ll never get to the far North and my virtue will be ruined.”

Anthony watches her whirl back onto the dance floor, and seriously doubts both the integrity and endangerment of Caroline’s virtue as she takes another glass of sherry from the attending as she goes.

She does so command attention, he thinks, as he slips into the Baron’s study.

 

- - -

 

The Baron, he learns, is a voracious reader. His study is full of books, leather-bound, stacked floor to ceiling, the smell of parchment thick in the air. Anthony used to have such rooms of knowledge. Before.

He’s heard much about him, how he improved Frederick’s navy – a visionary in the field, they say, his hull designs twice as fast and strong as steel. Not as widely known as Anthony’s work – Prussia isn’t the maritime power that England is, certainly – but a person of interest. He might grow to be one of Stane’s competitors, eventually, and Anthony wishes that didn’t please him so.

He might have been one of Anthony’s, once upon a time.

He’s clearly wealthy, of a class Anthony hasn’t seen since his days in court. His manor is by far the most imposing structure on the entire island, save for the fort. He’d say he was one of the nouveau (too far from his native Prussia to be anything else) but there’s nothing to suggest he’s fallen out of favor with Frederick, and he is, reputedly, the most favoured of his inventors. Perhaps he prefers the solitude, Anthony thinks. Martinique is hardly a bustling center of commerce, better to conduct his experiments quietly, sequestered away in his mansion. Anthony would do the same, if he were still a person of any importance.

Anthony rifles through his drawers, through stacks of loose parchment and bound diaries. His drawings are fascinating, really, Zemo obviously dabbles in what pleases him – clockwork, fanciful weaponry, a few projects that look a lot like alchemy, he’ll have to ask Stephen if they’ve crossed paths, metallurgy

No wonder he’s after the treasure in the North.

Anthony searches methodically, thinking wistfully of the beautiful women and men whirling about in satins and silks outside. Best to get this done, find the notes, tuck them away and go, before he’s detected, and then he can find a body to warm his bunk. Possibly Caroline. Or that young lieutenant Stone by the vat of punch, he was quite fetching. Anthony is willing to chance the buggery charge for such a jawline, it’s not like he has much else to lose at this point –

The job, though, that’s what he’s here for. If he’s lucky, he’ll find what he’s looking for, If he can perfect the design, he can go up against Fury and his band of miscreants, possibly fetch back some measure of the profit he lost on the Santiago haul. Perhaps he’ll even sell it to the King - he’ll have to see how the tide of the war is turning in a few months.

Well. There’s nothing to say he can’t sell it to both sides.

He finds it, finally, in the bottom-most drawer, in the back of a leather-bound diary, the meticulously rendered sketch. It’s a clever idea, if clumsily thought-out – a pistol that can fire five shots in succession instead of one, each with its own barrel. Anthony suspects that a hexagonal design would be far more prudent, but these are details to be worked out later. Certainly, when he’s perfected the design, it will be worth a small fortune to someone, and a fortune is a thing he sorely needs if he’s ever going to get his company back. 

He pockets it, and is preparing to step out into the courtyard when a voice stills him in his tracks.

“Looking for something?”

Anthony whirls around, lurching. He’s only half pretending, he realizes.

The Baron stands, resplendent in his fine purple brocade, a glittering gold chain heavy around his neck. He’s tall, just as tall as Anthony, and proudly bears a sword – he’s not of the Navy, Anthony is certain. He appears a distinguished man, not old, though his hair is greying. His face is barely worn, with the slightest suggestion of shallow lines set into his skin, but proud, his bones sculpted, elegant. His eyes are a pale blue, almost grey, and they glint in the firelight, somewhere between amused and dangerous.

“Oh,” Anthony says, feigning delighted surprise, “My lord, I’m terribly sorry, I couldn’t help but notice the door was ajar, and I wondered that I might find a snuff box. Forgive me.”

“Really,” he says, striding across the Persian rug, turning his back to Anthony, examining his own bookshelf, “I’m disappointed, Anthony, I had hoped you would at least be candid with me.”

Anthony feels to make sure his mask is still on. (It is.)

“I apologize,” he says, his mind spinning with guile and the pleasant warmth of drink, “have we met?” He isn’t terribly concerned, Zemo is one man between him and the window, and there’s nothing to suggest Caroline has been discovered.

“I know of you,” the Baron says, and the expression on his face would seem to indicate he is deeply amused. “I know of your work.” He pauses. “Your – fascinating history.”

Anthony’s blood runs cold, but it’s simply a reflex, at this point, Zemo is baiting him. There’s hardly a soul who’s anyone that hasn’t heard, he’s sure. “I’m sure I haven’t had the pleasure,” he says coolly.

“Come now,” the Baron says. “I meant no disrespect. I sympathize, in fact. You hardly deserved the blow you were dealt. I meant, only, that I was familiar with your skillset – and your interests,” he adds, his eyes glittering with delight. “They might even align with my own, presently.”

Anthony looks automatically at the door, half-expecting the Royal Navy to burst through.

“Ah, you misunderstand me,” the Baron says. “I have no interest in having you apprehended. I thought,” he says, crossing to his desk with the swish of his coat, “that we might have a discussion. As gentlemen. You are a gentleman, are you not, Anthony?”

“There’s been some disagreement on that front,” Anthony says honestly, easing backwards towards the window.

“Why don’t you give me back my notes,” Zemo says, “and I’ll give you something far more valuable.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Anthony says airily.

“Do you know,” the Baron says, striding to stand in front of the window – and there goes Anthony’s escape route, unless he wants to fight his way out now, “I’ve heard you’re really a fine pirate. If it wasn’t for the Shield, you’d probably be the power in these waters -”

“I always have been a fast learner,” Anthony says crisply, legitimately annoyed now, “Whatever I try my hand at.”

“Yes,” the Baron says, turning to flash him that wicked grin again, “And so humble. You’re almost a passable thief.”

“Well,” Anthony says. “I don’t usually linger long enough to converse with the fleecee.”

“I’d like to hire you,” the Baron says, and he’s pouring two glasses of Sherry into fine crystal. “Provided you replace my sketchbook.”

Anthony carefully gathers his bruised ego and tosses the book back onto the desk before settling himself dourly in Zemo’s handsome chair. “It’s a poor design anyway,” he says stiffly.

Zemo chuckles. “Arms are hardly my forte. A dalliance only, I’m afraid. Really, I’m interested in metal, Anthony.” He holds the flute of sherry out, infuriatingly gracious, and Anthony gives him the slightest of nods before snatching it delicately from his hand. He wears gloves, he notices, the same purple of his waistcoat.

“I will not be embroiled in military conflict,” Anthony says. “I am not some common hired hand, I am rarely an assassin, and I will not accept any proposition that puts me in Chinese waters.” The incident with that scaled beast is entirely too close behind him, he thinks, downing his entire glass of sherry.

“You are, however, a man of curiousity,” the Baron says. “You have an inquiring mind. You fancy yourself an explorer, even.”

All true. “Perhaps,” Anthony says offhandedly, markedly annoyed that this man knows so much about him.

“There is a legend,” the Baron says, “of an artifact, lost in the far North. A shining disc –“

“ – emblazoned with a star, made of a metal that cannot be bent, broken, or melted down,” Anthony finishes. “A legend, Baron,” he says.

But the Baron must see how his eyes are sparkling now, hear how his heart is racing, sense his vindication and exhilaration. How can he not, really, this man knows something of the northern treasure, and good god, he’s had entirely too much wine –

“A legend you’ve been chasing yourself, if I’m not mistaken.”

Anthony considers the smiling Baron, mentally tallies the people he’s consulted. He’s spoken with Janet, with James, with Natasha –

Natasha, that enterprising, duplicitous -

“Fine,” Anthony says with a sigh. “Yes, I’ve heard of it. What do you know of this treasure?”

“I want it,” the Baron says.

Anthony breathes out a laugh. “Of course you do,” he says reasonably, “But so do I.”

“Yes, I know,” the Baron says. “Which is why I’m prepared to overlook this - breach of trust,” he says, gesturing at the notebook laid upon the mahogany between them, “and offer you something more valuable in return.”

“More valuable,” Anthony echoes. “A metal that cannot be unmade, there is nothing more valuable than that.”

“Oh, but we both know that isn’t true,” the Baron says. “It’s no secret, the Iron Maiden is the most bereaved pirate vessel in all of the Caribbean, what with the Shield taking over these waters –“

“Don’t,” Anthony says sharply. “I did not come here to discuss that bastard Fury, nor am I in the habit of selling my spoils to strangers who know entirely too much about me.” He rises, turns to leave. Caroline is waiting, and he can achieve his ends without this prize. He’ll find another way to raise the sum he needs.  

“No, you came to steal from me,” the Baron says, with a deep laugh. “Anthony. I am prepared to remedy your dire financial situation, should you agree to my conditions.”

Anthony slows his steps, against his better instincts.

“And what might those be,” he says.

“I will outfit your expedition,” the Baron says. “I will provide you with all you need to mount a successful voyage to the North. In addition,” he says, lacing his fingers together, “I will pay you most handsomely for the delivery of the cargo. Bring me what you find in the ice,” he says, his eyes cold, and far away, “and you will be a rich man once again, Anthony.”

“Perhaps you forget, Baron,” Anthony says coldly, “I am also in the habit of manipulating metal. What makes you think I’m prepared to relinquish what I find?”

“You’re entirely too impoverished not to,” the Baron says with a wry smile.

Anthony dearly hates being poor.

 

- - -

 

“It’s honest money,” Anthony says.

He’s leaning over the big table in the galley, his fancy coat long forgotten, his hair mussed and his shirt fallen open over his chest. It’s late, very late, and he’s successfully roused his crew from a dead sleep, save for the ones already on watch.

Plied with an extra ration of rum, of course.

James hasn’t touched his. He’s opted to glare at Anthony instead. He stands in the corner, crossing his dark arms, frowning.

“There’s no such thing as honest money,” Logan points out, sitting on top of a barrel looking extraordinarily cross.

“Will it make us something other than bankrupt?” Clinton asks, and he looks like he’s playing with a cockroach skittering across the table.

Anthony kills it swiftly with the wider part of the bottle of rum he’s been nursing. “Yes, Clinton,” he says, exasperated, “have you been listening to nothing I’m saying –“

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” James says.

“And so it begins,” Anthony says. “Make your case, James.”

“You don’t know anything about this man,” he says.

“He’s a Baron,” Peter offers helpfully.

“He dresses well,” Janet chimes in.

“He’s solvent,” Caroline says, striking her hand against the table. “We’re barely scraping by as it is, what with the Shield dogging our every step, these days, I swear I saw the Valkyrie tailing us when we were anchored off San Tomás last month –“

“Wouldn’t have this problem if we’d join up,” Logan offers, shooting an accusatory glance Anthony’s way. “Might get paid sometimes, too.”

“We’re not joining up,” Anthony says firmly. “It’s a matter of principle. They’ve done nothing but make trouble, our profit margins are abysmal since they’ve moved into the southern regions, do you even know how much it cost me to just get rid of our last cargo –“

“I’ve said this from the beginning,” Carol says, fingering her broadsword. “They’re nothing but poachers, it’s embarrassing, this used to be an honest profession -”

“There’s that word again,” Logan says darkly. “I’d like to point out that we rob people for a living. Badly, of course, but –“

“I can string you up if it would help,” Anthony offers, pointing bottle in warning.

“You’d have no one to stitch you up,” Logan points out.

“We’re voting,” Anthony declares.  

“No,” James says. “We’re not voting, this is all you, Anthony, trying to prove something, you’ve been off ever since we lost that haul from the Santiago-”

“I have not been off,” Anthony says indignantly. “It was a great loss, anyone would be upset -”

“How do we know,” James says, speaking over Anthony entirely, “he’ll even carry out his end of the bargain, you literally just met this man -”

“We’ve drawn up a contract,” Anthony says. “He’s bought you all furs, he’s already spent a great deal of coin on preparations alone, he’s paid for an entirely new set of cannons built to my specifications to replace the 8-pounders –“

“Oh, good,” Caroline says, positively delighted, “Can we, I don’t know, roll the old ones over the side-

“No, we’re going to sell them,” Anthony says, “We can’t afford to waste the iron -”

“He’s paying for your toys,” James says, entirely unimpressed. “You like the attention.”

“I rather do,” Anthony agrees, taking another long swig of liquor. “It’s not like I get it from any of you lot-“

“It’s not like you need the encouragement,” Peter mutters.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Anthony says. “Was that my topman banishing himself to bilge duty for the next week?”

“You don’t have anyone to replace me,” Peter points out, yawning.

“Anthony,” Thor says, half asleep in the corner, “I find this a worthy venture. You may count my vote an enthusiastic yes.”

“Thank you, Thor,” Anthony preens, vindicated.

Carol glances at him, and frowns. “I don’t find it all that risky. We’ve done stupider things.”

Logan snorts into his mug. “Like the Mandarin? And the drag-”

“We agreed,” Anthony says, whirling upon Logan. “We don’t speak of that. The dragon was not my fault.”

Peter snickers in the corner.

“My point,” Anthony says, bristling, “was precisely that: we have, in fact, done far more brilliant and dangerous things. This is positively mundane. The absolute worst that happens is we’ve wasted 6 months, we come back with a priceless prize and get to spread the rumor we’ve successfully found the Northwest Passage.

“Fine,” James says. “Expect a mutiny if this goes poorly.”

“Yes, if I see you in my quarters in the dead of night, I shall expect excitement,” Anthony says with a wink. James rolls his dark eyes.

“It’s cold in Newfoundland,” Peter whines.

“Hush, you’re getting a new coat,” Anthony says.

“Are we voting, then,” Caroline says, ignoring him.

“If there are no further objections,” Anthony says, looking pointedly at James, who glares back like he isn’t worth the argument.

“All for ‘yea,’” Anthony says, and every one of them raises their hand.

“Fancy that,” he says. “For all the complaining you all do, you certainly all pluck up when it’s necessary.”

“You don’t even know how to get there,” Clinton points out, leaning back on his stool.

“Then why did you vote yea,” Anthony asks.

Clinton shrugs. “I’ve never been to Newfoundland.”

“Well, how are we going to get there, then?” James asks. “It’s nothing but bergs north of Maine this time of year, we’re going to run ourselves aground before we even get around the eastern coast. He didn’t give you charts, he just gave you a local map, it’s nothing without longitudinal bearings -”

“Well,” Anthony says, already grimacing. “I know someone who can direct us.”

James drinks deeply.